Lot No. 542 (91st Auction)
Justin Vulliamy, London, Werk "rms", 64 mm, 288 g, circa 1780

A gentleman's important, heavy quarter hour repeating and quarter hour self strike pocket watch with "Chelsea bun" temperature compensation. This finely executed compensation device - the so-called "Chelsea bun" - is basically the same as the one Harrison and later Kendall (K2!) used for the first pocket watch marine chronometers, so this watch was probably produced not long after them!
Case: silver "consular" case, band and inner lid florally engraved with sound holes, rear bell, monogram on reverse side "RL", movement protection cap. Dial: enamel, radial Roman hours and Arabic minutes, gold cathedral hands. Movm.: full plate movement, signed, gilt, chain/fusee, 3 barrels for going train, repetition and self strike, moulded pillars, 4 hammers, ruby cylinder escapement, three-arm steel balance, temperature-compensating balance spring by adjustable helical bimetal stripe, pierced balance bridge, chatoned diamond endstone on balance, movement protection cap.

Three successive generations of the Vulliamy family were active as clockmakers from 1735 until 1854; they were particularly famous for their regulator clocks but also created excellent and important pocket watches.
Around 1743 Benjamin Gray, who was about 66 at the time and had been pocket watch maker to King George II since 1742, and Francois Justin Vulliamy (who had immigrated from Switzerland in the mid 30s) became partners; Vulliamy had married Gray’s daughter Mary two years before. Gray was a watchmaker specializing in repeating verge pocket watches; during his partnership with Vulliamy these repeater watches were more often fitted with cylinder movements and the company also produced a number of clocks.
After Gray’s death in 1764 Justin Vulliamy took over the shop at the west end of Pall Mall. In 1772 Justin’s son Benjamin Vulliamy was appointed clockmaker to the court of King George III; together with his father he had already assisted the king in his observatory at Richmond in 1769 during the transit of Venus. Around 1780 he became a full partner in his father’s business. In the early 80s the Vulliamy company had started to concentrate on the production of clocks (particularly valuable ornamental clocks) because the ever increasing number of cheap pocket watches imported from abroad had began causing serious problems for the domestic makers; special value was laid on an excellent quality control and dedication to quality. Justin Vulliamy died in 1797 when he was nearly 86 years old; he had written his last will in French.
Around 1801 Benjamin Vulliamy took his son Benjamin Lewis on as partner. They carried on selling pocket watches with cylinder escapements but started using more and more duplex excapements for their high quality pieces. The company began including items such as candle holders and other gold and silver goods into their range; this increased their turnover considerably, however, the customers’ habit of not paying their bills - specially where members of the royal family and the nobility were concerned - kept the profits comparatively low.
Benjamin Vulliamy died in 1811 and his second son came into the business; however, he left again in 1820 because he was unhappy with his brother Bemjamin Lewis‘ strict management style. The company was by now known for its outstanding turret clock movements and the well-engineered clocks they supplied many public authorities with. Of course they still produced pocket watches as well and soon to be famous makers such as Richard Pendleton, E.J.Dent and Sylvain Mairet worked for the Vulliamys around the end of the 18th century and in the 1820s and 1830s.
Benjamin Lewis unfortunately did not manage to secure the commission for "Big Ben", but he and his ancestors had been appointed clockmakers to the royal courts of four kings and queens and the family had had several masters in the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers. The company ceased to exist with Benjamin Lewis’ death in 1854; goodwill and royal warrant changed over to Charles Frodsham, tools and equipment were mostly taken over by the Jumps, Vulliamy’s loyal workmen.
Estimate  10,000 - 15,000 €
This is a lot of a former auction!

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