Sotheby’s will offer one of the most expensive watch collections for sale in London, Geneva, New York and Hong Kong between July 2019 and October 2020.
The history of telling time and being able to divide the day into measurable periods has been around for a very long time. Some of the first instruments that attempted this can be found in Egypt with the invention of the sundial. It has also been suggested that, as early as 1,500BC, they divided the interval between sunrise and sunset into 12 parts. The sundial, although very useful was rendered completely useless when the sun was not shining, obviously during the evening, but even on foggy days.
Despite this, the sundial remained a popular instrument and would be further refined by the Greeks. But it wasn’t until a few centuries later when the Romans introduced the waterclock. Known as a clepsydra, the waterclock was calibrated from a sundial and would be a much more accurate way of telling time, regardless of the time of day or the state of the weather.
Introduction of the watch
It was only in the 16th century when the idea of having a timepiece that you could carry around with you was made popular in the German cities of Nuremberg and Augsburg. This was only made possible by the invention of the mainspring in the early 15th century. So, who invented the watch? Most scholars agree that the watch was invented by clockmaker Peter Henlein. Even during this early time, the watch was ornamental timepieces worn as pendants and became as desirable for how it looks as much as for its functionality.
The Masterworks of Time Sale
Offered by Sotheby’s, the Masterworks of Time auction consists of an exceptional collection that represents over 500 years of timepiece history. Consisting of over 800 long-unseen pieces, it is easy to see why it is considered one of the most expensive watch collections in the world.
This, one of the most expensive watch collections comprises of watches with German ‘stackfreeds’, to double dialled astronomical timepieces, superb enamels, form watches, musical and automated pieces, tourbillons, and complicated timepieces.
With pieces ranging from the Renaissance onwards, the collection is awash with some of history’s most iconic watchmakers. These include A. Lange & Söhne, Abraham Louis Breguet, Dent, Ferdinand Berthoud, Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Joehan Cremsdorff and Frères Rochat, through to the twentieth century horological legend, George Daniels.
The chairman of the International Watch Division at Sotheby’s, Daryn Schnipper, commented: “Assembled with a keen eye and tremendous knowledge, this is a truly unique collection, shaped by years of searching for the best examples of their kind. It is a collection put together by someone who wanted to tell the story of time through watches; someone who knew his subject trusted his eye and had a real sense of what was ground-breaking, both in terms of technology and of artistry. If you take the scope, the variety, the depth, the innovation, the early watches, the enamels, he covered all the bases, he left no stone unturned. It’s a collection that’s unrivalled in its scope and breadth. For me, ‘Masterworks of Time’, as we’ve called it, is absolutely one of the best private collections ever formed.”
Put together over the past 50 years, this historic collection is estimated to realise £11-20m / $15-27m. The first of the four dedicated auctions, to take place in London on 2nd July 2019, will include some 160 rare and important examples of the craft, headlined by the legendary George Daniels Space Traveller I. The following day, Sotheby’s Treasures sale, will include a further selection from the collection.