The Beauty of Precision

Parents of small children will use any tool at their disposal to keep their offspring occupied. For the father of one 4-year old boy, the object most readily at hand to distract his son was always his pocket watch. This early formative experience bred an adult with a passion for keeping time whose extensive collection of watches is now being offered in our Important Fall Auction.

By our consignor's account, that first pocket watch of his father's piqued his interest in the challenge that the railroads had with keeping precise time - if the engineers and dispatchers couldn't rely on their pocket watches to tell exact time from station to station, there was a danger of trains colliding on the tracks. And so our consignor's watch collection started with these pocket watches whose precision enabled the connection of the country via railroad.

The most prominent of the consignor's pocket watches is the exceedingly rare Dudley "Masonic Model 2" Pocket Watch. William Wallace Dudley was a Canadian expatriate who shared our consignor's lifelong passion for timekeeping. Born in 1851, Dudley spent most of his career working for other American watch manufacturers. But in 1920, at the age of 69, Dudley finally realized his life's dream of starting his own watch company. In homage to his other passion, the Freemasons, Dudley designed his Masonic pocket watch, replete with Masonic symbols. Unfortunately for Dudley, he started his company just as the public demand for wristwatches began to drain the energy from the pocket watch market. Dudley went bankrupt in 1925. He made only approximately 6,000 pocket watches. Now, however, that limited production makes his beautifully complex Masonic watches rare collectors' items.

Dudley-pocket-watch14 KT Gold Open Face "Masonic Model 2" Pocket Watch, Dudley

Just as Dudley's company was the victim of changing public tastes, our consignor found that when commerical air travel took over from the railroads in the last half of the 20th century, pocket watches stopped being produced at all. And so his collection moved from his pocket to his wrist, with precision and complexity remaining the unifying trait between all his watches, regardless of where they were made to be worn.

Our consignor was particularly drawn to watches with unique or fine complications (watch-speak for functions of the watch beyond keeping time). The moon phase - an aperture revealing the current phase of the moon - is a popular complication on high-end wristwatches. Several of our consignor's watches include a moon phase. Because the exact lunar cycle is actually 29.530588853 days, and most moon phase watches are calibrated only to 29.5 days, they require recalibration every three years in order not to deviate from the lunar cycle by a full day. For our consignor, however, nothing but the highest level of precision would do: Patek Philippe moon phases are calibrated to only need adjustment every 122 years. Our consignor searched for several years to find his 18KT Gold "Moon Phase" Watch by Patek Philippe in such pristine condition.
patek-philippeA Fine 18KT Gold "Moon Phase" Watch, Patek Philippe

Other watches in this collection are remarkable for unique features such as the Jaeger-LeCoultre 18KT Rose Gold "Reverso Art Deco" Watch's pivoting case. The design of the Reverso was the solution to a complaint of polo-playing British officers in India in 1930. The fragile crystal on their wristwatches would smash during matches - how could the officers of His Majesty's Armed Forces be expected to uphold the dignity of their position under those circumstances? France to the rescue: through the collaboration of Edmond Jaeger and Jacques-David LeCoultre, the reversible face of the Reverso was designed and patented, finished with the art deco details befitting the era. Over the years Jaeger-LeCoultre has been creative with the possibilities inherent in the double-faced watch. The Reverso in the Important Fall Auction boasts a glass caseback that reveals the watch's works. Our consignor first saw the Reverso in the window of a jewelry shop in Vienna. He returned to the shop several times to visit the watch, but it wasn't until a jeweler in Raleigh happened to have one that he was able to purchase it. fullsizeoutput_cfGent's 18KT Rose Gold "Reverso Art Deco" Watch, Jaeger-LeCoultre

This collection also features watches that stand out (literally) by virtue of their design: we are offering several pieces from the Corum line of "Bubble" watches. In the comparatively conservative world of luxury watchmakers, Corum has always been known for their daring designs and sense of fun. The Bubble watch was inspired by the extra thick crystal of deep-sea diving watches, and features a huge, convex crystal that distorts the face of the watch - fertile ground for clever designs that take advantage of the 3D, rounded effect of the distortion. The watch was first introduced in 2000, and re-released with a new range of face designs in 2015.
bubble-watchGent's Stainless Steel "Bubble GMT World Dial" Watch, Corum

Every single watch in our consignor's carefully considered collection bears a mark of particularity like those featured here. Our consignor fell in love with their details individually, and sought them out with the same exactitude that the watches themselves exhibit. They are masterpieces of construction and timeless design on a minute scale.

View the complete Private Collection of a Gentleman, Virginia and North Carolina

Created by Leland Little Content Director Elizabeth Sharp