Auction Insights with Nigel Kirk

Time Flies

30th November 2016

From the moment I entered his pretty Shelford cottage there was no doubting what made local man Les Jackson tick.

Every inch of space was crammed with every imaginable type of timepiece and watch, from pigeon clocks to stately longcases, it really was the home of a hoarder.  The first half of the collection went under the hammer at The Auction House recently and attracted enormous interest.  Discovered amongst a huge number of wristwatches, many worth very little, we came across a valuable vintage Heuer chronograph.  It was snapped up by an American bidder online for a huge £16,000.

In The Auction House the long rows of 19th and 20th century clocks lined up on tables, cabinets overflowing with watches and wristwatches and box-lots of old clocks requiring restoration presented an extraordinary spectacle.  Les’s family were amazed at the extent of it and they were not alone in wondering how he crammed so much into his home.

The final part of the collection will be sold on 7 December but already over £78,360 has been realised from what many people might have consigned to a series of skips.  Amongst the watches there were some excellent examples of British military wristwatches issued to soldiers, sailors and airmen during the First and Second Word Wars.  Not surprisingly, these were not in the best of condition but that did not prevent two 1940s Jaeger LeCoultre examples realising £1,300 and £1,400.  A Breitling gold plated TransOcean wristwatch sold together with three others of relatively small value.  On account of the condition, still managed to take £1,600.  Similarly a Heuer Autavia sold with two other cheaper watches for £5,500 and a surprising £650 was paid for three 1970s Seiko stainless steel wristwatches.

Les Jackson who died earlier this year was born in Burton Joyce in 1931.  For many years he was a steeplejack, as was Fred Dibnah, MBE (1938-2004).  Perhaps that has something to do with an all-consuming interest in the technology of yesteryear?  Later in life Les worked for the East Midlands Electricity Board, but for over 40 years he was a ‘regular’ at local auctions and fairs, buying just about every conceivable inexpensive antique clock and watch.  He acquired, for example, many examples of the mass-produced 19th century American ‘shelf’ or mantle clock, also Victorian silver pocket watches in abundance and really anything odd or interesting so long as it was to do with horology.  Amongst such unconsidered trifles picked up inexpensively we found some fascinating and highly collectable timepieces, such as a couple of World War One Royal Flying Corps pilot’s watches of the type that would have been used Captain Albert Ball, VC.

The garage which adjoined the cottage had a big loft and when that was full Les rented the upper storey of an ancient barn in the village of Shelford.  There we found layer upon layer of longcase (‘Grandfather’) clock cases, antique furniture awaiting restoration and bygones of every description lying beneath inches of dust.  It took several large vans to transport and had all to be carried down some particularly rickety stairs.

Les also collected a great many antique clock and watchmaker’s tools, which he knew how to employ, but to have restored all those clocks and watches would have been the work of several lifetimes.  In his workshop-garage we found a Beeston-made Myford lathe, a favourite of the model engineer, it went for £1,700 to a local man against a Taiwanese bidder on the internet.

With practically 100% of the lots finding a buyer, many of them overseas, there can be no better tribute to Les’s passion for his hobby as well as all the hard work that went into staging the sale. 

Prices exclude 20% buyer’s premium.  The final part of the Les Jackson Collection goes on view at the Auction House on Tuesday 6 December 2-5pm.

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