Mechanical marvels confirm their value at Breker auctions

Mechanical marvels

Planetarium clock by William Perkins for the Technical Institute of Cambridge, 1925. Sold for €12,600 ($14,740). Auction Team Breker image

COLOGNE, Germany – From spy cameras to calculators and a cash register built for an international exhibition, Auction Team Breker’s sale Oct. 30-31 offered tech aficionados a chance to stock up the collector’s cabinet. Absentee and Internet live bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.

The section of scientific instruments included devices for drafting, surveying and navigation as well as those with a more decorative purpose. Notable among the mechanical marvels was a fine planetarium clock (above) built by William Perkins for the Technical Institute of Cambridge in 1925, which sold for $14,740.

Musical clocks encompass both timekeeping and entertainment and paved the way for the growth of the mechanical music industry in the early 19th century. Selling for $9,090 was an imposing hall clock (below) with a pinned barrel and dulcimer in an architectural case associated with court clockmaker Christian Ernst Kleemeyer.

Mechanical marvels

Musical clock with dulcimer accompaniment, Berlin, circa 1830. Sold for €7,770 ($9,090). Auction Team Breker image

The restrained complexity of the cabinet and movement contrasts with musical clocks produced during the French fin de siècle, such as the anthropomorphic monkey artist at work on a portrait, accompanied on the hour by a twisting glass waterfall and a Viennese musical movement (below). It sold for $11,050.

Mechanical marvels

Monkey artist musical automaton with clock, possibly Bontems, circa 1885. Sold for €9,445 ($11,050). Auction Team Breker image

Although mechanical music instruments might not be striking the same chord with the new East-Asian collectors that they did even a few years ago, the demand and the prices remain solid for unusual examples. A pair of Swiss ‘station’ musical boxes, built to while away the minutes in the waiting rooms of the Jura-Simplon railway during the golden age of steam travel, proved equally popular.

Mechanical marvels

Station musical box by Henri Vidoudez, Ste. Croix, circa 1895. Sold for €14,245 ($16,670). Auction Team Breker image

Steam-powered toys were a popular attraction at the Oct. 30 session. Among the highlights was a miniature toboggan run made by Bing Werke, Nuremberg. A horizontal stem engine powered a conveyor lift that transported four sleds to the top of a sculpted mountain slope. In good working condition, the toy sold for $5,000.

Mechanical marvels

Steam-driven toboggan run by Bing Werke, Nuremberg, circa 1910. Sold for €4,280 ($5,000). Auction Team Breker image

A unique scale model of the ESA Hermes Spaceplane and European Space Station fell short of expectations, selling for $18,720. The Hermes project never progressed beyond the planning phase and was abandoned in 1992 due to the extremely high costs and political changes.

Mechanical marvels

ESA Hermes Spaceplane and European Space Station model, circa 1989. Sold for €16,000 ($18,720). Auction Team Breker image

Another category that added up to lively international interest was a collection of Leica cameras, lenses and accessories. Rarity and condition are the hallmarks of the camera collector’s cabinet, and yet the high-quality Leitz lenses, especially the “M” series, are also avidly sought-after by photographers on the secondary market. A Leica M6 Titanium with matching Summilux 1.4 / 35mm lens, 1994, sold for $6,060, while a Noctilux 1:1 / 50mm lens, Type 11821, 1982, clicked at  $7,200. The top lot of the section was neither a camera nor a lens, but a spring-driven “MOOLY-C” motor made for wartime Leica IIIc and IIId models. Although the chrome version is not uncommon, the painted dark-gray finish is hard to find, especially when it comes with an attractive patina and its original typed instructions sheet. The lot achieved $18,000.


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