Premier auction house Sotheby's to sell Lord Nelson's watch

09 Aug '05
8 min read

Premier auction house Sotheby's Holdings Inc is delighted to announce that it has been instructed to sell Admiral Horatio Nelson's pocket watch. Worn and treasured by Nelson for the last - and most glorious - years of his life, the watch was with him when he met his death at the Battle of Trafalgar on October 21, 1805.

Estimated at £250,000 – £350,0001, it will be the highlight of "The Trafalgar sale" – a sale devoted to Nelson's life and the objects surrounding it - to be held at Sotheby's in New Bond Street on Wednesday, October 5, 2005.

- "The greatest Nelson relic remaining in private hands"

- The pocket watch used by the Admiral in the last years of his life and carried by him to his death at the Battle of Trafalgar

One of only a handful of personal relics that survive from Nelson's last hours2, the watch has been described by Martyn Downer, author of Nelson's Purse, as "one of the most evocative pieces in the jigsaw of personal effects that survive from Nelson's last hours."

The watch emerged from the reserve collection of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich - to which it had been on loan for more than seventy years - when its owner contacted Martyn Downer whose book describes his discovery of Nelson's bloodstained purse among a trove of lost Nelsonian treasures sold by Sotheby's for more than £2 million in 2002.

Downer continues: "Gazing at the watch today, knowing that Nelson must have frequently glanced at it as the battle raged all around him that fateful morning so long ago, is strangely affecting. Nothing was more important to a naval commander than his timekeeper—after all his own and his men's lives depended almost entirely upon it— so it would only have been very gently removed from him later on as he lay dying in the bowels of his flagship, the Victory, amid indescribable scenes of horror. This extraordinary object has been touched, quite literally, by the hand of history. It is impossible to imagine a Nelsonian treasure of similar importance and of such impeccable provenance ever appearing at auction again."

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