Published: November 3, 2020
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy Schmitt Horan & Co.
WINDHAM, N.H. – “Our gross total of about $672,000 was over our high estimate. It was a strong sale for us,” was company president Daniel Horan’s initial comment when asked about the results of Schmitt Horan & Co.’s October 24 live online sale. The sale of just 315 lots – smaller than the firm sold in pre-COVID days – featured, among other things, rare American clocks and some of Edward P. Battoo’s collection of Rolex watches and was more than 98 percent sold by lot. When asked for the secret of the success of the sale, Horan said that while it helped to have a sale with reasonable estimates, as few reserves as possible and a trusted reputation, he attributed the results of this particular sale to a hybrid selling model that combined a live-auction model with three bidding platforms.
“We are taking the lead on hybrid/virtual auctions with recreating an old-fashioned live auction skewed towards the virtual, with an auctioneer calling bids, phone and absentee bids and online bidding through three bidding platforms: LiveAuctioneers, Invaluable and our own dedicated platform, Schmitt Horan Online (bids.schmitthoran.com). Everything was boosted by the three platforms rather than having a timed sale on a single platform. Having our own platform has been a wise investment,” he commented, saying that about $326,000 or half of the sale totals were realized by bids coming in through Schmitt Horan Online, which offers a slightly reduced buyer’s premium compared to the other two online platforms.
He noted the continued trend towards watches remains hot, commenting that some of the watches that are difficult to acquire in the primary market fetched high retail-level prices. Small clocks and accessories appeal more than tall clocks or larger items, particularly among younger buyers. Schmitt Horan & Co., has seen a tripling in the number of online registrations from international bidders, with private collectors comprising a majority among buyers.
Leading the sale was an American skeleton clock by Silas B. Terry that is one of only four or five known to exist, with one at Old Sturbridge Village. The clock had crossed the block in an unrestored state of condition in 2015, when Cottone Auctions sold it for $10,638. Now restored and with an estimate of $8/12,000, the clock inspired a bidding war between two phone bidders; it finally sold to one of them, a private collector from the Midwest, for $24,000.
Clocks with the “flair and flash of moving parts – that reproduce real motions and are more than just mechanical timekeeping – have a lot of crossover appeal to collectors both in the United States and Europe,” Horan said. He was referring specifically to a late Nineteenth Century French industrial horizontal steam boiler and piston engine compendium, and to an industrial steam hammer clock by Andre Romain Guilmet, made in Paris in 1880, that had a silver plaque reading “Presented to J.S. Hunter by the Exhibitors of the St Louis Exposition 1884.” The same private collector in Connecticut acquired both, the former for $21,600 and the latter for $13,200, which Horan thought might be a record price for the form.
Horan described Edward P. Battoo as the biggest watch and clock collector in the Caribbean, from a well-known family in Trinidad, who wanted the collection of several hundred wristwatches to be sold in the United States. Horan said that about 80 percent of the watches in this sale were from Battoo’s collection, as well as all of the Rolex lots. Notable results from Battoo’s collection include a lot of two Rolex GMT bezel inserts, one of which was in a red and blue “Pepsi” style, that sold to an international buyer for $14,400. That was the same price realized by a Rolex Explorer II circa 1979-80 “Steve McQueen” wristwatch. It sold to an East Coast collector, a new client for Schmitt Horan & Co., who was bidding on LiveAuctioneers.
If you want to buy a current model Rolex gold and stainless-steel Submariner wristwatch, you might have to wait a year to get it. The $12,000 price realized for a 20-year-old example, which came with boxes and papers, was almost what you might have to pay for a new one.
The next sale at Schmitt Horan & Co., will be online for a month, from mid-December through mid-January and will feature wristwatches, both in individual and group lots, and American wall clocks.
Prices quoted include buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
Schmitt Horan & Co., is at 62 Mitchell Pond Road. For more information, 603-432-2237 or www.schmitt-horan.com.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm