Isaake Symmes, London. A remarkable silver an gilt early English verge watchCirca 1620, engraved with the spurious date 1536.
Lot 77
Isaake Symmes, London. A remarkable silver and gilt early English verge watchCirca 1620, engraved with the spurious date 1536.
Sold for US$ 30,000 inc. premium
Auction Details
Isaake Symmes, London. A remarkable silver an gilt early English verge watchCirca 1620, engraved with the spurious date 1536. Isaake Symmes, London. A remarkable silver an gilt early English verge watchCirca 1620, engraved with the spurious date 1536. Isaake Symmes, London. A remarkable silver an gilt early English verge watchCirca 1620, engraved with the spurious date 1536. Isaake Symmes, London. A remarkable silver an gilt early English verge watchCirca 1620, engraved with the spurious date 1536. Isaake Symmes, London. A remarkable silver an gilt early English verge watchCirca 1620, engraved with the spurious date 1536. Isaake Symmes, London. A remarkable silver an gilt early English verge watchCirca 1620, engraved with the spurious date 1536.
Lot Details
Property of another owner
Isaake Symmes, London. A remarkable silver and gilt early English verge watch
Circa 1620, engraved with the spurious date 1536.
Octagonal gilt gut fusee movement with engraved border, tapered baluster pillars, four wheel train, ratchet and pawl mainspring set up, floral pierced pinned cock, two arm steel balance, the gilt dial chased and engraved with cockatrices flanking the similarly chased and engraved roman chapter disc, blued steel baluster hand, molded gilt case band, the silver lids chased and engraved with panels of figures and foliage
32mm by 47mm excluding pendant

Footnotes

  • Isaac Symmes is one of the earliest recorded watch makers working in London. Born in 1580, he was apprenticed in 1594 in the Goldsmiths' Company. (The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers would not be granted a charter until 1631.) He finished his apprenticeship on 27 January 1603/04 and two months later, married Emma Howe. He made an elaborately engraved gilt watch shortly thereafter, with alarm and one-at-the-hour striking, which is now in the Collection of The British Museum. He died in 1622, but not before he signed the unsuccessful first petition by the clock and watch trade to King James I to establish a City livery company for clock and watch makers.

    The present watch is noteworthy not only for its early date of manufacture, but also for being an antiquarian fraud dating to the 18th century.

    At some point in its history, the watch lid was engraved with the name of Richard Whiting, last Abbot of Glastonbury, and with the date 1536. Whiting had been gruesomely executed by Henry VIII in 1539 when the King confiscated church lands. Clearly, no one at the time knew that the watch had been made almost a century after the death of the Abbot.

    The watch was acquired in 1783 by a certain Reverend John Bowen of Bath, whose wife, Elizabeth, claimed descent from the unfortunate Richard Whiting.

    When Bowen bought the watch from a watchmaker named Howe, he was told that the watch had belonged to a Reverend Mr. Paine "who had lived to the advanced age of one hundred years...a tradition was preserved that the watch had been successively worn by himself, his father, and his grandfather, and that it had been purchased by an ancestor of the latter at the sale of Abbot Whiting's personal property after his execution and the dissolution of his monastery."

    Bowen added a further inscription to the watch:

    "Repaired By order of the Rev. J. Bowen of Bath 18 Nov. 1801 who married Elizth. Dr of 'Wm Jeanes of Shroton Dorset Esq. who was lineally descended from Jno Jeanes of East Tennard who married Eliz. sister of R' Whytinge, the last Abbot of Glastonbury."

    A drawing of the watch and Bowen's story was published in the 1826 An History of the Abbey of Glaston. by Richard Warner. This story is repeated in Curiosities of Clocks and Watches from the Earliest Times. by Edward J. Wood, an early collectors' handbook, published in 1866.

    After the death of Mr. Bowen the watch entered the collection of Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (1773 -1843), sixth son of George III. His collection of clocks and watches was dispersed at auction by Christies in 1843.

    In all of this, it would seem that no one relating the tale has examined the watch and no mention is made of the maker, Isaac Symmes.

    By the end of the 19th century, it was apparent that the watch could not be as old as claimed. However, the watch and its remarkable story still appeared in collectors' literature. To his credit, when a skeptical F. J. Britten reproduced Warner's drawing, he noted "... I confess I do not believe such a watch was made so early as 1536."

    Literature:

    Britten, F. J. Old Clocks and Watches and their Makers, Third Edition, 1911. Reprinted 1977 with additions, fig 190.

    Thompson, David. The History of Watches. The British Museum (2008) pp 26-27.

    Warner, Richard. An History of the Abbey of Glaston; and of the Town of Glastonbury. Bath (1826).

    Wood, Edward J. Curiosities of Clocks and Watches from the Earliest Times. London, (1866).
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Arms & Armor, Coins & Medals, Motor Cars, Motorcycles, and Wine & Whisky:

Buyer's Premium Rates
25% on the first $100,000 of the Hammer Price
20% from $100,001 to $2,000,000 of the Hammer Price
12% on the excess over $2,000,000 of the Hammer Price

Payment Notices

Payment for purchases may be made in or by (a) cash, (b) cashier's check or money order, (c) personal check with approved credit drawn on a U.S. bank, (d) wire transfer or other immediate bank transfer, or (e) Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover credit, charge or debit card. A processing fee will be assessed on any returned checks. Please note that the amount of cash notes and cash equivalents that can be accepted from a given purchaser may be limited.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licences please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

Contacts
  1. Jonathan Snellenburg
    Specialist - Watches
    Bonhams
    Work
    580 Madison Avenue
    New York, United States 10022
    Work +1 212 461 6530
    FaxFax: +1 212 644 9007