Swiss Automaton Watch, ca. 1810
Appraised Value: $25,000
IMAGE: 1 of 5
Appraisal Video: (2:29)
GUEST: Well, the gentleman in the miniature is Antony LaRopie, and he was given the watch by a dying comrade on the battlefield in one of Napoleon's battles. He was an officer in Napoleon's army, and he received also the French medal which he's shown there wearing.
APPRAISER: And who were the people in the photograph?
GUEST: The woman on the right is his wife, Sophia, and his daughter, Sophie.
APPRAISER: Yeah. And how were these people related to you?
GUEST: Well, they're actually related to my husband, and these pieces were inherited by his mother from a great aunt. They've always been in the family for the last five generations.
APPRAISER: Well, what fascinated me about this is that very often when we hear stories about something that was given to an ancestor, the object and the story don't quite match, but in this case they really do. And this is a watch that was made during the Napoleonic era. And it's quite an extraordinary watch, which is unlike probably anything you've ever seen, because even though there's a little time dial at the bottom of the watch, it's actually a mechanical automaton. And when you wind it up there's a little waterfall that plays, and there's a little man who would move. And it's in a gold case, got pearls around it. Have you ever seen it work?
GUEST: No. No, unfortunately I've not.
APPRAISER: Because I notice there's a little bit of damage to it.
GUEST: Yes, I understand that the man's head was broken off when a crystal was replaced many years ago.
APPRAISER: That's a genuine tragedy, because I was thinking-- waiting to come on-- how much my watchmaker would charge me to fix it. And... you know, I'm thinking, well, maybe he'd charge me $3,000, $4,000, maybe $5,000 to fix it. Now, that's an awful lot of money to spend.
APPRAISER: I don't really know what it's worth not working. Perhaps it's worth a few thousand dollars. But once it's fixed, one of these very rare automata is worth about $25,000.
GUEST: My goodness.
APPRAISER: They are quite extraordinary and very, very rare. I've seen a handful of these over the years.
GUEST: Well, I had no idea that was what it was, other than a pretty watch, so that's wonderful.
APPRAISER: It's wonderful that they've all stayed together, but it's also a little bit of a lesson on what not to do when one has a very, very nice watch, in that quite often more harm is done by bad repairs than just by leaving something all by itself. It's nothing that-- probably-- that can't be fixed, which is good.
This website is produced for PBS Online by WGBH Boston. ©1997-2015 WGBH Educational Foundation.
ANTIQUES ROADSHOW is a trademark of the BBC and is produced for PBS by WGBH under license from BBC Worldwide.
WGBH and PBS are not responsible for the content of websites linked to or from ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Online.
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.