Sotheby’s London, April 26 2017
Sold for £162,500
Back in 1999 I was despatched by the Sunday Telegraph to the Kentish village of St Mary Cray to report on farmer Frank Quay’s decision to sell a 1954 Land Rover that he had acquired 26 years earlier for £320 and which was originally owned by wartime leader Sir Winston Churchill.
Quay’s attempt to shift the battered relic for £30,000 in a Sotheby’s internet sale failed, however, so he hung on to it until 2012 – when it crossed the block at auction house Cheffins for £129,000.
Message: ‘Churchilliana’ has become both highly collectable and can be extremely valuable – so it came as little surprise to see this rather lovely, 1946 Lemania chronograph with a solid Churchill connection soar to almost seven times its high estimate.
According to Sotheby’s catalogue note, the yellow gold chronograph (which would ordinarily be worth around £10,000) was given to Churchill following a three-week stay at the Villa de Choisi in the Swiss village of Bursinel, a property owned by banker Alfred Kern.
As well as indulging in his passion for oil painting while at the villa, Churchill is also said to have written the speech he gave at the University of Zurich on September 19 in which he proposed “a kind of United States of Europe”.
Around a week beforehand, he made an official visit to Lausanne, and it was then that the government of the canton of Vaud presented him with the watch which had been engraved on the back “From the canton of Vaud to its famous guest Mr Winston Churchill August-September 1946.” A Lemania is thought to have been chosen in reference to Lac Leman, which borders Vaud – and, also, because it was an extremely high quality watch containing a movement that formed the basis of notable models by both Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin.
Despite being more of a Breguet man ( his famous ‘Turnip’ pocket watch is displayed at London’s Churchill War Rooms) the great man kept the Lemania all his life, after which it passed through his family to the vendor who consigned it to Sotheby’s.