1665 Samuel Knibb clock auctions for £1/2million at Bonhams

A previously unrecorded architectural table clock made circa 1665 by the famed horologist Samuel Knibb was sold at Bonhams’ Fine Clocks Sale, 9th July, for almost £1/2million.

Samuel Knibb clockThe auction attracted buyers from around the world with 80% of lots finding new homes. Standing crowds watched a lengthy rally between two bidders on the saleroom floor as the successful buyer secured the exceptionally rare table clock for £457,250.

James Stratton, Director of the Bonhams Clocks Department, commented: “The spirited bidding on some of the lots yesterday was worthy of a Wimbledon final, with collectors repeatedly trying to out bid one another for the best lots. Clocks from the pre-1700 period continue to find a ready market and I was particularly pleased to see demand for the better longcases improve on recent years. The selection of 19th century marine chronometers proved very popular, as did the carriage clocks, with 19th century English examples performing exceptionally well.”

“Of course, the Samuel Knibb was the highlight of the sale and this clock will be talked about for many years to come – it has opened our eyes on a particularly fascinating period in the development of the domestic clock, and it was a privilege to be a part of its history.”

The 350-year old timepiece was re-discovered by the Bonhams Clocks Department after centuries lost to the art world. It is the fifth of only five known clocks signed by Samuel Knibb, all of exceptional quality. What makes this clock so valuable is that the young Samuel Knibb worked with the great clock maker, Fromanteel, the man who brought the pendulum clock to Britain in 1658.

Samuel Knibb (1625–c.1670), the son of John Knibb, yeoman of Claydon, was established as a clockmaker by 1655. He began work in Westminster in 1662 and was admitted to the Clockmakers’ Company in 1663. Samuel Knibb was working in London during the 1660s, right through the Great Plague and the Great Fire.

This period is particularly interesting in the world of clocks with the recent introduction of the pendulum to the U.K by Fromanteel. Before the pendulum clock, sundials and mechanical clocks kept time accurate only to the nearest 15 minutes. Sundials could be up to 15 minutes fast or slow, depending on the height of the sun in the sky, while mechanical clocks relied on springs or coils which deteriorated. The pendulum clock enormously increased accuracy of timekeeping to within 15 seconds.

Other highlights in the sale included a very rare 18th century mahogany longcase clock by Thomas Mudge which sold for £55,250 and an exceptional 19th century English engraved giant bronze carriage clock by James McCabe which vastly exceeded its £18,000 estimate, selling for £49,250.