I often get asked how I got started in the antique/auctioneering trade well…..
Back in 1983 when Wham, The Police and Yazoo were in the charts I was having a great time living in Birmingham however my father decided that I needed to get myself a summer job to “curb my enthusiasm for life”, so he arranged for me to work with an antique jeweller’s in the City Centre.
I turned up to work in my only suit, which to be honest was more suitable for the dance floor of Faces Night Club than working in a retail environment!
My role on my very first day was bending Georgian Silver trays and salvers with my knee putting them in a black bin bag and carting them off to the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter to scrap them in. I then walked back to the city centre with the cash and retuned to my boss to hand over the money. Looking back, I now realise that this was a test of trust as later I found out that he had phoned the scrap dealer to find out how much money I had been given and whether it would tally with the cash I had brought back. It was an excellent lesson to learn, in the Silver & Jewellery trade, as with all business, trust is everything.
The summer job became an eight-year apprentiship but, unfortunately for my father, having a regular weekly wage only encouraged my enthusiasm for life! More importantly this apprentiship would spark a life long love affair with silver and jewellery and become my career.
This role led me to work with a local Midlands auctioneer as their Silver and Jewellery specialist and it was whilst I was here that I first met Will. I had a belief that there was a different way to approach this buisness and after a great deal of research and planning with both took the brave leap of faith and together we set up Fieldings in 2001. My colleagues will tell you that I am never happier than when sat at my desk, surrounded by silver and jewellery, loop in hand, cataloguing away for the next sale, you could say I am the resident magpie here at Fieldings.
To spare Nick his blushes its fair to say that he's been in this buisness for a few years now! From Cartier to Boucheron, Omega to Patek Phillippe, Paul Storr to Paul de Lamerie Nick has handled thousands if not millions of pounds worth of pieces over his career. The nature of the pieces that Nick is fortunate enough to handle means he regularly sees the fine, the exquisite and the rare resulting in a difficult choice when it comes to his favourite find. Over the years he has seen stunning diamonds, early silver and a steady stream of fine watches so what stands out as a memorable find?
When it comes to this choice for Nick it was a watch that still makes him smile! The market for Gentlemen's watches has seen a steady and consistent rise over recent years as investors look for rare examples to both wear and admire. There are of course a huge number of recognised makers of fine watches but one name that remains instantly and internationally recognised has to be Rolex.
In 1905, German-born Hans Wilsdorf and his brother-in-law Alfred Davis set up an eponymous company in London that imported Swiss movements. They installed them into British cases and sold them to jewellers who put their own names on the dials. However he began to dream of a reliable and elegant watch worn on the wrist, the problem however was that wristwatches were not very precise at the time, but Hans Wilsdorf foresaw that they could become so.
Rolex first concentrated on the quality of the movements and his relentless quest for chronometric precision rapidly led to success. In 1910, a Rolex watch was the first wristwatch in the world to receive the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision, granted by the Official Watch Rating Centre in Bienne. Four years later, in 1914, Kew Observatory in Great Britain awarded a Rolex wristwatch a class “A” precision certificate, a distinction which until that point in time had been reserved exclusively for marine chronometers. From that date forward, the Rolex wristwatch was synonymous with precision.
Demand for Rolex watches rose swiftly, and British taxes on the Swiss movements Rolex used prompted Wilsdorf to relocate the business to Geneva, Switzerland, in 1919. With production costs lowered, Wilsdorf set out to solve the problem of moisture and dust entering the watch case and damaging the movement. The Rolex team came up with a fully sealed watch case, which Wilsdorf named the Oyster, and released it to much fanfare in 1926. Folk law has it that the Oyster name arose from Wilsdorf's desire to make a case that was as difficult to open as an Oyster, regardless the new development, after some initial scepticism was hailed as a revolution in watch design.
The global recognition is the product of decades of success in a range of fields, from early timekeeping records to a string of important firsts, not to mention film appearances and associations with James Bond and Paul Newman. In 2017, a Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona actually Paul Newman sold for $15.5 million at auction which at the time made it not only the most expensive Rolex ever sold at auction, but the most expensive wristwatch as well.
Now while Nicks favourite find may not quite be at the level of the Paul Newman Daytona, its still a rare find which Nick will have to wait many years to repeat. The owner of the watch had sent his son in to see Nick with an array of jewellery to be appraised. Amongst them was a rare and original find which would prove to be a surprise come auction day.
Amongst the consignment was a rare early Gent's Rolex which Nick instantly recognised as being a lovely classic example of their output. The watch had clearly been worn but was in all original condition and to add to the excitement came complete with its box and original receipt dated 4th March 1967. Nick cautiously estimated the watch at £3000 to £5000 which initially was a surprise to the family however better news was to come. Nick catalogued the watch as -
A stainless steel Rolex Oyster Perpetual meters first Submariner, 1967, with tropical batons to a black dial with Mercedes hour hand, case numbered 1410808, bracelet numbered 6636, with original receipt for £65.00 and guarantee both dated March 4th 1967, boxed.
When it came to the day of the sale Nick had handled a huge amount of enquiries and knew that this was going to be a well fought battle. Nick opened the lot and soon the bids came flooding in via the online line platforms eclipsing the upper estimate, however once they had settled down the fight became between two gentlemen, one standing at the back of the room and one on the telephone. A classic performance of auctioneers tennis unfolded between the two. Around the £10,000 mark the bidder in the room hesitated for a moment however soon regained his momentum to continue the fight......after a few more minutes however the watch finally settled at a hammer price of £14,500 to the bidder on the telephone! SOLD!
After the event the son spoke with Nick to enquire why the watch had performed so well? Nick happily informed him that while the watch had clearly been well worn it hadn't been tampered with over its life, the all original state meant that the watch had survived intact and just as the day it was made. Also, to have that receipt was just the cherry on top of the cake, purchased in 1967 for the sum of £65-00 (which in todays money equates to £1200-00) it turned out to be a wonderful investment.
The family were so thrilled with the result that they asked us to donate the small handful of not sold jewellery to charity. It just goes to show that the best will always be the best and proves the point that you should always try and buy the very best your budget will allow, add to that Nicks comment regarding the watch....'go find me another'
With the endless possibilities for Nick to choose from when it comes to his dream find you might all be surprised to find out what it is? A Van Cleef & Arpels Art Deco necklace? A rare Patek Philippe watch? Or maybe an early piece of English silver......well no, not any of those!
Nicks dream find takes him right back to his roots, right back to the beginning when his father first sent off to work. At the age of 17 Nick aquired a book which is still part of his research library. The book is titled - 'The history of Old Sheffield Plate - Being an account of the origins, growth and decay of the industry and of the Antique Silver and White or Britannia Metal trade' by Frederick Bradbury.
Amongst its many illustrated pages is one item that has to this day elluded Nick........a late 18th Century soup tureen in the form of a turtle! These tureens date from a time when turtle soup was an acceptable delicacy and the one in Nicks books comments that it is able to hold 5 Quarts! They must have been the height of luxury in the day and as such are seldom seen today! Will Nick ever manage to find one, well who knows? Do you have one of these wonderful characters at home? Could you make Nicks year and knock that Rolex off the top spot for his favourite item?
If by rare chance you have one, or if you'd like to know more about Rolex watches or have a piece of silver or jewellery that you'd like valued email firstname.lastname@example.org and he'll be delighted to help.
Posted on 20 April 2020