Five centuries’ of horological history up for sale at Sotheby’s


WatchPro met with Daryn Schnipper, chairman of Sotheby’s International Watch Division in New York last week, and her enthusiasm for the upcoming Masterworks of Time auctions was palpable.

The sale of wrist and pocket watches from an unnamed single owner, is being described as one of the most important and comprehensive collections ever assembled because it includes pieces representing ground-breaking technological and artistic innovations of the last 500 years from early watches with German stackfreeds, to double dialled astronomical timepieces, enamels, form watches, musical and automata pieces, tourbillons, and complicated timepieces, Sotheby’s describes.

The world’s most important watchmakers over several centuries are also represented including A. Lange & Söhne, Abraham Louis Breguet, Dent, Ferdinand Berthoud, Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Joehan Cremsdorff, Frères Rochat, and the 20th century’s George Daniels. Each has left an indelible mark on the history of horology.


“Assembled with a keen eye and tremendous knowledge, this is a truly unique collection, shaped by years of searching for the best examples of their kind. It is a collection put together by someone who wanted to tell the story of time through watches; someone who knew his subject, trusted his eye, and had a real sense of what was ground-breaking, both in terms of technology and of artistry. If you take the scope, the variety, the depth, the innovation, the early watches, the enamels, he covered all the bases, he left no stone unturned. It’s a collection that’s unrivalled in its scope and breadth. For me, ‘Masterworks of Time’, as we’ve called it, is absolutely one of the best private collections ever formed,” Ms Schnipper says.

The collection, which is thought to have taken 50 years to assemble by its owner and has an estimated value of £11m to £20m, was unveiled in London last week, and will be offered in four dedicated sales in London, Geneva, New York and Hong Kong between July 2019 and October 2020.

The first of the four auctions takes place in London on 2nd July 2019, and will include some 160 rare and important examples of the craft, headlined by the legendary George Daniels Space Traveller I.  The following day, Sotheby’s Treasures sale, will include a further selection from the collection.

George Daniels’ Space Traveller I was completed in 1982 and is one of only 23 pocket watches he made in his lifetime. Its pre-sale estimate of £700,000 to £1 million is likely to be conservative since this was the most technically accomplished of the British watchmaker’s pieces and also his personal favourite.

This 1820 pocket watch is signed by Ilbery, a London maison that made luxury watches for the Chinese market with intricately painted enamel cases. It has an estimate of £30-50,000.


Parisian watchmaker Joehann Cremsdorff is thought to have made this gold, enamel and diamond-set watch in 1650 and sold for CHF 1 million in 1986 when it last came to auction.


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