Published: May 16, 2017
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack, Catalog Photos Courtesy R.O. Schmitt
MANCHESTER, N.H. – R.O. Schmitt’s specialty sale the last weekend in April was the first under the ownership of Dan Horan and it was a successful sale. Offering more than 850 lots, it grossed over $725,000, with the top lot, an E. Howard & Co. #57 jeweler’s regulator, selling for $100,300.
The April 29-30 sale included clocks and watches of all sizes and shapes, barometers, phonographs, jewelry, reference books, clockmaker’s tools and dozens of boxes and cabinets of parts – movements, dials, pendulums, cases, etc. There were about 100 bidders in the room, several phone lines were in use, internet bidding was available, and there were numerous absentee bids. The illustrated, full color catalogs, one for each day, included detailed and extensive descriptions and condition reports. Horan said, “The catalogs are our calling card.”
Dan Horan worked with the previous owner, Bob Schmitt, for several years before buying the business from Schmitt, on the installment plan, in 2010. He is now the sole owner. Prior to working for Schmitt, he worked for his family’s firm, which also specialized in clocks and watches.
Now that his debt from purchasing the business is behind him, he is investing in building the business and his brand. “Whenever I go out to dinner with my wife, or to a party, or really anyplace where I’ll interact with people, I make sure that I’m wearing my stuff. Some people notice if I’m wearing an unusual watch, and conversations begin. We’re all interested in attracting younger collectors, and I’m making extensive use of social media. We’re on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter and we’re learning how to maximize what those sites have to offer.
“For this sale,” he continued, “I invested in professionally made videos of four items in the sale. I hired a film school grad and had an accurate script prepared. They’re on our Facebook page and they’re drawing eyes. I spent some money on Google and Facebook ads that increased our exposure to European buyers in countries where I know there are active markets and their AdWords help us reach a targeted audience. I think that we’re reaching a different audience utilizing these media. We may try ‘online only’ auctions to broaden our base. Like I said, it’s a learning experience, but so far, I think it’s working for us.”
The top selling lot of the sale was a large, presentation, #57 jeweler’s regulator made by Boston’s E. Howard & Co. The 67-inch clock, with an eight-day movement was in very fine, original condition and engraved “The Green Shoe Mfg. Co. (Inc.) Nov. 24, 1924. By The Employees.” Estimated at a high of $30,000, the clock sold for $100,300.
Starting off the first day of the sale were about two dozen lots of phonographs, mostly Edison cylinder machines, along with accessories, roller organs, etc. Bringing the highest price of the group was a Columbia model BKT cylinder phonograph with an original painted tin horn. The machine and case were in good condition and it sold for $708. A French disc player with an integrated horn, made by Pathe Freres, also in good condition and in a maple case, reached $590.
Several of the tall case clocks sold on the first day exceeded their estimates. A Federal period example, probably from New Hampshire with a flame birch case and a bird’s-eye maple panel, a fret work crest and three brass finials ($600/800) finished at $2,006 and an English example, in a mahogany and inlaid oak case with a broken arch pediment, went over estimate at $1,534. An interesting dwarf tall case clock by George Cox, Carlisle, England, in a grain painted case, and dated 1839, made $590.
The second day of the sale began with a selection of 100-plus pocket and wristwatches. A historically important gold fusee pocket watch made by Gilbert & Son, Belfast, Ireland, and presented to Moses Nickerson, captain of the barque Mary Edson in 1863 reached $4,602. Nickerson’s ship delivered provisions that had been by donated New York merchant A.T. Stewart and other concerned citizens, to distressed Irish weavers, affected by the Civil War blockade of Southern cotton ports, and on the return trip, brought back 136 weavers and their families. The watch had been presented to Nickerson by “The Lisburn Relief Committee.”
An unusual circa 1855 timepiece concealed in a 22K gold clamshell box, set with jewels, made in Geneva by Rossel, Bautte & Cie, brought $6,490. Bautte was a widely known and respected maker of enameled and gem-set pocket watches, snuff boxes and music boxes and his products were bought by clients in Turkey, China, European countries and the United States.
An interesting group of bronze French mantel regulators included an example by a little-known maker, Deltroit, Paris, possibly 1830, that sold well over estimate. The gilt-bronze portico-style case with acanthus and waterleaf decoration, multipart Corinthian columns, dart moldings, rosettes and more, brought $9,145.
As mentioned above, Horan invested in professional videos for four clocks of two to three minutes each. Each included soft music in the background, knowledgeably narrated explanations and detailed closeups of important features. Are investments of this type worthwhile?
The video for the watch presented to Captain Nickerson, described above, has been viewed more than 10,000 times and it sold to a buyer in Ireland for about 150 percent of the high estimate. The video for a quarter striking carriage clock, attributed to Courvoisier, La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland, was viewed more than 6,000 times. The video for the elaborate, concealed timepiece described above was viewed 3,600-plus times and the final price exceeded the estimate, going to a buyer in England. The video for the Deltroit bronze mantel regulator was viewed 4,500 times and this clock also sold for more than 150 percent of its high estimate, to a buyer in England. Expect to see more such videos in the future.
After the sale, Horan said that the sale went well. “We grossed over $725,000 and we saw a lot of new faces, particularly for the Saturday portion of the sale. There was a lot of stuff that would appeal to newer collectors, like tools and reference books and a wide variety of clocks that we expected would sell for less than a $1,000. That worked. We grossed over $200,000 that day, not far below our high estimates. Overall, we saw an increase in interest in tall case clocks, both European and American. Clocks that we might call ‘Americana’ did about what we expected. I’m talking about clocks like pillar and scroll, steeple clocks, regulators and things like that. I was really pleased to see that three of the four clocks that we had made videos of sold to European buyers – one went to a museum in Ireland and two went to buyers in England.”
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For additional information, www.roschmitt.com or 603-432-2237.
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