Sotheby's watch sale celebrates John Harrison and English horology
Sotheby's is set to host a landmark sale of antique timepieces in London this week, celebrating the achievements of clockmaker John Harrison.
Harrison (1693-1776) changed the course of history in 1761 with his invention of the marine chronometer – the first device which made it possible to calculate longtitude at sea.
At a stroke, the chronometer revolutionised navigation and greatly increased the safety of long-distance sea travel, which in turn allowed trade and global exploration to flourish.
The sale marks the second Sotheby's offering from the world's most important private collection of English watches.
The first sale saw a royal oval astronomical watch with an engraved portrait of King James I made by David Ramsay, circa 1618, sell for £989,000 ($1,498,632) – setting a new record price for a renaissance watch at auction.
Amongst the top lots of the second sale is the John Harrison commemorative watch, a yellow gold pair cased verge watch made circa 1772 by Harrison's son-in-law John Barton.
Bearing an enamel portrait of Harrison by the famous enamellist George Michael Moser, the watch was presented to Harrison circa 1772 and remained in his possession until his death.
Another standout lot is a highly important pocket watch made by Thomas Earnshaw and Thomas Wright circa 1784. Featuring Earnshaw's newly-invented spring detent escapement, the timepiece is the only example built to Wright's exact patent details as is expected to sell for £250,000 - £300,000.
Further leading pieces from the 77-lot sale include a highly important 1762 ruby cylinder watch by Thomas Mudge, believed to possibly be the earliest perpetual calendar watch, estimated at £50,000 - £60,000; and a 1762 large silver consular cased pocket chronometer by John Arnold, presented in its completely original state, estimated at £130,000 - £150,000.
"Inspired by passion and curiosity, the collection is the culmination of years of searching for the best examples in wondrous condition with superb provenance," said a Christie's spokesperson.
"This landmark collection provides a snapshot of British history through the pocket watch. It also brilliantly traces the evolution of watchmaking from the 17th-century to modern day and the supremacy of England at pivotal moments of horology history."
The Celebration of the English Watch Part II: John Harrison's Enduring Discovery takes place at Sotheby's in London on Thursday July 7.
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