Record breaking WWI Cartier watch sells for over £15,000 at auction

A magnificent Cartier Tonneau watch which belonged to a WWI Captain who fought on the Western Front has sold for £15,312 (including fees) at Fellows Auctioneers. This has broken the house record at Fellows for the highest price ever achieved for a Cartier watch. The remarkable 107-year-old timepiece, named Tonneau due to its barrel shape, still works and contains scuffs likely to have been picked up from the war. The watch was subject to a huge bidding war in Fellows Auctioneers’ Luxury Watch Sale, a behind-closed-doors auction which took place in Birmingham on Monday 15th February. The watch had an estimate of £6,000 – £8,000, selling for a hammer price of £12,000. Included with the lot were medals belonging to the WWI Captain, an authentication document from Cartier and a later watch box.

The Cartier watch and a group of medals which are included with the lot

The Cartier Tonneau launched in 1906, and this is the second ever wristwatch model designed by Louis Cartier. This particular watch was originally sold by the French company’s London store in October 1914, and was gifted by the military to the esteemed Captain whose engravings are on the back. It was a highlight item in Fellows’ first auction of watches in 2021. The watch sold at approximately 11:45am on Monday 15th February, and there were several bidders both online and on the telephones. Auctioneer Stephen Whittaker sold the lot as the fierce bidding war lasted over three minutes. The eventual winner of the watch was a telephone bidder.

The Cartier timepiece has inscribed on the back: “A.D. Thomson, 152 Inf Bde., 51st High Div., 1/5/15”. Thomson served as Captain in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders during the war. The 51st Highland Division fought on the Western Front in France from 1915 – 1918. The Division was rushed to the Western Front in May 1915, the same month that A.D. Thomson received the watch. It is likely that it was gifted to him by the military before he was sent out to fight on the Western Front. An authentication document from Cartier clarifies that the watch was sold by Cartier, London, in October 1914.

The watch features as Lot 48 in the sale

The seller purchased the Cartier watch for £1,000 from the Thomson family in 1994. The watch has largely been unused in the last 30 years, only being worn at two weddings since 1994. The medals included with the lot were also passed across to the seller. There are eight medals included with the purchase, belonging to Thomson and what is believed to be Thomson’s father. Great War medals awarded to Thomson for his service are among the several which were purchased alongside the Cartier.

Sporting a beautiful 18ct yellow gold case, the Tonneau Curvex Cartier watch has a manual wind movement. It features a silvered dial with Roman numeral hour markers. The watch is fitted to an unsigned brown leather strap with an 18ct yellow gold deployant clasp. Measuring 21mm, the watch still works and is in a remarkably good condition for its age. The watch contains a few noticeable marks and wear which are likely to have been picked up during the First World War.

Michael Jagiela, Senior Specialist from the Watch Department at Fellows Auctioneers, said: “Our first Luxury Watch Sale of 2021 has started with a bang. We are extremely proud to have achieved our highest ever auction price for a Cartier watch. This is a truly phenomenal timepiece, with a fascinating backstory that relates to a decorated WWI Captain. With Thomson’s medals and an authentication document also included with the lot, we expected many bidders on this item so it was not a surprise to see it sell for a high price. It was thrilling experience to watch the bidding war take place. The buyer of this watch has purchased a piece of timepiece history.”

You May Also Like