Auction calls time on pristine pocket watches for £3m

Royal oval astronomical timepiece crafted by watchmaker David Ramsey makes almost £1m

Sotheby’s London sold two watches on Tuesday from a private collection of English pocket watches for £3 million (€4 million).

The sale was led by a royal oval astronomical watch with an engraved portrait of King James I made by David Ramsay circa 1618. It fetched £989,000, almost four times the pre-sale estimate of between £150,000-£250,000.

Considered one of the finest watchmakers from the early 17th century, Ramsay was the first master of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers at its formation in 1632, as well as chief clockmaker to the king.

The engravings on the exterior depicts the Royal Coat of Arms and miniature of King James I and are of exceptional quality.



A similar watch by Ramsay can be found on permanent loan in the Victorian and Albert Museum.

The sale was the first of the four auctions of a collection which is being offered under the title, Celebration of the English Watch over the course of 2015-2016.

Charting the history of British watchmaking from the early 1600s to the present day, the collection is a “who’s who” of the great British watchmakers through the ages.

The collection spans all the greatest names and innovators in the field, from Thomas Thompion to Robert Hook (inventor of balance spring, circa 1660), to George Graham (who introduced the sweep seconds hand in the early 1700s), to Thomas Mudge (lever escapement, 1765) and John Harwood (self-winding wristwatch movement), to the late great George Daniels.