Ingenuity abounds: Skinner’s October 27 auction of Clocks, Watches and Scientific Instruments starts with a classic 1934 Buick sedan. It ends with an antique treadle scroll saw.In between are 500 lots including timepieces of every description, myriad scopes and meters, and inventive devices for almost every scientific or technical pursuit.
One of the most anticipated watches is one of the most recent: a Tornek-Rayville TR-900 Dive Watch, mid 1960s (Lot 27, estimate $30,000-50,000). Jay Dowling, department director pro tem, notes that this timepiece, made for the U. S. Navy, is the rarest dive watch extant. Only about 1,000 were produced and most were ordered destroyed because of radium used in the dials.
More traditional are the over 80 Hamilton and Illinois watches and watch parts offered. They range from best-selling production models such as several examples of the 992B and 950, to the splendid (and long-lost) Illinois Springfield Watch Company No. 1 Open-face Watch (Lot 91, estimate $10,000-20,000). Inscribed with the date of December 23, 1871, this is a foliate-engraved regulator in an 18 karat gold 18 size case.
Another pocketwatch is notable for a different reason. This Hamilton 924 (Lot 60, estimate $200-400) is a scarred and blackened reminder of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. It had been returned for repair from the San Francisco store where it had been sold, and was retained by the company (presumably, according to Jay Dowling, being replaced by Hamilton with a new watch).
The survival of the Hamilton and Illinois Springfield material is largely due to the historical sensibility of John F. Gelson, the last president of Hamilton Watch Company of Lancaster PA. When the company disposed of its buildings in 1996, he purchased and meticulously documented the remaining inventory, including models and samples.
A wide range of clocks is featured in this auction. Particularly notable is the Simon Willard Patent Banjo Clock with Signed “Willard and Nolen” Lower Tablet (Lot 117, estimate $10,000-15,000). Nolen’s signature is often lacking. The side ornaments are also unusual; the balls are made of gilt wood, not the more customary brass.
The skills of a legendary New York clockmaker are displayed in the Charles Fasoldt Single-arm Gravity Escapement Regulator, 1873 (Lot 125, $60,000-70,000).The carved walnut and gilt iron case encloses the eight-day single-arm escapement with a 12-pound mercury weight.
Another ingenious timepiece is the E. Gubelin Inclined Plane Clock (Lot 192, estimate $2,000-3,000). This Swiss-made “mystery” clock tells the time, date and days of the week as the timekeeping mechanism progresses down a 33-inch-long steel ramp.
Other mechanical marvels include:
- Goldsmith Chandlee Surveyor’s Compass for A. B. Lane (Lot 265, estimate $8,000-12,000), made in 1805 by the prominent early American Quaker clock and instrument maker.
- Four-plate Brass Persian Astrolabe (Lot 325, $1,500-2,500), multifunctional and elaborately engraved, a late 19th-early 20th century example of a navigational instrument in use since ancient Greece.
- Monitor Manufacturing Co. Wind Engine Salesman’s Sample (Lot 405, estimate $10,000-15,000), Indiana, last quarter 19th century. Wood and brass, with a sculptural presence, this working model is in its original box. It is accompanied by a catalog, price list, and related ephemera from the Monitor and Wells Machine Works company.
- French 16th Century Steel Masterpiece or Compagnon Lock (Lot 455, estimate $2,000-3,000) is a striking example of artistic artisanry. The complex richly decorated mechanism was made to demonstrate an apprentice locksmith’s skills: literally, his masterpiece.
As well as serious and scientifically purposeful timekeepers and tools, the auction offers more than a dozen automatons, music boxes, and parlor amusements. They demonstrate the same ingenuity applied to light-hearted purposes. Monkey on a Bicycle Automaton Musical Box (Lot 476, estimate $600-800) is a charming example of skilled engineering “just for fun.”
Previews, Catalogs, and Bidding
Auction previews are free and open to the public. They will be held in Skinner’s Marlborough gallery, 274 Cedar Hill Street, Tuesday, October 24th, 12PM-5PM, Wednesday October 25th, 12PM-7PM, and Friday, October 27, 8 to 9:30AM.
The print catalog is available for purchase from the Subscriptions Department at email@example.com. Prices realized will be available at www.skinnerinc.com during and after the sale. The Skinner website enables users to view all lots in the auction, leave bids, and bid live, in real-time through SkinnerLive!
Skinner auctions draw international interest from buyers and consignors alike, with material regularly achieving record prices. The company’s auction and appraisal services focus on fine art, jewelry, furniture, and decorative arts from around the globe, as well as wine, fine musical instruments, rare books, Asian art, clocks, Judaica, and more.
Monthly Skinner Discovery auctions feature a breadth of estate material. Widely regarded as one of the most trusted names in the business, Skinner appraisers have appeared on the PBS-TV series, Antiques Roadshow, since the show’s inception. Skinner has galleries in Boston and Marlborough, Massachusetts, as well as in New York City and Miami, Florida, with bidders participating in person, by phone, and online.