DENVER, Pa. – Times may change, but time never does. Whether measured by the Greenwich Royal Observatory clock in England or a bedside digital alarm clock, a day is universally considered to be a 24-hour period with 60 minutes in each hour. And as Morphy’s Tuesday, June 30 auction attests, no device keeps track of the hours and minutes quite as precisely or beautifully as an antique pocket watch. Over 650 high-quality pocket watches from a single-owner collection, including more than 250 complicated examples, are entered in the no-reserve sale, each a reflection of the era in which it was created. It is believed to be one of the largest collections of gold pocket watches ever to be offered for public sale.
The first pocket watch was invented in 1510 by Peter Henlein, in Nuremberg, Germany. Italians were producing clocks small enough to be worn on one’s person in the early 16th century, as well. For many centuries to follow, a clue to a gentleman’s status was the quality, intricacy and beauty of the pocket watch he carried.
“Pocket watches, whether of gold, platinum or more modest metals, have long been treasured as family heirlooms to be passed down through subsequent generations,” said Dan Morphy, founder and president of Morphy Auctions. “They also influenced men’s fashion. There was a time when every man, rich or working class, carried a pocket watch, so tailors started designing jackets and vests with special pockets to accommodate the timepieces. By discreetly opening his jacket to check the time, a watch’s owner could reveal his wealth and status to those around him.”
One of the top lots in Morphy’s June 30 auction is a rare and important Marius LeCoultre 18K pink gold hunter’s case minute repeating perpetual calendar chronograph pocket watch (shown at top of page) with moonphase and retrograde date. With a heavily hand-decorated gold case, it is signed “M. Le Coultre, Geneva,” and is hallmarked and numbered “2655.” Its pre-sale estimate is $20,000-$40,000.
A fine and rare Swiss Grande Sonnerie “clock-watch” quarter-hour repeating pocket watch in a gorgeous 18K gold hunter’s case is decorated with a cowboy on horseback throwing a lasso (obverse) as he chases two ostriches (reverse). The cuvette is marked/hand engraved, in part: “Medaille D’or Geneve, 1896, Grande Sonnerie,” while its movement, marked with the patent number “6835” inside the Swiss Federal Cross, was possibly made by Audemars Freres, Brassus & Geneva. Estimate: $20,000-$40,000
Also estimated at $20,000-$40,000, a rare and important circa-1880 Henri Grandjean & Co., Grande Sonnerie clock-watch is presented in a hand-decorated 18K yellow gold hunter’s case with engraved birds and flowers. Its complications include a minute repeater, leap year perpetual calendar, moon phase and quarter-hour passing strike chime that can be silenced if desired. The case and movement are fully hallmarked, and the watch is in excellent working order.
Pink gold has been in high demand for several years, now. Its rich beauty is on full display in an H. Redard & Fils, Geneve Grand Complications Chronometer minute-repeating hunter’s case pocket watch. It has Roman numerals, pink gold spade hands and pointers, a perpetual leap year calendar and moon phase aperture. On the front lid of its case is a heavy and ornate hand-made 18K yellow gold raised monogram that was applied with six very fine screws, adding a luxe finishing touch to an extremely desirable timepiece. Estimate: $15,000-$30,000
Another shining example in 18 pink gold, a rare circa-1880 Gerome Hoff & Fils Grande Sonnerie quarter-hour repeating pocket watch is housed in a superb hunter’s case engraved and decorated with double shields framed by foliage and flowers. Complications include a quarter-hour passing strike chime that can be set to Grande (strikes hours and quarters), Petite (strikes hours or quarters), or silence. There is also a quarter-hour repeater function that can be activated on demand by sliding the lever located on the outer rim between the 7 and 8 o’clock positions. All functions have been tested and are working properly. Estimate: $15,000-$30,000
Having exotic origins, an 18K gold Grand Sonnerie minute-repeating pocket watch was made by Cooke & Kelvey, Calcutta, India, and is housed in a hunter’s case hallmarked with the Chester City mark, an 1897 date mark and crown with “18” fineness marks. The Grand Sonnerie automatically sounds time in hours and quarters when the chime/silent selector switch is in the “On” position. The watch has two switches around the outer edge underneath the front cover: “Grande – Petite,” which changes the Sonnerie function to include hours and quarters when in “Grande” position; or hours or quarters when in “Petite” position. The second switch is marked “Chime – Silent” and controls the Sonnerie function. The auction estimate is $10,000-$20,000.
Other exceptional entries include: a rare and unusual 18K yellow gold Montandon, Locle, Switzerland, Grande Sonnerie quarter-hour repeating open-face pocket clock-watch with key, $10,000-$20,000; a fine 18K gold Gerome Hoff & Fils multicolor quarter-repeating, triple-date calendar hunter’s case pocket watch with moon phases and fancy silver dial, $10,000-$20,000.
Both an extremely rare and important platinum Tiffany & Co., by Touchon & Co., Swiss minute-repeating split-second Rattapante chronograph open-face pocket watch with hallmarks that were in use from 1914-1933; and a rare and fine 18K gold Juvenia Grande Sonnerie quarter-repeating hunter’s case pocket watch carry individual estimates of $10,000-$20,000.
Morphy’s no-reserve Tuesday, June 30, 2020 Fine Pocket Watches Auction will start at 10 a.m. Eastern Time, with absentee and Internet live bidding available through LiveAuctioneers. Questions: call 877-968-8880, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Online: www.morphyauctions.com.