Final Time Museum Sale Tops $18 Million

Sotheby’s three-day October sale of “Masterpieces From the Time Museum, Part IV” tallied $18.2 million, far exceeding presale estimates of $8 to $11 million.

It was one of the most important timepiece auctions in recent years. Collectors from around the globe gathered in New York City to view and vie for some 1,250 important timepieces, scientific instruments, and horological curiosities from the Time Museum, the finest collection of timekeeping devices in the world. The private collection was assembled over 30 years by Seth Atwood, a Rockford, Ill., businessman.

This was the fourth and final sale in five years from the museum. Previous sales set several world records, and with them, this final sale brought the grand total of items sold from the Time Museum to $57.9 million.

Among the most sought-after pieces were John and James Harrison’s “Precision Regulator” (circa 1725), which sold for more than $1.57 million, exceeding its presale estimate of $500,000 to $1 million. The clock, which won a famous 18th-century prize to determine longitude at sea, is probably the earliest precision regulator produced by the Harrison brothers. Feverish bidding for a full-size working replica (commissioned in 1984 by Atwood) of John Harrison’s first sea-clock (Harrison’s No. 1) pushed its price to $904,000, nine times its presale estimate of $70,000 to $100,000.

Other highlights included Thomas Mudge’s famous Marine Timekeeper, which sold for $1.2 million (presale estimate, $1.5 million to $2.5 million); and a massive (10 ft. by 10 ft.) Astronomical and World Time Clock with 15,000 parts, which sold for $142,400 (pre-sale estimate, $100,000 to $200,000).