Floor regulator sells for astronomical $195,000 at Fontaine’s June 14 sale

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A magnificent E. Howard & Co. #61 astronomical floor regulator, consigned from an estate in Baltimore and never before offered for sale, soared to $195,500 at a Spring Clock Auction held June 14 by Fontaine’s Auction Gallery. It was the second highest amount ever paid for a Howard astronomical regulator and was by far the top lot in a sale that grossed over $1.2 million.

More than 500 antique clocks – many of them rare and museum-quality pieces – crossed the block in an auction that was over in less than six hours. The floor regulator was sold in about four minutes, after spirited bidding between a phone bidder and a clock collector from Texas who wished to remain anonymous. In the end, the Texan won out, and said he thinks he knew who his opponent was.

“The clock collecting community is a small, tight-knit group that is very cordial, very friendly and knows exactly what they want when they come to an auction,” said John Fontaine. “But when the gavel starts to pound and paddles are wagging, their competitive juices begin to flow and they take no prisoners.”

Norton Rocking ShipThe online bidding component was strong, as about 500 registered bidders participated through eBay Live while another 25 or so used Proxibid. “I was surprised that we had bidders from as far away as Europe and China,” Fontaine said. “In fact, two clocks that sold for more than $30,000 went to Chinese bidders.” In addition, he said, there were about 230 phone bidders and about 50 absentee bids.

The floor regulator was the undisputed champion lot of the sale. The 19th century piece stood nearly eight feet tall and featured a solid brass movement and mercury pendulum. It sailed past its high estimate of $75,000 within a minute of bidding. The Texan, a clock collector for 30 years, said that clock will occupy a nook in his home.

Philadelphia period Norton 8-day time and strike rocking ship grandfather clock (circa 1910), with Chippendale case ($35,650).

Following are other highlights from the sale. All prices quoted include a 15 percent buyer’s premium.

Two new world auction records were set. The first was for a Seth Thomas Office #8 calendar clock, with 14-inch time dial, a lower 14-inch calendar dial, brass movement and a marvelous patina. It realized $54,625. The second was an E. Howard #7 Figure 8 weight-driven wall clock, with signed dial and movement. It hung on a wall for 30 years after the death of its owner before gaveling for $42,550.

A French industrial animated train clock (circa 1910), featuring a two-color gilded brass and dark patinated bronze locomotive, achieved $37,375. The wheels of the locomotive were animated, driven by a separate movement in the base. A period Philadelphia Norton rocking ship grandfather clock with a signed dial, a good period seatboard and a period walnut Chippendale case, made $35,650.

An R.J. Horner grandfather clock with an exceptional mahogany case, excellent color and patina and high-quality English 9-tube movement with calendar moon dial, coasted to $31,625. A signed Tiffany & Company three-train oak grandfather clock, with a Whittington & Westminster chime selection subdial and a massive brass movement signed J.J. Elliot, brought $27,600.

A sight to see was the French industrial steam engine clock and barometer (circa 1890) that sold for $20,700. A large central cylinder and piston with vertical connecting rod powered the flywheel with a centrifugal governor assembly, all on a rouge marble base. A Biedermeier lantern clock (circa 1830), Austrian figured mahogany with satinwood string inlay and arched throat glass, rose to $18,400.

A real crowd pleaser was the French water wheel clock, attributed to Plachon, an example of which was shown at the Exposition Universelle of 1900. With a three-wheel train driven by several steel balls passed from one bucket to the next, it looked more like a Rube Goldberg contraption than a clock. But the lot, with a bronze-mounted rosewood base and glass display case, was a hit at $17,250.

An animated French Empire gilt bronze smoker novelty clock under a dome, featuring a standing figure wearing a robe and smoking a cigar (signed “Robert – Paris”), hammered for $14,950. The head was animated, and bobbed back and forth with the motion of the pendulum. An E. Howard Figure 8 #9 wall clock, with a signed weight-driven movement and a nice case, made $14,950.

An early 19th-century Dutch eight-day, two-train tall clock, made by Claas Kroon, topped out at $13,800. The clock featured a three-date calendar mechanism, a signed dial and a heavily inlaid case with gilded brass mounts.

A French horizontal steam engine clock with a silver and brass case housing both a barometer and thermometer, and a separate key-wind movement animating the engine, went for $13,225. A Charles Jacques eight-bell, nine-gong tall case clock, with movement signed J.J. Elliott of London and  a dial signed Chas. Jacques, 22 Cortland St., N.Y., with the original finish oak case, realized $12,650.

An E. Howard Figure 8 #8 weight-driven wall clock with an early original movement signed Howard & Davis, Boston, chalked up $11,500. “This clock was one of the earliest examples of a Howard Figure 8 we have seen,” Fontaine said. An Elmer O. Stennes girandole clock (8-day, time only) crossed the finish line at $11,500.

A period eight-day time and strike tall clock attributed to James Doutt of Charleston, Mass., went for $10,350. The clock was contained in a figural mahogany case with bird’s eye maple panels and had silver appointments, trimmings and hinges.

Fontaine Auction Gallery has another major clock auction planned for Saturday, Nov. 8. Visit www.fontainesauctions.net more details. The firm will conduct a Discovery Sale in early September and a Major Catalog sale in late September. Again, watch Fontaine’s Web site for more details.

To consign or sell an item, an estate or an entire collection, call Fontaine’s at 413-448-8922, or e-mail info@fontaineauction.com.