John Sewell (English) pocket watch

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John Sewell (English) pocket watch

New postby Canuck » Fri May 06, 2011 4:23 am

For those of you who get this far and who are not discouraged by the caption, I find this to be a very interesting watch with an interesting provenance. A number of years ago, a lady who had been widowed only a short time, contacted me about two watches she wanted to dispose of. Her late husband was a hoarder/collector, and he had amassed a large collection of china Moustache cups (hope you know what they are). A collector had two watches that he offered in trade for the moustache cups. The woman's husband made the deal. For years after the, the guy that now owned the moustache cups wanted to swap back. No deal! The one watch was a Swiss repeater with automata of two "jacks" ringing bells as the watch struck the time The other was an open-faced pocket watch by the English maker, John Sewell. It was a cylinder movement with a RUBY cylinder, and it was gorgeous, and a strong runner, and in lovely condition. A very distinctive feature of this watch was the dial. The numbers had been replaced with letters which spelled MAXIMOTAJES. You can see the watch in the attached picture which is from an auction catalog put out by either Sothebys or Christies in New York. The repeater had a pre-sale estimate of $ 2,500, and it reached that figure, The Sewell had a pre-sale estimate of $ 1,500 which it failed to reach. The auction house asked if she would accept a lower figure ($ 800), and she agreed. It sold in their next sale. Now, the interesting part! This all took place about 20 years ago- pre-internet. Several years ago I decided to Google MAXIMO TAJES. He was the President af Ecuador (South America) from 1886 to 1890! And I could have owned an ex-president's watch for $ 800! But who knew?

tajes 001.jpg
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Re: John Sewell (English) pocket watch

New postby John Moane » Fri May 06, 2011 2:32 pm

Great story, It's always interesting how with a little research watches can tell a story, I have had a number of English watches that have had the numeral changed to letters to spell the owners name and I think to myself maybe one of those watches might have had some history. I guess the watches that your friend parted with would be worth a small fortune now.
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Re: John Sewell (English) pocket watch

New postby Glyn Meredith » Fri May 06, 2011 3:05 pm

Thanks for sharing a good story, Doug. I bet you have many more ... ;)
Posted on GH recently? Your posts keep us going.

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Re: John Sewell (English) pocket watch

New postby Canuck » Fri May 06, 2011 10:53 pm

John,

This Sewel watch was pictured in a catalog at the time of the auction. (Christie's, New York, April 1992, page 91). The catalog had a sizeable distributuon. The fact that it didn't sell at $ 2,500 (I thought I recalled it being listed at $ 1,500) likely means that nobady recognized it at the first offering. I just checked the listing in the catalog:

"...gilt 3/4 plate keyless lever movement (it was a ruby cylinder), repeating on gongs (quarter repeater) by means of a slide on the band,..................with elaborate enamel monogram (on the case back), London, 1882....". So the ruddy thing was also a repeater- I had forgotten about that!

No mention was made about the identity of Maximo Tajes. It was offered a second time at a reduced price on the occasion of which it sold. Neither the picture or the listing gave a clue as to Tajes identity. I like to think that, in this pre-internet era, someone recognized who Tajes was, and is giving it a good home. Perhaps a museum, or at least someone who recognized it for the treasure it is. And I could'a owned it! :( Tajes was a big wig in the "Colorado" party (rough translation, color red), I believe. So he was likely a Communist, and more than likely a dictator, although the picture shown of him on the one site I checked made him look like a "Casper Milquetoast" sort of guy.
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