Time’s up as private collector sells 800 watches and clocks at Sotheby’s

Some rare and unusual time pieces are coming on the international market in the coming months, including a pocket watch owned by the writer Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe’s pocket watch is for sale at Chriestie’s in New York on June 12th with an estimate of  $80,000- $120,000

Edgar Allan Poe’s pocket watch is for sale at Chriestie’s in New York on June 12th with an estimate of $80,000- $120,000

 

Two significant timepieces are featured in upcoming auctions this summer. The personal pocket watch owned by mystery writer Edgar Allan Poe, whose family came from Co Cavan, will be one of the highlights at Christie’s Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts including Americana, New York sale on June 12th.

Furthermore, a watch owned by one of the greatest horologists of the 20th century will feature in what Sotheby’s term as ‘one of the most important collections of timepieces ever assembled’ at its London Masterworks of Time sale on July 2nd. (This is the first of four dedicated sales of 800 lots in total from a private collection of timepieces.)

Master of suspense and the macabre, and founding father of the mystery novel, 170 years after the passing of tragic genius Edgar Allan Poe, his death still remains an enigma.

Theories for his demise, when aged 40 and penniless on the streets of Baltimore, range from meningitis and rabies to murder, and oddly enough his medical records and death certificate still remain at large.

Interestingly, his 1848 book Eureka, predicts and predates the Big Bang Theory by some 80 years. It still remains a mystery how the author, cryptographer and amateur stargazer came up with what are now considered to be rudimentary versions of contemporary science’s best guess for explaining how the universe began, almost a century before his contemporaries.  

Only 12 copies of his first book: Tamerlane and Other Poems, from a print run of 50 still survive, and one of these, dubbed the ‘black tulip of American literature’ due to its rarity, sold for $662,500 through Christie’s in New York in 2009, setting a world record price for a piece of literature.

Though his life was filled with tragedy – he was orphaned at the age of three – he enjoyed a brief window of financial success from 1841 until 1842, until he was declared bankrupt later that year.

Topping the list of creditors in his bankruptcy document was JW Albright, a merchant tailor from Philadelphia, who Poe paid off with his 18k gold engraved pocket watch.

The watch comes complete with documentation from JW Albright, through a sale and hence by descent, and is listed with an estimate of $80,000-$120,000.

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), American writer and poet. Photograph: adoc-photos/Corbis via Getty Images
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), American writer and poet. Photograph: adoc-photos/Corbis via Getty Images
Edgar Allan Poe’s pocket watch is for sale at Chriestie’s in New York on June 12th
Edgar Allan Poe’s pocket watch is for sale at Chriestie’s in New York on June 12th

Also included in the sale, and one of 12 known to exist, is a Globe of the Planet Mars, by Danish female astronomer Emmy Ingeborg Brun, portraying the early theory of life on Mars $30,000-$50,000. See christies.com

In keeping with time and travel to the planet Mars, is the highlight of the Sotheby sale; George Daniels The Space Traveller I, which Daniels, the pre-eminent horologist of the 20th century, described as “the kind of watch you would need on your package tour to Mars”.

Daniels completed the The Space Traveller I in 1982 to commemorate the 1969 American moon landing, an event that left a great impression on his life. Until his death in 2011, he was one of the few people in the world able to make a watch completely by hand, and his co-axial escapement (the part that drives the timekeeping mechanism) is often hailed as the greatest development in horological craft for almost 250 years. 

Having completed just 23 pocket watches over the course of his lifetime, each of which took 2,500 hours to create, he refused commissions, instead only creating timepieces for people he liked.

George Daniels’ original watch, The Space Traveller I, 1982 is for sale at Sotheby’s with an estimate of £700,000-£1m.
George Daniels’ original watch, The Space Traveller I, 1982 is for sale at Sotheby’s with an estimate of £700,000-£1m.
George Daniels’ original watch, The Space Traveller I, 1982 is for sale at Sotheby’s with an estimate of £700,000-£1m.
George Daniels’ original watch, The Space Traveller I, 1982 is for sale at Sotheby’s with an estimate of £700,000-£1m.

After his death, Sotheby’s held a sale of his watches, which raised £8m for George Daniels Educational Trust in 2017, the highlight of which was his Space Time Traveller II watch. It sold for $4.325m, ranking the watch as one of most expensive ever sold.

The watch at the forthcoming Sotheby’s sale is his original watch, which first sold in 1988 for CHF 220,000 (€195,729) and is now listed with an estimate of £700,000– £1m.

Joehan Cremsdorff, Paris, circa 1650 £700,000-£1m at Sotheby’s
Joehan Cremsdorff, Paris, circa 1650 £700,000-£1m at Sotheby’s

With a similar estimate is the beautiful Joehan Cremsdorff blue enamel, gold and diamond set watch, dating from 1650, and one of only five known to exist.

All the timepieces at Sotheby’s sales are from a private collection, ranging from Renaissance to present day pieces, and are described as “unrivalled and one of the best collections ever formed” by Daryn Schnipper, Chairman International Watch Division at Sotheby’s.

 The 800 pieces will be auctioned at four sales in 2019 and 2020, and are expected to yield between $15-27m.  

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