Clocks, which progressively replaced sundials in the 16th Century, became increasingly essential in the life of humans from then on. Today, these are much sought by collectors.
Men have always had a ferocious appetite for measuring time. During many centuries they relied on the movement of the sun with sundials or that of stars with astrolabes or simply on water clocks or hourglasses.
At the end of the Middle Age period, clocks were generally installed in the towers of churches and those of town-houses in order to regulate city life while only a few people had the privilege of having time pieces in their homes.
Today the world lives with electronic or even nuclear clocks adjusted to the precision of 1/100th or even 1/1000th of a second so as to cling to the speed of various activities. New technologies have naturally been counterbalanced by some kind of nostalgia regarding less precise ancient clocks that were synonymous with an easygoing life whereby being five or ten minutes late for an appointment did not really matter. Now, many people have been showing a keen interest in hand-made instruments that are pure marvels among human creations.
First of all, let us start with French clocks, which are much in demand on the market. These can be usually found in many auction rooms around the world despite the fact that many good pieces have already been sold during the past three decades.
A majority of customers are Belgians, British, Dutch, Germans, Italians as well as Americans while prices have been skyrocketing during the past ten years. As an example, an 18th Century clock-organ called the «Monkeys' concert» sold for 3 541 000 FF (US $ 575,000) at Drouot, Paris, on June 26th 1996 (pre-empted by the Petit Palais Museum). On December 14th 1996, a Louis XVI clock with a bust of Minerva, went for 3 540 500 FF (US $ 574,900) at Sotheby's in Monaco. On June 18th 1997, a Régence Boulle marquetry clock reached 3 103 912 FF (US $ 503,850) at Drouot while another Boulle clock of the late 17th Century decorated with a statue of Venus wearing a garland of flowers, her feet resting on a shell with Eros at her side, culminated at 5 895 000 FF (US $ 956,980) at Christie's, New York, on October 21st 1997.