Pocket watch auction not just passing the time

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 9th August, 2018

A Melbourne surgeon, who died several years ago from asbestosis contracted when he worked as a student on a building site, has left a lasting legacy in the form of antique English pocket watches collected for relaxation while he was alive.

His wife, who wishes to remain anonymous, has given the collection – comprising 170 pocket watches – to Philips Auctions to be sold at a special auction from 6.00pm Tuesday August 14 at 47 Glenferrie Road, Malvern.

The pocket watch sale follows Philips Auctions regular decorative arts auction on Sunday August 12 and jewellery auction Monday August 13.

Resident gemmologist Tanya Philips, who is handling the sale, said the surgeon (who died in his mid-60s) collected the watches over many years because he was fascinated by their workings.

“There also is a range of accessories such as fob chains and keys to be sold,” she said.

One of the auction highlights is three watches by the same maker, James McCabe of London.

“It is most unusual to have multiple examples from the one maker in the same auction,” Ms Philips said.

The three McCabe watches include an 1808 gold Georgian full hunter example, a 1900 gold open faced duplex and an 1809 silver hunter piece.

Ms Philips said several of the pocket watches on offer were made specifically for the Chinese export market containing functions peculiar to their requirements.

“The surgeon appeared to focus on collecting these particular watches and there are several examples in the auction,” Ms Philips said.

These include a rare Chinese export crabtooth silver Swiss made open faced example and an 1865 gold hunter pocket watch by Falconer & Co of both London and Hong Kong.

Other examples include a crabtooth silver pocket watch with case containing two engraved panels – one of a horse riding scene and the other a village – and a silver export full hunter quarter repeater chronograph with Asian characters on the dial.

Further interesting examples to feature are an 1876 silver open faced pocket watch George Stromier of Glasgow, an 1873 gold full hunter signed WA Toll Darling Street, Cape Town and two late 19th century silver pocket watches with black and white dials by Jacot Geneve.

Pocket watch expert Phil Gore will be available for consultation on site at Philips Auctions from noon to 5pm Saturday August 11.

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