IN PICS: Sotheby’s English Watch sale achieves world record prices

Sotheby’s London has set the auction records for two of England’s most important watchmakers.

In its ‘The Celebration of the English Watch Part II: John Harrison’s Enduring Legacy’ sale last week, Sotheby’s set new records for watches from both John Arnold and Thomas Earnshaw.

A large John Arnold silver consular cased pocket chronometer from 1781 achieved £557,000 while a Thomas Earnshaw watch , which is believed to be the only example made strictly to spring detent escapement patent details, sold for £305,000.

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The sale achieved a total of £1.8m and was the second part of the sale of the ‘most important collection of English watches in private hands’. As well as Arnold and Earnshaw, watches from Thomas Mudge and William Graham were among the most successful sales.

According to Sotheby’s the Arnold was made in 1781 and had been estimated at £130,000-150,000, the auction house described the watch as remarkable in it surviving in its completely original state. Arnold introduced the ‘double S’ balance in 1780. The ‘S’ sections of the balance were shaped bi-metallic bars that were designed to overcome the changing elasticity of the balance spring and expansion of the balance’s rim. The watch sold yesterday is the only example of a watch by Arnold which survives without restoration and with its original case, dial, pivoted detent and ‘double S’ balance.

Thomas Earnshaw invented the spring detent escapement and Thomas Wright, watchmaker to King George III, agreed to pay for the patent in his name. Dating from 1784, the gold pair cased pocket chronometer in yesterday’s sale was the only surviving example of a watch made strictly to Wright’s patent details (est. £250,000-300,000).

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