Sotheby’s, London, July 7 2016
Sold for: £557,000
While the Auction Archives are largely concerned with vintage wristwatches, it seemed wrong not to focus on the sale of this remarkably historic pocket chronometer, which achieved a world record price for the work of Cornish horologist John Arnold as the star of Sotheby’s “Celebration of the English Watch: Part II” sale.
Contained in a silver case measuring a handsome 73mm in diameter, the pivoted detent chronometer movement was in remarkable original condition and the only one known to have survived with its original “double S” balance – a fact that proved key to its importance and value.
Arnold introduced the double S balance in 1780 , the “S” referring to the shaped, bimetallic bars that he added in order to overcome variations in the balance spring.
That aside, the gilded, full plate movement with its signature and serial number, pierced and engraved balance cock, fusée and chain mechanism, turned pillars and blued screws is an exquisite horological work of art that, quite simply, puts to shame many of today’s high-end pieces made with the latest tools.
Made in 1781, the history of the watch was not recorded until 1834 when it appeared among the service records of a Joseph Bond, a watchmaker based in Boston, Lincolnshire. It subsequently entered the collection of the renowned antique watch historian and horological author Terence Camerer Cuss in the late 1940s, before serving as a key exhibit at the Antiquarian Horological Society’s 10th anniversary exhibition held at the Science Museum in 1964.
In summary: A blue-chip, museum-quality collector’s piece by one of the most important English watchmakers. Although it fetched close to four times its high estimate, this watch will come to be regarded as a bargain – not least because of its remarkable, original and unrepeatable condition.