Made for China: Socialite's 200 year-old pocket watch on offer at Bonhams New York

Fine Watches and Wristwatches 18 Jun 2013
New York
Fine Watches and Wristwatches

Made for China: Socialite's 200 year-old pocket watch on offer at Bonhams New York

Fine Watches and Wristwatches 18 Jun 2013
New York

NEW YORK — Bonhams will offer a fine early 19th century enameled gold pocket watch made for the Chinese market in the June 18 auction of Fine Watches & Wristwatches (est. $40,000-60,000). Created by famed maker William Ilbery of London, the pocket watch features an enamel dial with roman chapters, subsidiary seconds, gold arrow hands, and a delicate rendering of a family of musicians in a rustic setting on the reverse side.

This watch is a prime example of the type popular with wealthy 19th century Chinese buyers, particularly members of the imperial family and their court. Interested clients would special order the watches from well-known Western makers like Ilbery who catered to Chinese tastes. Enamel compositions of Western pastoral scenes were especially popular.

The pocket watch comes from a prominent American socialite and philanthropist whose outstanding jewelry collection was sold in April at Bonhams, realizing over $2.5 million.

"The Ilbery on offer has an exceptional provenance and all of the attributes collectors covet," explained Jonathan Snellenburg, Bonhams Director of Fine Watches & Clocks. "The demand for Chinese market pocket watches is currently growing, as collectors are become increasingly aware of these spectacular pieces."

The June 18 auction features a plethora of exceptional pocket watches. An eighteen karat gold Tiffany & Co pocket watch with a subsidiary dial is a rare example of the style, which was briefly popular in the late 19th century (est. $30,000-50,000). The watch was made in Tiffany's state of the art Geneva factory in 1878, the same year the facility was sold to Patek Philippe.

The sale also includes some of the earliest watches produced in America. Part of a prominent Portland Oregon collection, including 25 watches by the prestigious E. Howard & Co., Boston will be on offer (estimates range from $1,000-9,000). Founded in the 1850s, these New England watch factories were the first to make reliable watches affordable to millions.

Many of these watches are cased in uniquely American-style multi-colored, diamond-set cases that were the height of fashion during the last quarter of the 19th century. One of these, in the form of a ship's anchor, was a presentation piece dating from 1877 (est. $5000-7000). Another, jeweled with diamonds, was a wedding present in 1893, complete with photographic portraits of the bride and groom (est. $2500-3500).

A remarkable silver and gilt early English verge watch from Isaake Symmes, circa 1620, is noteworthy not only for its age, but also for being an 18th century antiquarian fraud (est. $15,000-20,000). The watch has been clearly engraved with the name of the gruesomely executed last Abbot of Glastonbury, Richard Whiting, and the date 1536. Despite the brazen forgery, the watch eventually found its way into the collection of Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (1773 -1843), sixth son of George III.

Excellent wristwatches will also be on offer, such as a fine eighteen karat gold Davinci tourbillion chronograph wristwatch with perpetual calendar and moon phase from IWC featuring the "quattro stagioni," or four seasons (est. $40,000-60,000). Wristwatches from Breguet, Cartier, Patek Philippe, Rolex, Movado, Jaeger-LeCoultre and other fine makers will also be included.

Bonhams Fine Watches & Wristwatches auction will take place in New York on June 18. The auction will preview at Bonhams San Francisco May 31-June 2, at Bonhams London New Bond Street from June 9-11, and Bonhams New York from June 15-18.

A fully illustrated catalog is available at


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to

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