French clock fetches record $6.8 million at auction

An 1835 French clock sold for a record $6.8 million on Tuesday, the highest price ever paid for a clock at auction. The Duc d'Orléans Breguet Sympathique had been estimated by Sotheby's to sell for more than $5 million.

Last auctioned in 1999 when it was sold by the Time Museum in Rockford, Illinois for $5,777,500 - a record price at the time - the gold and red tortoiseshell quarter-striking clock was the highlight of Sotheby's watches and clocks sale. The sale totaled $11.7 million and also set records for any work by Breguet as well as for any French timepiece. The total marked the highest result for the sale of watches and clocks by Sotheby's in New York. The auction house did not identify the buyer, but said it was a private museum.

The rare Sympathique clocks helped cement the fame of French watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet, Sotheby's said in a statement. Nearly two feet high, the clock is one of only about a dozen Sympathiques known to exist. They were variously commissioned by the Spanish crown, the Russian crown and Napoleon and made for Britain's King George IV.

The Duc D'Orleans is the only Sympathique known to wind, set to time and regulate its watch via an integrated cradle mounted on the clock's pediment, according to Sotheby's.

Another highlight of the sale was a rare, 46-mm 18K yellow gold Patek Philippe men's wristwatch from 1955, which sold for $962,500 - many times the pre-sale estimate.

Six other watches fetched more than $100,000 each.

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