Vintage clock collection auction a tribute to a passionate student of history

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 17th June, 2024

It is hardly surprising that the late David Vinall became a passionate collector given that his father Laurie amassed a nationally significant array of veteran cars on their historic South Australian 32-hectare property Albion Farm.

The vehicle collection included an 1898 Mercedes Benz – the first car ever registered in Victoria. This belt and tiller driven invention ended its passenger-ferrying life in Glenorchy driving farm machinery before being fully restored and is now a proud part of South Australia’s Birdwood National Museum.  

David, who died last year, built an enormous collection of vintage clocks and watches – to be auctioned from 10am on Saturday June 22 and Sunday June 23 by Melbourne-based Leski Auctions at 727-729 High Street, Armadale as part of its forthcoming broad-ranging decorative arts & collectables sale.

His family history is inextricably linked with Albion Farm, part of an 1842 land grant that also featured Albion cottage (built some 10 years later) and developed in 1908 by David’s grandfather Edward as a dairy and vineyard.

After Edward’s death in 1938, sons Ernest and Laurie discontinued the dairy to concentrate on vines, almonds and milk distribution.

Most of the land was sold in 1955 to the South Australian housing trust, enabling Laurie to indulge his passion for vintage motor vehicles.

Apart from his strong farming passions and caring for his father’s car collection, as an adult David (born in 1943) also turned his attention to heritage preservation – first successfully battling to restore an Adelaide historic treasure in Edmund Wright House before moving onto the now derelict Albion cottage and vintage clocks and watches.

By the mid-1990s, David had amassed a significant collection of high-quality timepieces sourced from Australian and English specialist dealers – and was a regular client of well-known Victorian antique horologist Ken Hose.

The clock collection can only be described as meritorious and includes such timeless masterpieces as the Samuel Townson (born 1672 and active from 1700-1738 after finishing his apprenticeship) fine William and Mary period spring table clock (lot 223) with a catalogue estimate of $20,000-$30,000.

Another highly collectable timepiece is a fine quality English regulator in a floor standing glazed walnut case with the dial signed by Brockbank & Atkins, London (lot 222) – one of the most distinguished 18th and 19th century English chronometer makers.

Established in 1781 by brothers John (1747-1806) and Miles (1754-1821) Brockbank, the younger brother eventually formed a partnership with George Atkins (1767-1855) nine years after his older sibling died in 1806 when the name was changed to Brockbank & Atkins.

Two 19th century marine chronometers are part of the Vinall collection. One, lot 217 by Arnold & Dent, London, dates from circa 1840, while the other (lot 218) is a Scottish creation by Glasgow’s Christie & Wilson.

A 19th century English skeleton clock (lot 221) should be another strong attraction, while a rare Makura Dokei circa 1840 antique Japanese travelling clock (lot 224) was part of the John Read Collection of Fine Antique Japanese Timekeepers sold in 2010 by Bonhams.

Two other rare antique Kake-Dokei Japanese clocks also are among the Vinall collection. One is a circa 1840 lantern wall clock (lot 225) and the other a circa 1690 bell striking wall clock (lot 227).

A significant collection of beautiful French art deco perfume bottles, powder compacts, cosmetic items, glassware and industrial furniture is an integral part of the Leski Auctions sale.

Built up by the late Heather “Maggie” Woods, who died in 2022, she regularly travelled to France and was an unashamed life-long Francophile and art deco enthusiast.

A Mury French glass perfume bottle in its attractive original box (lot 455) is a good example of her collection, along with a circa 1922 Lucien Gaillard French cameo (lot 458) and a Richard Hudnut 1927 Cristalleries de Nancy (lot 459).

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