Bonhams to sell the clock that bombs could not stop and one that has not moved for 279 years

Fine Clocks
20 Jun 2012
London, New Bond Street

A fine robust clock that is still ticking despite a bomb strike on the house in which it once stood will be sold in Bonhams Fine Clock sale on June 20th. Valued at £30,000 to £50,000, this trooper of a timekeeper has a story to tell.

The clock survived the London Blitz in WWII despite an exploding bomb striking the top of the house. Shrapnel hit the clock's carrying case, stored in the attic, but thankfully this magnificent clock remained unscathed in a downstairs room.

This rare mid 19th century French 'Bubble' top grande sonnerie giant carriage clock, built in gilt bronze with a glass dome, stands 11 inches tall. The clock-making Berrolla family who lived in Paris' Rue de la Tour between 1850-1860 made and retailed this exquisite timepiece. They showed their carriage clocks in the Paris Exposition of 1839 and exhibited carriage clocks at the London Exhibition in 1851 and 1857.

Another clock with an astonishing story is a very fine 18th century walnut longcase clock of exceptional provenance built by George Graham of London. Estimated to sell for £100,000-150,000 it stands an imposing 7ft 2in.This huge clock has not moved since 1733.

This clock has been in the same British house since new and is offered for sale by a family descendant of the original purchaser. As such, it offers a unique opportunity to acquire a clock that was last sold in 1733. The clock is in generally excellent condition says James Stratton, Head of Clocks at Bonhams.

Besides clocks, George Graham also built telescopes. One he built for the second Astronomer Royal, Edmond Halley and another he made for James Bradley. Bradley used his telescope to identify two astronomical phenomena: the aberration of light and the subtle wobbling of the Earth on its axis (nutation).

Little is known about the early life of the extraordinary watch, clock and telescope maker, George Graham (circa 1673-1751). He was probably around fourteen years old when apprenticed to clockmaker Henry Aske in 1688. His indenture informs that by then his father, also named George, had died and that his previous home had been Fordlands in Cumberland. In 1696 having gained his freedom, the young George Graham joined the workforce of Thomas Tompion (1639-1713) at the Dial and Three Crowns on the corner of Water lane and Fleet Street. By 1696 Tompion's business was thriving and produced the finest clocks and watches in a distinctive 'house style', each piece with its own unique number. September 25th 1704 saw the marriage of George Graham and his master's niece, Elizabeth Tompion, at St. Mary-le-Bow Church.

Close to the end of Tompion's life, he elevated George Graham to business partner. During this period, Graham's intellect and interest in astronomy first shines through the 'house style', when he produced an accurate three-dimensional mechanical model of the Earth, Moon and Sun. His device became commonly known as the Orrery. After Tompion's death in 1713, Graham continued the business in the same manner as his late partner at the Dial and Three Crowns.

The 1720s were a highly significant an productive period for George Graham. In the early years of that decade he served as Master of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers as well as being elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Graham made a number of important astronomical instruments. By applying his skill as a watchmaker to the precise construction of astronomical instruments, he was able to create telescopes of unprecedented quality. Two notable examples are: the eight-foot mural quadrant made for second Astronomer Royal, Edmond Halley and the twelve-foot zenith sector made for James Bradley. Bradley used his sector to identify two astronomical phenomena: the aberration of light and the subtle wobbling of the Earth on its axis (nutation). His frequent election to the council of the Royal Society gives a good indication of the high regard his contemporaries in the Society had for him.

  1. James Stratton
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
    Work +44 20 7468 8364
    FaxFax: +44 207 468 8370

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