Unloved English Watches?

Bernhard J.

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Looking at auctions in the past decades and years, it appears that in particular English watches with 18K cases rarely yield prices significantly over the scrap value. The market value seems to be not more than twice the scrap value in case of very fine watches without complications. I never understood why this is so (but did not mind, for obvious reasons). Sometimes if I see a nice English watch, which does not really contribute to my collection in the sense that it fills a gap, I bid the current material value estimated by experience.

Just these days I won an Ebay auction for a watch, which was described as defective, and is an extreme example of this low valuation. The movement does not run and the (perfect) crystal is out of the bezel. I bidded as said and was surprised to be the high bidder for 750,--, which corresponds with a material value of 17,5 g gold of 18K. The case diameter is 41 mm and, of course, both lids are in 18K, not the continental cheap variant with metal inner lid. Numbers match. The letter date suggests 1898. Edwin Flinn is listed for London (1879) and Coventry (1874-1890). The sponsors mark "W.S" seems to stand for W. Spurrier & Co (registered 1883).

The case (41 mm diameter) is of very good English quality and solid and massiv. Before bidding I estimated the weight in the range of the lower 20s g and after holding it in hands I am quite sure that it should have 20 g at least. I will see after removing the movement. The movement is of really fine quality, the dial has a hairline barely visible and after a cleaning treatment only the experienced will notice upon close inpsection, and the hands look to be original as well. The compensation balance (with quarter screws, by the way) swings freely and very good in plane, the hairspring (overcoil) is perfect. However, it does not move the lever. This makes it clear that for some reason the impuls jewel will have either broken or been released from the balance. This should be quite straight forward to rectify.

I am quite happy to have "rescued" this nice watch and the opportunity to bring it back to former glory. I will report by occasion.

But how can this be that scraping would actually be the "wiser" (in terms of money) decision? Is there really just a very small community left, recognizing true workmanship without "famous" trademarks?

Cheers, Bernhard

3.jpg 5.jpg 9.jpg

P.S.: after repairing, I will keep it. Why? I did notice that I do not have an English watch of this era without seconds indication, so it does actually fill a gap :D
 
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Dr. Jon

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I love "unloved" watches. These are the ones signed by unknown makers but made by very good makers and re-cased in purpose made cases.

I try to buy the watch, not the name, especially on English watches. The name on the dial did very little in making and setting up the watch so I go on features and looks. This is especially useful since I buy mostly freesprung Engish levers.

One example is a large Dent full plate freesprung watch with an palladium balance spring. It has two problems:

1) It is in the wrong case, its a fully signed Dent case that fits it perfectly but has the wrong serial number

2) The serial number on the dial and movement are partially scratched out.

The serial number vandalism bothers me but the case mismatch does not. The watch was probably pressed into war service and went to a repair depot and the cases were switched. This was consequence of the watch serving the needs of a desperate nation and is part of its history.

I got it an auction for under $300.

I have a similar one but all matching and a Kew rating of 75 that I paid over $1200 for at another auction (and I did not knwo about the Kew rating until after I had bought it).

I am not posting photos because they are from the auction house.
 
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Bernhard J.

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So, being curious I removed the movement and found that the case (obviously English quality casemaking, as I had suspected) alone is over 28 g. 28 g 18K gold currently has a material value of about €1,240.-- and my high bid result obviously is highly inappropriate. Thus, I informed the seller accordingly about the material value and offered her to cancel the sale. :emoji_disappointed_relieved:

Cheers, Bernhard

P.S.: Apparently none of the mainstream Ebay buyers has the knowledge to at least estimate the material value of a fine English watch, my maximum bid was significantly higher than the result

P.P.S.: Seller is happy about my offer and accepts it. Shortest watch ownership ever *lol*
 
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Tom McIntyre

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I do not know the folklore and history of antique watches in the UK, but I do believe it is fairly common to see all sorts of obliteration of date letters and numbers that seem to be attempts to disguise the identiy or date of a certain piece.

A possible explanation is that the wonderful English flea markets have a folklore of crime and punishment associated with stolen objects. I do not recall anyone in the markets trying to confirm ownership in the common trade in watches.

U.S. flea markets have the same sort of reputation. The pawn brokers are actually pretty strongly regulated and many make regular reports of merchandise they have purchased that does not have full documentation. Notification and preservation of transaction records, I think, provides them with some immunity where they have unknowingly purchased stolen material.
 

John Matthews

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Bernard,

Edwin Flinn was one of the three sons of John Flinn, who is listed by some references as a lever escapement maker working 1845- 1870s, latterly as John & Sons. His was a significant Coventry based business. Edwin started solo in Hearsall Terrace in 1874, followed by premises in Russell Terrace, Allesley Road and finally Elmdon Villa in Holyhead Road from 1890. I think you have mistakenly identified the case maker. I believe the mark is that of William Sexton, a known gold case maker, who registered that mark on 13 July 1896, having moved to Hearsall Terrace in January 1889. I believe you have an entirely Coventry finished and cased watch. (References: McKenna, Culme and trade directories).

John
 
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Bernhard J.

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I have a similar one but all matching and a Kew rating of 75 that I paid over $1200 for at another auction (and I did not know about the Kew rating until after I had bought it).
Hi, this is interesting and corresponds with my experience, that vendors often do no proper research and consequently miss properties actually making a watch special. For example the expert of Flume, who sold the Golay watch to me beginning of the 90s, and he at that time was indeed generall regarded as an expert, was suprised when I told him about my discovery of the secret signature on the dial.

Presumably the trade finds it a lot easier to sell "big names", like Lange etc., fast and with good profits, than English watches of great quality, which do not carry famous names or need really educated buyers.

Cheers, Bernhard
 

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Hi, this is interesting and corresponds with my experience, that vendors often do no proper research and consequently miss properties actually making a watch special. For example the expert of Flume, who sold the Golay watch to me beginning of the 90s, and he at that time was indeed generall regarded as an expert, was suprised when I told him about my discovery of the secret signature on the dial.

Presumably the trade finds it a lot easier to sell "big names", like Lange etc., fast and with good profits, than English watches of great quality, which do not carry famous names or need really educated buyers.

Cheers, Bernhard
It better stay that way... before prices go up further
 
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John Matthews

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that vendors often do no proper research and consequently miss properties actually making a watch special. For example the expert of Flume, who sold the Golay watch to me beginning of the 90s, and he at that time was indeed generall regarded as an expert
Bernard - what makes a watch special or appealing to a particular purchaser is very personal and the response to a particular purchasing opportunity will depend upon many factors. It will be influenced by the detail provided by the seller, how it is marketed and by whom. You are correct vendors limit their research, ultimately for a combination of financial reasons and boundaries set by their knowledge, ability and reputation. I think we need to be grateful that many do limit their research, not so much that through research they would be able to ask a higher price, but rather the damage that many of the vendors in the market place would inevitably cause by inspections 'under the covers'.

John
 

Bernhard J.

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I have today "compensated" myself for returning the Flinn watch to the seller after discovering that the auction result was most inappropriate (low).

With another English watch I believe to be underrated. From a knowledgable seller, however, so no risk of paying half of the gold material value again *lol*. Case in 18K gold marked 1868, state-of wind-indicator, mint three part dial, first class large compensation balance with gold screws and with quarter nuts, overcoil, freesprung, full plate movement. But "only" the balance and the escape wheel in jewels (both capped, balance with diamond cap). Of course it would have been nicer if 17 or 19 jewels had been used, but actually the jewel number is less relevant than the balance quality in terms of precise timekeeping. And this is top edge.

Another example of a watch with no famous name, not even somewhat known, but really best quality, despite the low jewel number. Would it say "Frodsham", "Dent", or the like, the same watch, the market value would probably be significantly higher.

I will report in detail and with photos as soon as I have it in hands.

Cheers, Bernhard
 

Incroyable

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I've been researching past sales of high-grade English watches at the major auction houses and came to the same conclusion as Bernhard. It appears this has been going on for at least 10 years now if not more. I've seen some watches that were bought 10+ years ago at major auctions that have failed to sell all these years or sell at roughly the price as they were originally bought. Given inflation the dealers probably lost money.

Witness the 4 part "Celebration of the English Watch" auction at Sotheby's London in 2016 where the majority of fine English watches in gold cases didn't even sell. Some of the basic gold cased levers by big names such as Benson had absurdly low reserves like 800 GBP and still managed to pass unsold.

Why is this so? As I've mentioned before I believe that English horology is mostly forgotten now amongst the general horological enthusiast writ large. Today's watch enthusiast is not going to bid at an English watch themed auction.

Roger Smith is the only representative of the English watch tradition today though some names like Arnold & Son have been resurrected as Swiss made watches.

Another thing is that what the English specialized in were high-precision timepieces which requires a bit of technical understanding to appreciate. They are not easily understood; these are not razzle dazzle pieces like Swiss minute repeaters.

Also most English watches look more or less the same with nothing distinguishing an utterly average piece from a very fine precision piece which I think is another factor contributing to their lack of popularity.
 
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gmorse

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Hi Jeffery,

I agree, much depends on the knowledge levels of the prospective buyers; knowing one's subject better than the vendor is always a valuable attribute.

Roger W. Smith is indeed eminent, (he had the enormous advantage of a genius as a mentor, but his own innate talent is a major factor), but he isn't alone, Frodshams and Loomes are still innovating and the Struthers in Birmingham also spring to mind.

Regards,

Graham
 

svenedin

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I think it is not just English watches but the majority of the market in antiques including clocks and antique furniture. When I was a teenager my Saturday job was in a high-end antique shop where there was an almost religious deference to the antiques and a somewhat haughty and serene atmosphere in the shop which always had a strong aroma of polish (very like the smell of incense in a church).

Over the years tastes have changed dramatically and the prices of fine "dark wood" furniture has crashed. Likewise long case clocks and pocket watches.

It seems that the modern generation is not really interested in the antiques and would rather spend their disposable income on expensive technology like mobile phones, tablets and laptops. Of course after a few years these devices will be worthless.

The very top end has held up fairly well but the middling to good much less so.

I find it rather sad to see good quality uncased English movements, often in working order, selling for £10-30. A fairly decent silver cased English movement pocket watch can be picked up for less than £100 now and even less with some (correctable) faults. Likewise English retailed and cased pocket watches with good Swiss movements. As has already said, the gold ones are selling at the gold scrap price plus a variable premium depending on the condition, quality, rarity and desirability of a particular maker.

Can prices fall even lower? Probably not with rip-roaring inflation.......

Stephen
 

Incroyable

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Hi Jeffery,

I agree, much depends on the knowledge levels of the prospective buyers; knowing one's subject better than the vendor is always a valuable attribute.

Roger W. Smith is indeed eminent, (he had the enormous advantage of a genius as a mentor, but his own innate talent is a major factor), but he isn't alone, Frodshams and Loomes are still innovating and the Struthers in Birmingham also spring to mind.

Regards,

Graham
I feel that Roger W.Smith is really the only watchmaker or "brand" as it were to uphold the historical tradition of English watchmaking. That's to say he's the only Brit operating at that level of horology.

I'm not entirely familiar with Loomes but from this Hodinkee article it appears he's taken old Smiths movements and reworked them a bit. The prices seem shockingly high for this kind of product.


I'd love to see the British equivalent of an A.Lange & Sohne emerge. There's plenty of defunct firms to choose from should someone wish to invest in this idea.
 
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Incroyable

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I think it is not just English watches but the majority of the market in antiques including clocks and antique furniture. When I was a teenager my Saturday job was in a high-end antique shop where there was an almost religious deference to the antiques and a somewhat haughty and serene atmosphere in the shop which always had a strong aroma of polish (very like the smell of incense in a church).

Over the years tastes have changed dramatically and the prices of fine "dark wood" furniture has crashed. Likewise long case clocks and pocket watches.

It seems that the modern generation is not really interested in the antiques and would rather spend their disposable income on expensive technology like mobile phones, tablets and laptops. Of course after a few years these devices will be worthless.

The very top end has held up fairly well but the middling to good much less so.

I find it rather sad to see good quality uncased English movements, often in working order, selling for £10-30. A fairly decent silver cased English movement pocket watch can be picked up for less than £100 now and even less with some (correctable) faults. Likewise English retailed and cased pocket watches with good Swiss movements. As has already said, the gold ones are selling at the gold scrap price plus a variable premium depending on the condition, quality, rarity and desirability of a particular maker.

Can prices fall even lower? Probably not with rip-roaring inflation.......

Stephen
Things like antique silver and Oriental rugs have also become victims of this trend. You can often find that sort of object for pennies on the dollar at European auctions and country house type sales.

That Sotheby's sale I mentioned had any number of historically important watches that went unsold.

For example this Arnold signed gold chronometer: https://www.sothebys.com/en/auction...els-20th-century-innovator-l17055/lot.48.html

Or this Frodsham split second minute repeater:


I also think the majority of collectors who buy this kind of watch have already completed their collections and this kind of niche interest doesn't necessarily attract many younger enthusiasts unlike wristwatches.

That being said, this caliber of watch is oddly hard to find outside of auctions. None of the usual dealers seem to stock them with any regularity.
 
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gmorse

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Hi Jeffery,
...but from this Hodinkee article it appears he's taken old Smiths movements and reworked them a bit.
I think you're being unduly dismissive; the movement certainly has a similar train layout to the famous Smiths 12.15, but then, you have to fit the barrel and all the mobiles in a limited space, so the choice is limited as to where they're all planted. There's no shame in using a well-tried solution. Everything, including the balance springs and the jewelling, is made here which I think is no mean achievement and is encouraging and inspiring for other potential makers.

Regards,

Graham
 
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John Matthews

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My experience is somewhat different from the majority of contributors to this thread. This is, in part, because of the way I appraise watches and movements, which is reflected in the profile of my collection. And yes, what I understand by love, as used in the title of this thread.

My predominantly English collection, acquired over the past 7 years, consists of ~400 items of which 240 are uncased movements. Just under 50% of the latter are unfinished movements. I only own 5 gold cased watches. To this point I have not considered items costing more than £5,000. My purchasing is done remotely across the internet, so only consider items that I feel confident to assess given my own knowledge, the information provided, and when available, my experience with the seller.

The principal criteria that I apply when I feel confident to consider adding an item to my collection are:
  • the uniqueness of the movement and its quality;
  • is it filling a gap in my collection that I wish to fill?
  • the provenance - is there a 'story' that can be researched?
For me the rest fall into the 'nice to have'. I do consider condition and price, but they are secondary considerations. As to whether an item is cased, this presents for me a difficulty. This relates to those who scavenge cases for their precious metal value and then sell on the uncased movement. I am on the record as saying that when we purchase uncased movements we contribute to the profit made by these scoundrels. It is possible to identify dealers who ply this practice and these I avoid. However, I have to accept that somewhere down the line the uncased movement was originally purchased from a scrapper. I do comfort myself in that I have recognized the quality of the movement and I am prepared to 'love' it.

As to the trends in the value of the items that I collect, my perception is that I haven't seen a significant overall reduction in the price achieved by uncased movements and those housed in silver cases. Albeit my conclusion is based upon a relatively short period of collecting.

The price of frame only unfinished movements in clean condition has been stable at ~£100 - but these are now in very short supply. Unmolested movements of Savage 2-pin and the less common variants of detached levers have shown a slight increase and for cased examples in good condition the trend has been upwards. While Massey IIIs have probably decreased in value, the I, II & V versions have at least held their prices. Cased Massey IVs are rare and good working examples are £5000+. Duplex movements with original ruby rollers have increased in price, particularly those with jewelled impulses. Good quality verge movements with decorative back plates with diamond balance caps, have shown a slight increase in recent months. Morton's patents have increased in value. Spring detents, both uncased and those in silver cases, from my records have increased in value, I suspect those in gold cases have not.

Now to love!

In the context of this thread, I equate this to appreciation. I refute that this is solely based up financial criteria. The price of an object is based upon characteristics of those who wish to acquire and the available supply. This is not the same as the level of appreciation for the object. Not the same as loving an object. Appreciation is a much deeper concept which in particular depends upon understanding the item and all its facets, then recognizing and admiring the skill that was required to produce it. My personal appreciation of English watches has grown as my understand and knowledge has increased. In no small way as a result of the knowledge I have acquired from the contributors of this forum. I 'love' the 'unloved'.

John
 

jboger

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I think the observation is correct that most antiques and old stuff don't bring the prices they once did. AndI think the explanation for this is correct: a shrinking collector base due to a younger generation not interested in these sorts of things. I think there may be another factor. The online market place has demonstrated that many things once thought to be rare or uncommon are in fact quite common.
 
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Incroyable

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I think the observation is correct that most antiques and old stuff don't bring the prices they once did. AndI think the explanation for this is correct: a shrinking collector base due to a younger generation not interested in these sorts of things. I think there may be another factor. The online market place has demonstrated that many things once thought to be rare or uncommon are in fact quite common.
Yes, that's probably why Lange pocket watches fell in value.

I imagine before the internet and the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Langes were thought to be exotic and rare.
 

Ethan Lipsig

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We all know that the antique pocket watch market is not booming, but I do not think it is as moribund as Incroyable describes, nor do I think the auction results he cited show that English pocket watches are unappreciated. I think there's another explanation for the "disappointing" results of the Part IV 2016 Sotheby's auction Incroyable cited: Excessively high bid minimums.

About half the lots sold, all at or above the estimated minimums. That tells me that the estimated minimums almost certainly were the minimum allowable bids. Surely all of the items would have sold but for excessively high minimum bids.

It would be interesting if one of you English watch experts reviewed the passed lots' minimum estimates to see if they were too high. I am no such expert, but consider the Frodsham minute-repeater/rattrapante. The minimum estimate, which I take to be the minimum bid, was 15,000 pounds. With the buyer's premium, the item would have cost around 18,000 pounds. The watch was a Swiss ebauche finished by Nicole Nielsen for Frodsham. A very nice watch, but was it worth 18,000 pounds in 2016? Here are a few comps from my collection:
  • In 2013, I bought a wonderful 18k Haas, Neveux minute-repeater/rattrapante for $7,600.
  • In 2020, I purchased an equally lovely 18k C.H. Meylan minute-repeater/rattrapante for $6,900.
  • In 2019, I purchased an 18k C. Frodsham calendar/chronograph with a Nicole Nielsen movement for $3,550. This watch had been sold for $3,620 (including BP) by Bonhams in London in 2011.
  • This year, I bought a beautiful free-sprung 18k James Hoddell minute-repeater detent chronometer for $8,200.
Would I like to own the Frodsham minute-repeater/rattrapante that was passed at the Sotheby's auction? Of course. Would I have paid 18,000 pounds for it. No, nor anything close.

The full auction results are here. https://www.sothebys.com/en/auction...h-century-innovator-l17055.html?locale=en&p=1.
 

Incroyable

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We all know that the antique pocket watch market is not booming, but I do not think it is as moribund as Incroyable describes, nor do I think the auction results he cited show that English pocket watches are unappreciated. I think there's another explanation for the "disappointing" results of the Part IV 2016 Sotheby's auction Incroyable cited: Excessively high bid minimums.

About half the lots sold, all at or above the estimated minimums. That tells me that the estimated minimums almost certainly were the minimum allowable bids. Surely all of the items would have sold but for excessively high minimum bids.

It would be interesting if one of you English watch experts reviewed the passed lots' minimum estimates to see if they were too high. I am no such expert, but consider the Frodsham minute-repeater/rattrapante. The minimum estimate, which I take to be the minimum bid, was 15,000 pounds. With the buyer's premium, the item would have cost around 18,000 pounds. The watch was a Swiss ebauche finished by Nicole Nielsen for Frodsham. A very nice watch, but was it worth 18,000 pounds in 2016? Here are a few comps from my collection:
  • In 2013, I bought a wonderful 18k Haas, Neveux minute-repeater/rattrapante for $7,600.
  • In 2020, I purchased an equally lovely 18k C.H. Meylan minute-repeater/rattrapante for $6,900.
  • In 2019, I purchased an 18k C. Frodsham calendar/chronograph with a Nicole Nielsen movement for $3,550. This watch had been sold for $3,620 (including BP) by Bonhams in London in 2011.
  • This year, I bought a beautiful free-sprung 18k James Hoddell minute-repeater detent chronometer for $8,200.
Would I like to own the Frodsham minute-repeater/rattrapante that was passed at the Sotheby's auction? Of course. Would I have paid 18,000 pounds for it. No, nor anything close.

The full auction results are here. https://www.sothebys.com/en/auction...h-century-innovator-l17055.html?locale=en&p=1.
Yes, I have to wonder if the Sotheby's people were overly optimistic on the valuations using wristwatch like estimates. Perhaps they anticipated this being a blockbuster event given how they aggressively promoted it through Youtube videos, etc.

The entire collection was the property of Sir Harry Djanogly who has a namesake Clock and Watches gallery at the British Museum: The British Museum – The Sir Harry and Lady Djanogly Gallery of Clocks and Watches - Projects - Goppion

Of course, this is a vicious cycle: people will only buy if the prices are exceedingly cheap essentially going back to Bernhard J.'s original point of gold scrap plus a small premium even for very fine pieces.
 
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John Matthews

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Sotheby's people were overly optimistic on the valuations
But is it for certain that it was the Sotheby's people who had the last say on the level of the bid minimums?

John
 

PatH

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Possibly a different approach....Aside from the general downward trends in antiques collecting, how much of the reduction in sales of early English watches might be related to the shortage of qualified individuals to repair them, combined with the shortage (absence?) of parts? Perhaps this is more of a contributing issue in the US, but I've wondered how much this has also affected the overall sales.
 

Incroyable

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But is it for certain that it was the Sotheby's people who had the last say on the level of the bid minimums?

John
No doubt the owner had some say in this perhaps fearing correctly that he'd be selling everything for pennies on the dollar were the sale be priced according to market forces?

I've sold things through large auction houses before and while the experts try to persuade you to shy away from ambitious estimates, there's often compromise especially when it comes to securing a prestigious consignment like this.
 
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John Matthews

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Pat - it is true that there is a shortage of competent individuals to tackle the restoration/conservation of English watches.

I do not believe that this would be a consideration for the majority of items in the high end auctions, neither is it something that I am concerned about. My purchase decisions are more about what it was when it was made, its current state, and the journey it has taken. What it could become is of minimal concern, although if the opportunity arises I will add it to the waiting list of the few I trust to continue its journey.

John
 
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Bernhard J.

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For comparison, last weekend I attended an art auction. One example, a painting I had researched, was auctioned 3 years ago for a price of €€€€. Now the low estimate was double thereof, the high estimate quadrupel. The painting sold above the high estimate, i.e. at 4-times the price of 3 years ago :eek:. Many other paintings gained similarily, often double and even triple of the high estimate. Even high price items, like paintings of Lyonel Feininger, sold well. Only 4 paintings of about 200 failed to sell.

My wife was interested in one and we were really surprised that she got it for the high estimate.

At least presently "the money" seems to play elsewhere. Mostly speculative. Pocket watches seem to have no "phantasy" for the speculators, in particular the higher priced ones. Except the absolut extremes. Speculators do not need to know anything about their items, except price developments.

Perhaps Sotheby´s hoped to creat a similar "boom" for the pocket watches and failed. This failure will rather manifest the stasis in pocket watch values.

I personally do not mind, since I am and continue to be rather on the buyers side ..... :cool:
 

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I am seeing a general decline in the price of antiques.
During the 70's have very much wanted a Georgian silver chocolate pot. I have no where near the money to buy one but I was convinced it would be a great investment. I still have nto see a chocolate pot but I did see a similar coffee pot at an high end antique coop for about 1/3 of what it cost 5o years ago.

American "made" Tall clocks, that is finished and signed by Americans were on offer for about 1/5 of what they were asking 20 years ago. Similarly great antique and quality reproduction furniture such as high boys. chests on chests, dining chairs are also way down from as recently as 30 years ago.

Wrist watches are very hot now.

Pocket watches are large area and there is lot going on.

In general Lange and other Glashutte watches are down lot compared to others but I think a lot of that is due to the fact that there turned out to be a lot more of them than people thought in the 60's and 70's.

Over the years I saw a lot of almost new old stock ones, complete with original boxes, show up at high end auctions. I suspect a lot of East Germans had them stashed until the wall fell.

I still find very nice items bring good prices. I though I have found a sleeper in a silver cased keyless fusee detent pocket chronometer and I got outbid, despite the fact that the house did not know it was a keyless fusee.
 
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Incroyable

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I would say the '80s were the last big boom for traditional antiques such as 18th century English furniture and antique silver.

American furniture even at the very top end has come down in price according to a dealer I asked.
 

Incroyable

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For comparison, last weekend I attended an art auction. One example, a painting I had researched, was auctioned 3 years ago for a price of €€€€. Now the low estimate was double thereof, the high estimate quadrupel. The painting sold above the high estimate, i.e. at 4-times the price of 3 years ago :eek:. Many other paintings gained similarily, often double and even triple of the high estimate. Even high price items, like paintings of Lyonel Feininger, sold well. Only 4 paintings of about 200 failed to sell.

My wife was interested in one and we were really surprised that she got it for the high estimate.

At least presently "the money" seems to play elsewhere. Mostly speculative. Pocket watches seem to have no "phantasy" for the speculators, in particular the higher priced ones. Except the absolut extremes. Speculators do not need to know anything about their items, except price developments.

Perhaps Sotheby´s hoped to creat a similar "boom" for the pocket watches and failed. This failure will rather manifest the stasis in pocket watch values.

I personally do not mind, since I am and continue to be rather on the buyers side ..... :cool:
Modern and contemporary art has done exceedingly well and continues to do well. I think part of the appeal is that they're very decorative and an instant status signal for the people who can afford it.

As with anything collectable you have to follow the money. In the '80s it was the US and Japan. Now it's China. Witness the explosion in value of Chinese art and antiquities. In the '80s Japanese buyers created a boom in Rolex Bubblebacks which subsequently collapsed after their Bubble Economy burst.

According to an eminent Chinese art expert I've talked to, very few Westerners can afford to collect quality Chinese art nowadays because they're essentially bidding against Chinese billionaires.

But I agree that the depression in pocket watches is great for us enthusiasts. You don't want to be paying wristwatch prices.
 
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Dr. Jon

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It's an old data set but at least one auction house reported that 60% of the Chines antique bids never get paid.
 

Incroyable

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It's an old data set but at least one auction house reported that 60% of the Chines antique bids never get paid.
Yes I've heard this as well. It's a big problem with smaller auction houses.

Not sure how big of an issue this is with the major houses. I assume they have the bidders deposit a credit card.
 

Incroyable

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A major watch dealer once told me that almost all pocket tourbillons are bought at auction by Chinese collectors.
 

Allan C. Purcell

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I have to admit that when it comes to my filing system, it could be far better. Though it did start over fifty years ago, a couple of books, a pen and pencil, and an old typewriter. Since then I have moved home four times ( that was after the 13 times while serving in Her Majesty´s Army) So looking back I surprise myself that I have collected so much information on horology. You all know I have a lot of books, but unfortunately, I do not have a photographic memory, the one I do have has a leak. So why am I telling you this, and what has it to do with Bernard´s questions?

Well, I started to sort out my files, I think it will take a while, you see I filed what I thought was interesting on horology, in plastic folders, then put these in the large file folders, most of which have a name written on them, but not all that is in there. I think by now you are getting the feeling you have seen this somewhere else. Anyway, an ex-school mistress, asked me if I would like a pile of single file folders, and said yes, thank you. She was very kind and did mind emptying these files full of school history, and horrible children.

Some of them now look like these below.

IMG_1415.JPG

It is now we get back to Bernad´s thread. The top file (Un-named at the moment) Is a five-page story about Albert H Potter, with photographs.

The first paragraph says,

Albert H. Potter (1836-1908) is a remarkable figure in horology. Of the three most eminent American Horologists who emigrated to Europe-the others were Aron Lutkin Dennison and Florentine Ariosto Jones-Potter hold´s a special place. He is the only one
whom Genevan watchmakers accepted as their equel-perhaps even considering him their superior at times. Potter´s innovativeness in horology, as well as the quality and finish of his work, were unsurpassed.

In another, file it mentions the sale of Alfred Cossidente and his collection.

Potter´s watches in the collection.

I will only quote one here.

"Potter only made a total of 600 watches, so watch connoisseurs will rarely meet these timepieces introduced
for sale. A potter gold hunting case chronometer watch created in 1880 has been estimated by Doyle auction house to be worth $12,000-$15,000, but it reached $22,700.

I don´t know the date of sale, but I recorded this in 2012.


So my question is, what would it bring today?

Have fun,

Allan
 

Bernhard J.

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It is now we get back to Bernad´s thread.

A potter gold hunting case chronometer watch created in 1880 has been estimated by Doyle auction house to be worth $12,000-$15,000, but it reached $22,700.

So my question is, what would it bring today?
Hello Allan,

As an irrelevant side note, neither are Potter watches unloved, nor was he an Englishman, nor worked he in England, I would say triple OT. :emoji_yum:

Just kidding. Good question. But it might gain significantly. Because of rarity there will be far more collectors being familiar with the name and the watches than watches on the market (the latter essentially near zero).

This does, however, differ from the "normal" market, wherein e.g. an English repeater with duplex or chronometer escape in a gold case is not common, but also not rare.

If you want a Potter desperately, you have to go all in on that day, on which it becomes available. Or wait perhaps a decade or so. If you want said repeater, you can chose and wait a little bit, if none fits your expectations (including price).
 

Ethan Lipsig

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Allan asked what would a gold Potter chronometer fetch today? Sotheby's sold two years ago for 15,000 CHF, which may or may not include the buyers premium. https://www.sothebys.com/en/buy/auc...albert-h-potter-co-geneva-a-rare-gold-hunting

I'd love to own one, but all I have managed to acquire so far is a lever-escapement Potter. I am not interested in acquiring a Potter repeater because they do not seem much different from other high-grade repeaters, unlike Potter's time-only watches.

IMG_4471.JPG IMG_4476.JPG IMG_4478.JPG IMG_4477.JPG IMG_4488.JPG IMG_4490.JPG IMG_4954.JPG IMG_4955.JPG IMG_4956.JPG IMG_4961.JPG
 

Allan C. Purcell

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Hi Ethan, at least you have one, I had a feeling you might. What struck me about Potter, was the balance cock, do you think he could have copied the ones used by the Columbus watch company? Or the other way round.


s-l1604.jpg
 

Ethan Lipsig

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Allan, I don't think the Columbus regulator in the photo you posted resembles the Potter regulator. Because I am wholly unfamiliar with Columbus PWs, I do not know whether any of its regulators resembled the Potter regulator. What I do know is that the Potter regulator appears perhaps to have been inspired by the Mershon regulator on early Howards. For a discussion of this, see https://mb.nawcc.org/threads/patent-regulator-catalog-your-favorite.31979/page-2#post-1477161.
 

Incroyable

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Allan asked what would a gold Potter chronometer fetch today? Sotheby's sold two years ago for 15,000 CHF, which may or may not include the buyers premium. https://www.sothebys.com/en/buy/auc...albert-h-potter-co-geneva-a-rare-gold-hunting

I'd love to own one, but all I have managed to acquire so far is a lever-escapement Potter. I am not interested in acquiring a Potter repeater because they do not seem much different from other high-grade repeaters, unlike Potter's time-only watches.

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Christie's also sold a pivoted detent Potter chronometer in 2018 for 16,250 CHF. I believe these prices all include the buyer's premium in which case it suggests there wasn't a lot of competition given that the estimate was 10-15k.


Antiquorum has also had several Potters over the years with prices all over the place from one selling for $6,900 all the way to 267,000 CHF. The most recent one sold in 2021 for 26,250 CHF.

 
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Incroyable

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In fact, it seems that the market for Potters has fallen quite dramatically.

Look at this rather extraordinary unique Potter from the Beyer collection that sold for 267,000 CHF at Antiquorum in 2003 and then subsequently sold at Sotheby's in 2020 for only 40,000 CHF with an estimate of 40-60,000 CHF. The 40,000 CHF price--which includes the buyer's premium-- probably means that only one person bid on it. The actual hammer price would be 32,000 CHF since Sotheby's charges a hefty 25% premium.


 
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Ethan Lipsig

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Incroyable, your very pessimistic views about declining demand and values for pocket watches may be warranted, but I haven't seen any studies that validate your views. That a Potter sold for 267,000 CHF in 2003 only fetched 40,000 CHF in 2020 proves little to me about the market for Potters. I am sure I could find instances of watches that increased in value over the last 20 years.

What would likely be probative is the average selling prices of reasonably comparable items each year over an extended period of time. That could most easily be done on commonly collected PWs, such as some of the popular railroad models, but I've never seen it done even for them.

I tried the other day to do just such a study using the Jones Horan archive, but I found too few sales of the watches I looked at, e.g., Premier Maximus, Gruen 50th Anniversaries and solid-gold Patek Philippe time-only, to reach any meaningful conclusions. (The Jones Horan archive seemed much skinnier than I recall it being.)

I also looked at what I'd paid for time-only C.H. Meylans over the years, but that data, which showed generally increasing prices, wasn't probative because my collection, though large, isn't large enough to represent market trends and it was largely assembled over a relatively short period. Later purchases have been of more exotic and expensive examples.

Do you know of any reasonably scientific studies on PW prices trends?
 
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Incroyable

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This 18kt gold Bonniksen Karrusel has a similarly ignoble history being sold at Antiquorum in 2004 for 6,440 CHF, later sold at Skinner in 2021 for $4687 and then was offered at Freeman's in 2022 where it passed unsold with a $2,800 bid which appears to not even be the value of the gold scrap since it weighs a hefty 85 dwt.



 
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Incroyable

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Incroyable, your very pessimistic views about declining demand and values for pocket watches may be warranted, but I haven't seen any studies that validate your views. That a Potter sold for 267,000 CHF in 2003 only fetched 40,000 CHF in 2020 proves little to me about the market for Potters. I am sure I could find instances of watches that increased in value over the last 20 years.

What would likely be probative is the average selling prices of reasonably comparable items each year over an extended period of time. That could most easily be done on commonly collected PWs, such as some of the popular railroad models, but I've never seen it done even for them.

I tried the other day to do just such a study using the Jones Horan archive, but I found too few sales of the watches I looked at, e.g., Premier Maximus, Gruen 50th Anniversaries and solid-gold Patek Philippe time-only, to reach any meaningful conclusions. (The Jones Horan archive seemed much skinnier than I recall it being.)

I also looked at what I'd paid for time-only C.H. Meylans over the years, but that data, which showed generally increasing prices, wasn't probative because my collection, though large, isn't large enough to represent market trends and it was largely assembled over a relatively short period. Later purchases have been of more exotic and expensive examples.

Do you know of any reasonably scientific studies on PW prices trends?
I'm unaware of any comprehensive studies of PW pricing trends though I imagine some dealers track them assiduously? These sorts of detailed charts and studies exist for wristwatches of course but I haven't heard of anything for pocket watches.

It could probably easily be done for relatively plentiful models that show up at major sales often such as gold time only Patek Philippes.

Perhaps the slight increase in prices for the C.H.Meylans is mostly tied in with increasing gold prices?
 
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Incroyable

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It seems prices were quite high in the early 2000s.

This Dent grande and petite sonnerie minute repeater sold at Antiquorum for 57,500 CHF in 2001 and was then sold in 2021 for $12,500:


 
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Bernhard J.

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I also noticed the "stasis" regarding values of karussels, which often come in 18K cases. In this context it must be noted, that the gold price today is 5 times that of two decades ago.

If the achieved sales prices have remained constant (or even dropped), then the actual watches as such have dropped dramatically in value.

The advantage of gold cases is, that presumably at some juncture a break even is achieved. Means that the rising gold price will at some future time (or even today already) lead to the scrap value being higher than what one paid some time ago for the whole watch. Not a nice thought, but at least money is not burned on the long distance.

That is also one reason, why I have focussed on gold cases in the last 10 years. And rarely make exceptions.

Cheers, Bernhard
 

Incroyable

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I also noticed the "stasis" regarding values of karussels, which often come in 18K cases. In this context it must be noted, that the gold price today is 5 times that of two decades ago.

If the achieved sales prices have remained constant (or even dropped), then the actual watches as such have dropped dramatically in value.

The advantage of gold cases is, that presumably at some juncture a break even is achieved. Means that the rising gold price will at some future time (or even today already) lead to the scrap value being higher than what one paid some time ago for the whole watch. Not a nice thought, but at least money is not burned on the long distance.

That is also one reason, why I have focussed on gold cases in the last 10 years. And rarely make exceptions.

Cheers, Bernhard
It's actually rather shocking how far the values have dropped for some of these watches.

Even if you don't adjust for inflation, these watches have taken a huge loss.

I actually would have assumed the values would have at least stayed flat but apparently not.
 
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Bernhard J.

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Adjusted for inflation, these watches have taken a huge loss.
But still not as much as when you buy a new car. If you today buy a new BMW, you will burn at least 30-50 k€ in the next 3 years, just in value loss. Look how many nice watches you can buy for that money (including a Potter).

I never in my whole life have bought a new car (or leased a car). Thats one reason why I can afford collecting nice watches. :cool:

Cheers, Bernhard
 
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Incroyable

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But still not as much as when you buy a new car. If you today by a new BMW, you will burn at least 30-50 k€ in the next 3 years, just in value loss. Look how many nice watches you can buy for that money (including a Potter).

I never in my whole life have bought a new car (or leased a car). Thats one reason why I can afford collecting nice watches. :cool:

Cheers, Bernhard
Yes or new designer jewelry.

I think decades ago there was a lot of talk of antique pocket watches being investments. For example Richard Gilbert's Ashland Investments.

Maybe that was one reason for such high prices in the early 2000s.
 

John Matthews

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I never in my whole life have bought a new car (or leased a car). Thats one reason why I can afford collecting nice watches. :cool:
Bernhard - as stated I rarely buy gold cased watches and I selectively buy new cars

In general the value of the watches/movements I purchase have not decreased in value and my wife's 65th Anniversary Defender, purchased in 2013, is now being offered at same or higher price as when purchased.:)

I think this thread has focused too heavily of those watches that are not only attractive to genuine watch collectors. They are not only desired by those who genuinely appreciate them as horological items, but also by those who, subject to the whims of fashion, the anticipation of owning a unique object, and the anticipation of a potential investment/hedge/profit etc., have little or no appreciation of their horological significance. It is this latter category of 'investors' that have, in my opinion, been responsible for the swings in valuations - as they always have in virtually all areas of collecting, viz. those who genuinely appreciate antiques are still in the market for brown furniture and are appreciating the 'good times'.

John
 
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