Pocket watch made for Coco Chanel's French lover and an impressive single-owner collection spanning 350 years of horology among the highlights of £1.7 million Bonhams sale

Fine Watches & Wristwatches Including a Private English Collection
11 Jun 2013
London, New Bond Street

The Bonhams auction of Fine Watches and Wristwatches in New Bond Street, London, on Tuesday 11th June exceeded expectations, with many lots selling well above estimate.

Among the highlights was a pocket watch made for the French illustrator and designer Paul Iribe – one-time lover of the legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel – which exceeded its £15,000 to £20,000 (€17,700 - €23,700) estimate to sell for £26,250 (€30,953).

The 18ct gold open-face automatic Breguet pocket watch was sold to the Frenchman in 1933, the year he collaborated with Chanel on an extravagant jewellery collection, for 10,800 francs.

Paul Iribe (1883-1935) is acknowledged as having been a leading influence on Art Deco style. First known for his political caricatures in Parisian journals and satirical newspapers, Iribe then spent a number of years in Hollywood working on film sets before returning to Paris in the early 1920s, where he met Coco Chanel (1883-1971), founder of the iconic Chanel brand of clothing, jewellery and fragrance.

Iribe's affair with Chanel is widely thought to be behind the break-up of the artist's second marriage, to heiress Maybelle Hogan, in 1928. Many of his subsequent drawings and political publications would feature Chanel's likeness, re-imagined as Marianne – the symbol of French freedom. Although Chanel was known to have had a number of romances during her early career, her relationship with Iribe was said to have been one of the most significant of her life.

In 1933 – the year Iribe bought this watch – the pair collaborated in the design of an extravagant jewellery collection commissioned by the International Guild of Diamond Merchants. The Bijoux de Diamants Collection was executed almost entirely in diamonds and platinum, and inspired by the triple themes of knots, stars and feathers. When exhibited in Chanel's home in the Rue du Fauborg-Saint-Honoré in Paris, it drew enormous crowds.

Sadly Iribe would pass away just two years later, collapsing while playing tennis at Chanel's villa on the French Riviera in September 1935.

Strong Performance from Rolex

Elsewhere in the sale Rolexs performed strongly, with Lot 378, a stainless steel manual wind Rolex chronograph wristwatch, exceeding top estimate to sell for £97,250. Meanwhile Lot 328, a stainless steel manual wind Rolex 'Paul Newman' 'Daytona' chronograph bracelet watch offered by its original owner, also exceeded top estimate at £46,850. Lot 357, a rare stainless steel cushion shape military divers wristwatch made for the German navy c.1940 sold above its £18,000 to £22,000 estimate at £38,450.

Single-owner collection

An impressive single-owner collection of 130 pocket watches and eight clocks was 97 per cent sold, and doubled its pre-sale estimate to realise a total of £489,900. The private English collection, which was amassed between the 1930s and 1962, spanned a period in watch and clock-making from the early 1600s to the mid-19th century.

Top-selling lot was a 430-year-old Flemish gilt brass travel clock (Lot 62). The 19cm-high clock – a very rare survivor of the 16th Century – sold for £44,450 against a pre-sale estimate of £7,000 to £10,000.

A very similar instrument was made by Hans de Vals, clockmaker to the Royal household and to Philip II of Spain between c.1558 and 1598. He supplied clocks to the Spanish court which were used as diplomatic gifts, including an example given to the first Tokugawa Shogun in 1611 for the hospitality shown by the Japanese to survivors from the Spanish galleon San Francisco which was carrying the acting Governor of the Philippines. That clock is believed to have been the first mechanical clock in Japan.

A president's gift

Meanwhile Lot 188, a very rare 14ct gold keyless wind full hunter Waltham pocket watch gifted to the Captain of the British tug boat Champion in 1919 by Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States, sold for more than double its estimate at £5,000. Henry William Webster was awarded the watch by the President in recognition of his ship's assistance of the US vessel Piave when it ran aground on Goodwin Sands in the English Channel on 31st January 1919. The watch was presented in a polished case with United States of America Presidential insignia, and commemorative engraving.

Paul Maudsley, Head of the Bonhams Watch Department, said: "The first of our two annual Fine Watch and Wristwatch sales at New Bond Street was a resounding success, with many international bidders, both on the telephones and in the packed sale room. We also had the most live internet bidders for a sale in New Bond Street.

"We now look forward to our next sale in Knightsbridge on 3rd September, and of course our end-of-year sale at New Bond Street on 18th December."


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 www.bonhams.com

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