Josiah Emery, Charing Cross, London. A very fine and historically important open face pocket watch with early lever escapement from the Estate of the 3rd Viscount Churchill and numbered 1075 London Hallmark for 1790-91

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Lot 51
JOSIAH EMERY, A RARE AND IMPORTANT PAIR CASED GOLD WATCH

Sold for £ 117,500 (US$ 151,599) inc. premium
JOSIAH EMERY, A RARE AND IMPORTANT PAIR CASED GOLD WATCH
JOSIAH EMERY, A RARE AND IMPORTANT PAIR CASED GOLD WATCH
with Emery lever escapement and helical spring, no.1075, circa 1780, with three seals to the chain

Footnotes

  • Josiah Emery (1731-1794) was born in the Canton de Vaud in Switzerland but moved to London for an apprenticeship, eventually opening a business in 1767 in Cockspur Street, Charing Cross, London. He was among the first rank of watchmakers in his time and latterly also became famous as the first watchmaker after the great Thomas Mudge to produce a watch with a lever escapement, at the time a very technically difficult and expensive escapement to produce.

    It is estimated that Emery made approximately 38 lever watches during his lifetime and of these the movements were of two sizes 40mm or 45mm in diameter. The current example, not listed before, is of the larger size and is an exquisite example of Emery's fantastic ability as a Master Watchmaker. Not only is the case in very fine and unpolished condition, the specifications of the movement are higher than any that have been seen before in this series of lever pocket chronometers.

    The double bridge is particularly interesting and is potentially unique to this example. The upper part of the balance staff was supported by four anti-friction wheels (now lacking) probably made of high quality tin bronze. See Jonathan Betts' article 5 in the 1996/97 series on Emery in Antiquarian Horology, regarding Emery's marine timekeeper No.1 for similar utilisation but on a larger scale. Other than smooth running, the other purpose of the anti-friction wheels would be for added support laterally of the heavy balance, giving the watch robust quality and less likely to damage the very delicate balance pivots which are vulnerable when a pocket chronometer is used.

    This very fine and rare example of Emery's beautiful craftsmanship comes from the estate of the late Victor, 3rd Viscount Churchill (1934-2017) and is believed to have descended to him via Francis, 1st Baron Churchill, the younger son of George Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough (1739-1817). This branch of the Churchill family (cousins of Sir Winston Churchill) have been at the heart of the British political and Royal establishment for over 200 years fulfilling key roles in both local and national institutions.

    The 4th Duke, great-great-great grandfather to Sir Winston Churchill, was well known for his love of astronomy and scientific exploration and created at Blenheim Palace, his stately home, a private observatory in around 1780 before attempting a second approximately 9 years later. The observatory was filled with the finest equipment money could buy with many pieces coming from Jesse Ramsden, the celebrated London instrument maker. Along with his relationship with Ramsden the Dukes passion for astronomy led to a regular correspondence with Hans Moritz, Count von Brühl (1736-1809). Brühl was a keen advocate and supporter of both the astronomical and horological world and is recognised for his unwavering support of Thomas Mudge as well as Emery. It is possible that it was Marlborough's friendship with Brühl that led to the commissioning of this lever watch from Emery.

    Accompanying this fine watch are a set of seals further linking the watch back to the 4th Duke of Marlborough. Depicted on the larger oval seal are the arms of Spencer quartering Churchill accollé with Russell, beneath a duke's coronet. The Spencer-Churchill arms are then further encircled with the ribbon and motto of the Order of the Garter. The Duke was installed as a Knight of the Garter in 1768 which nicely confirms that this seal must date from between 1768 and 1817 when he died.

    The remaining two seals further cement this connection with the 4th Duke, having both the Spencer crest of 'out of a ducal coronet a griffin's head between two wings expanded, gorged with a bar gemel' encircled with the ribbon and motto of the Order of the Garter and beneath a duke's coronet. Lady Diana Spencer was a direct descendant through this line.

    With thanks to Jonathan Betts and Angela Howard

    Literature: Jonathan Betts, 'Josiah Emery, Watchmaker of Charing Cross' , Antiquarian Horology, (Five parts), Vol.22, No.5, March 1996 et seq.
Contacts
Josiah Emery, Charing Cross, London. A very fine and historically important open face pocket watch with early lever escapement from the Estate of the 3rd Viscount Churchill and numbered 1075 London Hallmark for 1790-91
Josiah Emery, Charing Cross, London. A very fine and historically important open face pocket watch with early lever escapement from the Estate of the 3rd Viscount Churchill and numbered 1075 London Hallmark for 1790-91
Josiah Emery, Charing Cross, London. A very fine and historically important open face pocket watch with early lever escapement from the Estate of the 3rd Viscount Churchill and numbered 1075 London Hallmark for 1790-91
Josiah Emery, Charing Cross, London. A very fine and historically important open face pocket watch with early lever escapement from the Estate of the 3rd Viscount Churchill and numbered 1075 London Hallmark for 1790-91
Josiah Emery, Charing Cross, London. A very fine and historically important open face pocket watch with early lever escapement from the Estate of the 3rd Viscount Churchill and numbered 1075 London Hallmark for 1790-91
Josiah Emery, Charing Cross, London. A very fine and historically important open face pocket watch with early lever escapement from the Estate of the 3rd Viscount Churchill and numbered 1075 London Hallmark for 1790-91
Josiah Emery, Charing Cross, London. A very fine and historically important open face pocket watch with early lever escapement from the Estate of the 3rd Viscount Churchill and numbered 1075 London Hallmark for 1790-91
Josiah Emery, Charing Cross, London. A very fine and historically important open face pocket watch with early lever escapement from the Estate of the 3rd Viscount Churchill and numbered 1075 London Hallmark for 1790-91
Josiah Emery, Charing Cross, London. A very fine and historically important open face pocket watch with early lever escapement from the Estate of the 3rd Viscount Churchill and numbered 1075 London Hallmark for 1790-91
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