Skinner Inc.

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Author Archives: Jonathan Dowling

How To Catch the Vintage Watch Bug—Without Breaking the Bank

A recent Instagram post of vintage wristwatches elicited a great response “goes to show you that a watch doesn’t have to have cost six figures to look like six figures. Love it.”

Collecting of any kind is fueled by a passion for design, quality, history, or by some unquantified pulse, and mechanical watches have a beauty, history, and utility that their owners can relate to on many different levels. To start collecting, focus on what speaks to you, what you appreciate visually, mechanically, or for the history that these pieces offer.… Read More

Violano-Virtuoso: The World’s Only Self-playing Violin and Piano

The Violano-Virtuoso was invented by Henry Konrad Sandell, a contemporary of Thomas Edison, who arrived in Chicago via Sweden in 1888 at the age of twelve. In March 1905 Mr. Sandell applied for his patent for an electric self-playing violin. It was granted in December of 1905 and assigned to the Mills Novelty Company. The first instrument produced, the Automatic Virtuosa, only contained the violin. During that time, coin-operated player pianos were very popular so it didn’t take long for the Mills Novelty Company to realize that the violin by itself was not going to be marketable enough. … Read More

Musical Automaton Picture Clock: Low Tech Entertainment

Gilt-framed Musical Automaton Picture Clock Depicting a Farrier's Shop

One of our most interesting offerings in our October 31st Clocks, Watches & Scientific Instruments auction is this gilt-framed musical automaton picture clock of a Blacksmith’s Shop (Lot 457, Estimate $5,000-$7,000), attributed to Xavier Tharin, c. 1880.

Automatons go as far back as the middle ages but some people refer to the  mid 19th to early 20th century as the “Golden Age” of automata making. The industry was thriving in Paris during that time with makers like Vichy, Lambert and Roullet & Decamps.… Read More