Published: June 21, 2022
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack, Additional Photos Courtesy Schmitt Horan & Company
CANDIA, N.H. – The June 11-12 auction was Schmitt Horan & Company’s first sale in its new permanent facility in Candia. It was also the firm’s first sale with a “live” audience in more than two years. The new facility includes multiple large buildings, plenty of parking space and is just a short distance from major highways, about 20 minutes from Manchester, N.H. Since 2017, the company, founded by Bob Schmitt in 1979, has been owned by Dan Horan. Although primarily thought of as selling clocks, watches and scientific instruments, there’s much more to the company’s offerings. This sale included a selection of decorative arts, including art glass, needlework, paintings, Asian items and more. It’s Dan Horan’s intention to include more of this material in future sales.
A 145-page catalog was produced for this sale, with color photos, detailed descriptions and condition reports by John Kovacik; many lots merit full-page descriptions. Few items have reserves, perhaps five percent of the lots in this sale did. The first day of the sale, offering 600 lots, required that buyers be present at the gallery; no internet bidding was available, and these items were not included in the printed catalog. These lots included boxes of repair parts, cases, works, clockmaker’s tools, etc. There were more than 100 bidders in the audience for this portion of the sale – more than have been seen at other live sales.
The cataloged portion of the sale, about 250 lots, as one might expect, included numerous clocks: wall clocks, mantel clocks, musical clocks, carriage clocks, tall case clocks, watches, marine navigation instruments, a collection of music boxes, a collection of automata, decorative arts and more. The live sales utilize four online bidding platforms, including a proprietary one, and each site has multiple photographs, in some cases more than a dozen, of most items. As many as eight phone lines were active throughout the sale and absentee bids were processed. Two cataloged sales are conducted annually, plus three to four online-only sales. As has been noted before, there’s no longer any such thing as a “regional” auction house. Dan Horan said that in 2021 sales were made to more than 35 countries.
Perhaps the most unusual item in the sale – bringing $180,000, the highest price – was a signed, circa 1830 gilt-bronze orrery clock made by Raingo Freres, Paris, with a complicated movement and a music box. Below a 30-inch glass dome, it had two movements; an eight-day one for the clock and rotation of the orrery and a four-year one for the orrery and leap-year disc. The orrery, rotating anti-clockwise, shows the motions of the earth and moon in relation to the sun, with a silvered disc giving the age of the moon as it rotates around a globe of the earth, and a four-year leap-year disc. The music box was in the base, and the edge of the orrery was decorated with gilt-bronze figures of the zodiac. It was veneered with burl amboyna, an exotic wood. All, including the music box, was in working order, perhaps needing some minor restoration. John Kovacik, Horan’s clock expert, discussed the clock, which was in a private viewing area. Kovacik estimated that perhaps only about two dozen of these clocks were made, with few surviving in private hands, and perhaps fewer than a half-dozen included the music box. He noted that it was believed that King George IV of England owned four examples, which a 1927 auction catalog states that one is in Windsor Castle.
There were numerous wall regulators made by such well-known companies as Howard, Waltham, Seth Thomas and others. To say that one being offered here was especially outstanding would be an understatement. It was a circa 1895 heavily carved mahogany gothic-style clock just shorter than 9 feet tall with a Waltham movement. It was attributed to Irving and Casson, Boston, a firm of interior designers and furniture makers founded in 1875. The firm executed a number of commissions for Gothic Revival churches, and it likely that this clock came from one of those churches. It sold for $78,000. An eight-day astronomical regulator by D. Brown & Son, Providence, earned $21,600. With an experimental escapement, possibly unique, the works dated to the second quarter of the Nineteenth Century and the carved cherry case was made for it, later in the century. A “commissioned” #10 Seth Thomas jeweler’s regulator in a walnut case with burl veneer, 6 feet tall, realized $38,400. It came from a store in Astoria, Ore., and was dated October 11, 1881. Seth Thomas only dated clocks in this format that were made on “commission.” An ever-popular E. Howard #8, figure 8 regulator, earned $9,600.
This sale was organized by type of clock, and there were outstanding and unusual clocks in each category. Other categories were devoted to the music boxes, watches, automata and other items in the sale. One category included carriage and desk clocks. Going through these offerings is an example of connoisseurship. An outstanding example, bringing $33,600 – one of the highest prices in the sale – had been made by James McCabe, London, circa 1855. The firm is well-known, but what separates this clock from others was the level of workmanship devoted to the case. The heavy brass case of this hour-repeating clock with a two-train fusee movement was heavily engraved with floral vines on all sides, and thick beveled glass panels allowed the works to be viewed. The brass face of the clock was also engraved with scrolls, and the handle was also decorated, as were the hands. There were more than two dozen other carriage clocks, but none came close to this one, and the highest priced of “the others,” attractive though they were, was $3,600.
A circa 1963 Rolex Submariner Reference 5513 with 26 jewels, a gilt underline dial and automatic winding sold for $18,000. “Submariners” were dive watches, produced between the early 1960s and the late 1980s. This had an Oyster Reference 7260 bracelet. A Datejust men’s Rolex, Reference 39173, earned $2,400. It had 29 jewels and automatic winding. Bidders pushed a rare Hamilton pendant setting grade 951 pocket watch to $7,800, the second highest price of the watch selection. Only 44 of these watches were produced.
As mentioned above, the sale included a selection of automata and music boxes. There were some good buys to be had. Counterintuitively, the highest price achieved by a musical automaton, $4,560, was earned by a circa 1985 example based upon the Roullet & Decamps “Clown on Full Moon,” produced about 100 years earlier. A female figure with a bisque head, dressed in silk clothing, would perform a variety of movements when the single-tune music box was activated. A circa 1890 “Turkish Dancer” automaton with bisque head, shoulder plate and arms, marked “Jumeau” was attributed to Roullet & Decamps and sold for $3,120. In working condition, it also performed a variety of functions when the music box was activated. A circa 1920 bubble blowing bear attributed to Roullet & Decamps sold for $1,680. Music boxes seemed reasonable, with a Polyphon floor standing disc music box, playing 15Ã½-inch discs, reaching $3,360 with one disc, and a mahogany Regina table model disc player, which sold for $2,040, also with one disc.
After the sale, Dan Horan said he was pleased. “The two-day format really worked well,” he said. “We had a good crowd in the building for the “live only,” uncataloged portion on Saturday, and we hit our estimate for that. Overall, just a few lots failed to sell, and many of the exceptional items exceeded their estimates. Like other parts of the business, prices aren’t where they were a few years ago, but results for this sale show the market is recovering. And we’re seeing lots of new buyers. Can’t be unhappy with a million-dollar sale.”
The next cataloged sale is scheduled for November 19-20.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For information, 603-432-2237 or www.schmitt-horan.com.
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