British pocket watches lost when the Pulaski sank off North Carolina appear at auction


On the evening of June 14, 1838, the starboard boiler of the steamship Pulaski exploded, causing her to sink 30 miles off the coast of North Carolina with the loss of two-thirds of her passengers and crew. About 59 persons survived, and 128 were lost.

At the time, the disaster was described as the “most painful catastrophe that has ever occurred upon the American coast”, but was little-remembered over the following decades until, in 2017, maritime explorer and treasure hunter, Swordfish Partners, filed an Admiralty Claim on an unknown abandoned and sunken steamship off the coast of North Carolina that turned out to be the Polanski, and the company started to recover its contents, among which are a number of pocket watches that are going up for auction next month.


Skinner, based in Boston, is auctioning several of the recovered timekeepers, many of them made in the UK, as part of its Clocks, Watches & Scientific Instruments sale that is open for online bids today and ends on April 14.

Stars of the sale, described by Skinner, include:

Steamship Pulaski Shipwreck 19th Century 18kt Gold Open-face Watch.

Chased and engine-turned case retaining much of its detail, original gilt or multicolored roman numeral dial (lacking the hand-set), swing- out, key-wind, key-set movement (not opened), interior case back with hallmarks of Thomas Helsby & Co., Chester, 1823-24, dia. 45.5 mm, 101g.Lot 50, Estimate: $12,000- 15,000.


Steamship Pulaski Shipwreck Arnold Adams & Co. 18kt Gold Open- face Watch.



London. Roman numeral gilt dial with Breguet-style hands, running seconds (lacking hand), and floral- engraved center, engine-turned case back interior with illegible hallmark and ghosting, cuvette engraved “No. 2349/Arnold Adams & Co./London/Detached Lever/13 Jewels,” with typical leaping stag around the winding hole, key-wind, key-set movement, dia. 48 mm, 80g. Lot 51, Estimate: $12,000-15,000.


Steamship Pulaski Shipwreck H. & J. Daniel 18kt Gold Open-face Watch.

Liverpool. The engine-turned case with remarkably little wear, encrusted crystal over the gilt hand- set roman numeral dial, swing-out, key-wind, key-set movement marked “H&J. Daniels/No 6014/Liverpool,” with dust cover, interior case back with distinct English hallmarks of Chester, 1833- 34, maker’s mark of Christopher Jones, dia. 48 mm, 92g.Lot 48, Estimate: $12,000-15,000



Steamship Pulaski Shipwreck S.T. Tobias & Co. 18kt Gold Open-face Watch.


Liverpool. Wonderfully chased and engine-turned case retaining much of its detail, with what was originally a silvered or multicolored roman numeral dial that still shows the engraved floral center, and gilt hand- set marking 11:05, minutes following the explosion, swing-out key-wind, key-set movement marked “S.T. Tobias & Co./Liverpool,” with dust cover, interior case back markings “5725” below the 18 mark and partial retailer’s hallmark depicting an eagle, dia. 48 mm, 94g. Note: This watch, along with a recount of the disaster, was written up in an article in the Charlotte Observer, June 17, 2018, by Mark Price.Lot 49, Estimate: $12,000- 15,000

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