Friday November 23, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Twelve bidders started off the auction at Fontaine's Auction Gallery, but by the time bids reached $165,000, it had fizzled down to two competing for the 10-foot tall antique clock from the esteemed clock company E. Howard & Co.

Even in 1885, the E. Howard Astronomical Regulator No. 46 carried the hefty price of a house at $665, according to John Fontaine, owner of the Pittsfield auction house.

"No one came close to the quality of this clock," Fontaine said. "If you want the best, you want to get it from Howard."

There are only seven of the clock series in the world, Fontaine said. Crafted by the foremost clock manufacturer of its time, the hand-carved clock made of American Walnut with a burled trim was a beauty envied by those who fancied timekeepers.

The clock had been in the possession of a family in Indiana, Fontaine said. The family -- which declined to comment -- did not know what they had, but Fontaine immediately knew after it was described to him over the phone.

"These are clocks that are meant to be very precise," he said.

The E. Howard Astro nomical Regulators would set the time for other clocks back in the early 1900s, he said.

Humidity can leave a clock seconds off, but the No. 46 -- which needs to be wound once a week -- had a compensating pendulum that "would put it back to perfect."

Four years ago, Fontaine said his auction house set a record for a Howard clock, selling it for $195,000.


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Last Saturday, the Howard clock was up for auction and Fontaine said he immediately knew it would sell for more than the setting price of $150,000 because of the dozens competing for it.

Unlike other clocks, it was a family heirloom that was well taken care of without being refurbished.

The betting war spiraled upward past $200,000.

By day's end, an unidentified man in Indiana -- where the clock had already been taken from -- beat out another man from Texas.

The winning bid was $230,000.

"If [someone] wants one, they aren't going to say wait for one later," Fontaine said. "It's not going to come up."