Bonhams Announces December Sale of the Outstanding Elliot Collection of Fine English Clocks

London – Every clock collector dreams of one day owning a clock by the Father of English Clockmaking, Thomas Tompion (1639-1713). The businessman Alan Elliot turned his dream into reality – not once but twice. His two exquisite Tompion timepieces form part of the Elliot Collection of Fine English Clocks to be offered in the Fine Clocks sale at Bonhams in mid-December. The collection also includes an important late 17th century ebony veneered longcase clock of three-month duration by another great clockmaker of the Golden Age, Joseph Knibb (1640-1711). These masterpieces of clockmaking will be offered as part of two days of sales to include Old Master and 19th century paintings and classic English decorative arts from Alan and Tara Elliot's historic country home later this Autumn in Bonhams New Bond Street; details to be announced this autumn.

Tompion's ebony table clock numbered 198, was made in around 1692, and embodies all that Tompion owners cherish. The tall rectangular dial with its twin subsidiaries allows the crucial functions (time, winding, date, strike or silent) to be controlled from the front of the clock – an example of perfect industrial design. The exquisitely engraved backplate was created by the craftsman known today only as 'Engraver 155'. 155's confident and free engraving is of the highest order. He was responsible for the backplate of the year-going 'Mostyn Tompion' in the British Museum and decorated the miniature clock supplied to Queen Mary in 1693 sold at Bonhams for a World Record price of £1.6 million in 2019. It is estimated at £200,000-300,000.

Knibb's ebony veneered longcase clock of three-month duration with Roman-striking and one-and-a-quarter second pendulum is perhaps the most beguiling clock in the collection. Knibb had an irrepressibly inquisitive brain and was obsessed by saving power in his clocks' movements. An ordinary longcase clock hammer strikes its bell 156 times a day; Knibb realised that this was a massive drain on the power of the mechanism and sought different ways to sound the hours. His pièce de résistance was the development of the Roman striking system – as exemplified by this clock – whereby a deep bell represents the numeral 5, while a higher pitched bell represents 1. While one o'clock is marked by a single high hammer blow, five o'clock is a single low blow. Six o'clock, therefore, is one low blow followed by one high blow. This ingenious system saves 96 hammer strikes a day. Over the three months that the Elliot clock runs, 9,216 hammer blows are saved. Although inspired, the system never met with popularity, and it is rare to find a Roman striking clock today. They can always be spotted from a distance however, as the numeral 4 is denoted as IV instead of IIII. Estimate: £120,000-180,000.

James Stratton, Bonhams Director of Clocks, said: "Alan Elliot's professional life – he ran a world-class provider of time management and communication systems for many years – overlapped with his private passion for clocks. He had a great eye for quality and assembled an outstanding collection. While the timepieces by Tompion and Knibb take pride of place, the collection also reveals an appetite for the unusual; the personal stamp which is so appealing to the market."

Other highlights include:

A fine and rare early 18th century walnut longcase clock by Thomas Tompion and Edward Banger, London, no. 463. This second of Alan Elliot's Tompion clocks is particularly interesting as it was made when Tompion was in a brief partnership with his niece's husband, Edward Banger. Estimate: £100,000-200,000.

An 18th century walnut striking longcase clock of one month duration by George Graham London no. 590. Estimate: £30,000-50,000.

A late 17th century ebony veneered quarter-repeating timepiece by Langley Bradley, London. It is likely that this clock was used in a bedroom as it doesn't strike the hours every hour. Anyone waking up in the night and wanting to know the time could pull a cord on the side to sound the hour and the quarters past the hour. This would have been invaluable before the advent of electricity or matches to light a candle. Estimate: £5,000-8,000.


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