Simon Willard tall case clock hits $32,900 at Converse sale An early 19th century Simon Willard tall case clock, signed “Warranted by S. Willard” on the dial, sold for $32,900 at a multi-estate auction held April 23 by Gordon S. Converse & Co., in Malvern, Pa.
News-Antique.com - May 10,2011 - (MALVERN, Pa.) – A gorgeous early 19th century Simon Willard tall case clock, regal at 93 ½ inches tall and signed “Warranted by S. Willard” on the dial, sold for $32,900 at a multi-estate auction held April 23 by Gordon S. Converse & Co., based in Strafford, Pa. The auction was held inside the Sheraton Great Valley hotel in Malvern. The clock was the auction’s top lot.
Over 280 quality, fresh-to-the-market items in an array of categories – vintage clocks, Asian objects and furniture, period American furniture, estate silver, fine artwork, decorative accessories and more – crossed the block. Of those, about 240 sold. “The crowd was average,” said Gordon Converse, “but online bidding, through LiveAuctioneers.com, was very strong.”
Mr. Converse said there were between 300 and 400 registered online bidders, a fact that turned what could have been an ordinary sale into a very successful one. “We were very pleased with the results,” he remarked. “Things are definitely looking better than they did this time last year, both in terms of our business in general and the vibrant antiques industry in particular.”
The Simon Willard clock was expected to do well, and it did not disappoint. The dial was attributed to the workshops of Curtis and Nolen in Boston and was attached to an eight-day bell strike clockworks. The hood was surmounted by three brass ball finials. The clock was housed in a Federal solid and veneer mahogany case, with flared French feet, giving it a majestic stance.
Willard clocks overall are highly desired by collectors. It was Benjamin Willard who first began making clocks in his small, rural Massachusetts workshop, in 1766. His younger brothers – Simon, Ephraim and Aaron – learned the trade and began a three-generation clock making legacy that endures today. Simon is best known for inventing and patenting the so-called banjo timepiece in 1802.
Following are additional highlights from the auction. All prices quoted include a 17.5 percent buyer’s premium.
A 16 ½ inch “mystery clock” made circa 1835 and attributed to Robert Houdin (French, 1806-1871), boasting a gilt bronze and glass case and the original carved giltwood stand, brought $11,750. The clock is so-named because the hand appears to move around the glass dial without any form of assistance, making it a mystery. But to Houdin, a magician, it was no mystery at all.
In reality, a rod was run up through the pillar and was connected to a further one going along the right hand of the top of the case. A worm screw was attached to this and was connected to a second invisible glass dial set behind the main one. The hand was attached to this through the front dial, thereby turning as the rear glass turned. It was basically a clever optical illusion.
But illusion was Houdin’s game. He was so revered a magician that Harry Houdini took his name for himself. Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin (the Houdin part was his wife’s maiden name) was the most famous illusionist of