New York – A dazzling selection of clocks and watches will be offered in the December 4 auction of The Art of Time at Bonhams New York. Leading the sale is a selection of timepieces from Cartier, stunning examples of Art Deco clocks, and rare and unique wristwatches including a Rolex with a triple calendar and moon phase complication combination.
For a period in the 1920s and 30s, utilitarian table clocks were transformed into works of art fashioned from precious metals and gemstones. This auction will feature two Asian-inspired pieces from the period by highly regarded jewelers and silversmiths Black, Starr & Frost. Exhibited at the New York World’s Fair of 1939 and using Chinese numerals for hour-markers, one example features diamond-set hands on an enamel panel enclosed in a triangular rock crystal plate (estimate: $30,000-50,000). The other features a rectangular enamel panel on a hardstone case with flowering branches, topped with a carved hardstone elephant.
Cartier is well represented in this sale with two Art Deco desk clocks, one made of diamond-set jade, onyx, coral, beryl, and gold in a prime example of the Chinese style adopted by the brand in the 1920s to satisfy the popular taste for Chinoiserie (estimate $40,000-60,000). The other piece is a hardstone desk clock made with sapphire, rock-crystal and enameled silver-mounted agate with original fitted travel case (estimate: $15,000-25,000). Additional highlights by Cartier include a fine platinum, diamond, and gold bracelet watch (estimate $20,000-30,000) and an onyx, diamond, and enameled gold mounted dress watch of a rare variant known as a montre guichet that “jumps” to the next hour after the minute hand traces its path around the dial (estimate $20,000-30,000).
The top highlight from the selection of watches is an extremely rare and historically important stainless steel ‘Explorer 3-9 dial’ automatic wristwatch with triple calendar and moonphase by Rolex (estimate: $300,000-400,000). Originally sold as ‘Cosmograph (Oyster Perpetual)’, the Ref. 6062 has since become part of the pantheon of Rolex watches. It is one of only two models to feature the combination of triple calendar with moonphase complications, with an estimated 350-450 total watches made, 100 of which were made in stainless steel in 1953, and less than one third of those are known to the market.
A very fine and rare 18K gold first execution enamel dial wristwatch from Patek Philippe is another highlight from the watches section (estimate: $40,000-60,000), with the Ref. 2526 having the distinction of being the first, and arguably the best, automatic wristwatch that Patek Philippe produced. Designed to stand the test of time, the present example is a first execution model with no cracks to the enamel dial with drilled and applied hour-markers, as opposed to later examples with glued-on markers. The dial is signed and was retailed by Gübelin, making it a rarer version of this Reference.
Rounding out the highlights are two rare clocks, one from the 1820’s, and the other from the mid-16th century. The older one is an exquisitely detailed and well-preserved example of one of the oldest surviving table clocks (estimate: $5,000-7,000). The clock, which has been converted to pendulum, features engraved decorative brass panels after Virgil Solis’ The Four Temperaments.
A new-to-market lighthouse timepiece by Simon Willard, one of the fathers of American clockmaking, is also among the highlights of the sale (estimate: 25,000-50,000). Bought directly from the maker and passed down through the generations to the present owner, this very rare piece features a wood base and glass dome, emulating the appearance of a lighthouse.
The Art of Time will preview at Bonhams New York November 30 to December 3, with the auction to be held December 4 at 10:00 a.m. EST.
The full catalogue can be accessed here: http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/24500/