Brunk Auctions
Live Auction

Collection of Jean and Jim Barrow | May 20, 2023

Sat, May 20, 2023 09:00AM EDT
Lot 114

A Very Rare Boston Federal Simon Willard Paint Decorated Lighthouse Clock

Estimate: $60,000 - $90,000

Bid Increments

Price Bid Increment
$0 $25
$100 $50
$1,000 $100
$2,000 $200
$3,000 $250
$5,000 $500
$10,000 $1,000
$20,000 $2,000
$50,000 $5,000
$100,000 $10,000

Roxbury, Massachusetts, circa 1818-1819, dial signed "Simon Willard", two inked paper labels at case interior inscribed "Simon Willard/for/William Saunders/1826" and "William Saunders. 1826/William A. Saunders. 1872", painted iron dial with Roman numerals and original moon style hands set in brass bezel and frame with open sides exposing works, eight day brass movement, arch top brass movement plates surmounted by silvered false bell with fire gilt brass ball finial and brass ring, on removable brass plate with green velvet lining, situated atop a tapered cylindrical base with lower cove molding decorated in black, red, and gold paint, on painted square base with hinged front door opening to pendulum and weight, on ball feet, with blown glass dome cover, pendulum, weight, and winder key, 29-1/2 x 9 x 8 in.

Note: Painted examples of the form are exceptionally rare, and this lighthouse clock is further distinguished by its fine condition, surviving with its original glass dome and brass feet.

The accompanying write up from Milly McGehee notes: "The painted case with iron dial and lower rectangular base places this example among a small group of Willard lighthouse clocks made prior to 1820. Simon Willard received a patent for these "patent alarm timepieces" in December of 1819. Most known examples made after that date have enamel (rather than painted) dials and are signed "Patent." Most patent examples also have un-painted mahogany cases with octagonal or circular bases. The early features of this example indicate it was made prior to the patent and circa 1818-1819."

Only a handful of painted examples are known to survive. The only other painted example sold publicly that is known to us sold Sotheby’s, Jan-
uary 1997 for $744,000. This example is illustrated in Albert Sack, New Fine Points of Furniture, pages 131 and 146, where it is listed as a “Masterpiece”.

The Magazine Antiques, March, 1938, pg. 114;
The Walpole Society Notebook of 1954, plate 10;
The Magazine Antiques, May, 1977, pg. 994;
Husher and Welch, A Study of Simon Willard’s Clocks, pg. 191, fig. 6.12
Foley and Losch, Simon Willard Patent Alarm Time Pieces, Willard House and Clock Museum, North Grafton, MA, 2002, pg. 46-47, fig. 12


In very fine state of preservation and retaining its original paint and glass dome. Original glass domes are a great rarity, and this example has been used as the basis to create replacement domes for other examples. Conservation by Gary R. Sullivan Antiques Inc. (accompanied by invoice and condition report dated April 1, 2004, which notes various minor repairs and restorations). Also with photographs and letter from Robert Mussey Associates, Inc., dated June 15, 2004; some surface dirt and accretion, case with scattered flaking, crackle, and expected minor losses to paint throughout, dial paint with crackle and small area of loss, not tested for functionality; Retaining its original glass globe and accompanied by an additional modern travel globe. Also accompanied by a custom shipping crate.

By 1938, with dealers Clapp & Graham;
A Walpole Society Collector;
By 1964, with John Walton;
By 1977, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Lee Gill;
Christie’s, January 15-16, 2004, lot 458 (accompanied by catalog pages and copy of invoice for $209,100);
Milly McGehee (accompanied by letter of invoice with description);
Collection of Jean and Jim Barrow