Bonhams sells Churchill pocket watch for double its pre-sale estimate at record-breaking auction


Bonhams held its most successful ever sale of Watches and Wristwatches at its Knightsbridge saleroom, with sales hitting a record £582,675 as 90% of lots sold.

The highlight of the auction was an open face pocket watch designed by Josiah Emery which achieved £117,500 against a pre-sale estimate of £50,000-70,000. The watch featured an early lever escapement and came from the estate of the 3rd Viscount Churchill.

Josiah Emery was among the first rank of watchmakers in his time. It is estimated that Emery made approximately 38 lever watches during his lifetime — one of which was worn by Horatio Nelson when he fell at the Battle of Trafalgar — and they were highly prized as luxury items due to their complexity and their elegant design.

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Early pocket watches were popular throughout the sale. A Grant 18ct gold key wind open face chronometer pocket watch used by the explorer James Weddell sold for £18,750 while an 18ct gold large open face minute repeating pocket watch with duplex escapement by Bentley & Beck sold for £7,500 against a pre-sale estimate of £2,000-3,000.

Penny Morris, Head of Department, commented: “We are absolutely thrilled with the sale’s result – the best we have ever had in our Knightsbridge saleroom. The bidding was competitive across the board, and we achieved some very impressive prices. The top lot is a masterful example of Josiah Emery’s exemplary craftsmanship. Its fascinating history, links to the Churchill family and early use of the lever escapement make this a very collectable item indeed. There were several bidders from across Europe competing to own the piece, and we are delighted by the price achieved today.”

More modern watches in the sale included a stainless steel automotive Rolex Submariner, Ref: 5513 that sold for £10,000; an 18ct gold Patek Philippe manual wind Calatrava Ref 3445 calendar wristwatch that sold for £8,750; and a limited edition 250th Anniversary 18ct gold Breguet automatic calendar with Classique regulator dial that sold for £8,125.

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Rob Corder

The author Rob Corder