Asplund auction


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Jeff Kelley

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All I can do is apply the first hand experience and general knowledge that I have. I am aware that in general all auction houses do not always do as much leg work as they could, and the description says “possibly”, not “presumably” or “almost certainly”, etc. If they had it on good advice that the movement was lost in recovery, then they could (and should) have listed those details. From what I have seen discussed in this thread, there was no evidence offered in support of their comment, which leads me to suspect that it is pure speculation rather than based on an expert’s consultation.

We are all inclined or instructed to have a healthy skepticism when it comes to assessing Titanic artifacts. Why all of a sudden are we to take the word of a seller at face value and not question obvious or apparent inconsistencies? The fact remains that the description contains assertions or suggestions that are (apparently) not backed up with evidence (at least none that was disclosed), and those assertions or suggestions will increase the value of the item come auction time.
 

Mike Poirier

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Well there is nothing wrong with healthy skepticism. No one can fault you for that. However, have you seen the full catalog? Are you aware that many people helped with the preparation of the catalog? I doubt someone like Stanley Lehrer, who has one of the largest of original Titanic collections would put his name on that list if he thought Aldridge was not being honest in their descriptions. There are many prominent names in fact, and few names I do not know. Perhaps one is a horologist. Hard to say, but as I asked before, why not question the source... Why not ask the Aldridge family? What if they answer you with 'I contacted this horologist or that watch association and this what they told us...'?
 
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Jeff Kelley

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I would LOVE to hear them answer this way. But why not promote that as part of the description? "A leading expert in pocket watches has examined the item and believes/suggests/speculates that...."
 

Mike Poirier

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Hi Jeff,

Yes, that would be nice. But if you look at the actual catalog, there is a minimum space for descriptions due to the large volume of items being auctioned.
 

Mike Poirier

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Ok Tim... why don't you send in the suggestion. Meanwhile, I suppose you could start your own rival auction house. I guess you could ask the same experts like Stanley Lehrer and Craig Sopin, among countless others assist. Report back to me in 6 months and let me know how you are faring.
 
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Timothy Trower

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Thanks, Eric. As a printer, I find it fascinating the way that print customers will trim pages, illustrations and even use smaller type faces in order to save $50 on a $10,000 job. That kind of niggardly attitude does no one any favors -- especially in a case like this where more information could only help the sale of an item, or at least explain the rationalization behind the limited explanation of the missing movement.

However, when you pointed out this passage from their current catalogue, it made things fall into place. I quote ... "Neither the auctioneers nor the sellers are responsible for any reference to the condition of the lots listed. The absence of any such reference does not imply that a lot is in good condition or free from faults or imperfections. Intending buyers must satisfy themselves to the condition of any lot. Attention is drawn to Clause 11. Henry Aldridge and Son do not accept responsibility for the authenticity, attribution genuiness, origin, authorship, date, age, period, condition or quality of any lot."

Let's take another look at this sentence ... "Intending buyers must satisfy themselves to the condition of any lot." Correct me if I'm wrong, Eric, but that seems to be the aim of many of the inquiries on this thread. If I as a buyer were going to consider buying the watch in question, I would be an idiot to blindly accept the description without first doing proper research to ensure beyond a shadow of a doubt that the item is authentic.

Of course, this disclaimer also ends with language that will absolve the auction house if provenance or somesuch is found to be flawed -- some lawyer must have had fun writing these words: "Henry Aldridge and Son do not accept responsibility for the authenticity, attribution genuiness, origin, authorship, date, age, period, condition or quality of any lot."

So, if the description is lacking, and the auction house is unwilling to accept responsibility for a flawed sale, it really and truly is up to the prospective buyer to do his or her homework.
 

Mike Poirier

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Well now Tim,

That is standard for any auction house... If you can find a major auction house where it isn't, do let us know. Looking at various other catalogs just for sales, Richard Faber's for example. It has brief descriptions (no pictures) and just a quote about items being 'certified to be original, authentic". Now, there is no provenance or anything attached to anything written in his catalog. Yet, like Aldridge, he has an excellent reputation.

It's odd... You are so horrified about the provenance of the watch, yet, Aldridge leaves all his contact information. I am sure he would gladly help you- if only you'd ask. So I would take your own advice and do the homework.

Hmmm... But if it is all a fiendish plot, maybe the Pitman ticket is a fraud too...
 

Mike Poirier

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And let's be intellectually honest here Tim. Here is one of the most important things in Aldridge's catalog-

"If within seven days after the sale Henry Aldridge and Son have received from the buyer of any lot in writing that in his view the lot is a deliberate forgery and within fourteen days of any such notification the buyer returns the same to Henry Aldridge and Son in the same condition of sale, and by producing evidence, the burden of proof to be upon the buyer, satisfies Henry Aldridge and Son that considered in the light of the entry in the catalogue the lot is a deliberate forgery., then the sale of the lot will be rescinded and the purchase price of the same will be refunded"

Perhaps, you glossed over it?
 

Eric Longo

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Hi Mike, Tim;

doesn't Christie's of South Kensington give the original invoice holder five years for deliberate forgeries? Granted, my Christie's auction catalogues are a few years old (kept for autograph and memorabilia references) but they do mention a five year limit. Twenty-one days seems to me a rather short time to authenticate something properly, possibly send the item out for analysis etc. and also get it back to them. Obviously, I am speaking of general terms and not the watch mentioned above.

Best,
Eric
 

Mike Poirier

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I tend to think most buyers from large auction houses are well-informed and willing to ask questions before hand and if possible- examine the item.

http://www.onslows.co.uk/Pdf%20files/Conditions08.pdf

Read 10 A and B

Onslows does not give a time limit, but also adds that if the auction house deems it also to be a fraud... Well, what if they do not accept that is a fraud... then what...
 

Mike Poirier

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Also, if you read this
Section 3 of Sotheby's terms and conditions of business entitled Duties of Bidders and of Sotheby's in respect of items for sale are as follows:

Sotheby's accepts bids solely on the basis that bidders (and independent experts on their behalf, to the extent given the nature and value of the lot and the bidders own expertise) have fully inspected the lot prior to bidding and have satisfied themselves as to both the condition of lot and the accuracy of description.
 

Eric Longo

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Hi Mike,

I'd like to agree with you about most buyers doing their homework, such as reading all these conditions thoroughly, but I am hesitant.
I read Onslow's Conditions 10(a) and 10(b), which you cited. Now read 10(e). Onslow's does indeed stipulate a time limit of one year, after which they are discharged and released from basically anything.
I just got off the phone with Christie's New York and both the NY and Kensington locations still offer a five year period for items deemed to be deliberate forgeries.
To your scenario - from what I read court decisions have fallen on both sides. Sometimes with the auction house (Schiele painting 1980's) or with the buyer (Turner painting 1990).

Best,
Eric
 

Mike Poirier

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Hi Eric,

As I said earlier, they may have section E, however, as you read the rest of the contract, they have the right to refuse such claims. So yes, they give you a lengthier period of time, however, if they chose to refuse your claim, despite evidence in hand, they can do so... I'm sure you realize it is all legalese. And if a court case ensues, as you pointed out- sometimes it works- sometimes it doesn't.

Mike
 
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Jeff Kelley

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I really do appreciate the benefit of the above discussions about the limitations on the auction house’s responsibilities and obligations and the perspectives they offer.

The fine print serves to reaffirm my disappointment that the auction house seems to have baited potential buyers with apparently unsubstantiated speculation about the missing movement. The burden is on the bidder to reassure himself that the claims are true, and it seems like the more claims that are made, the harder it is for the bidder to do that prior to the auction.

So, we first have to accept the provenance that this watch was in Mr. Asplund’s possession on that fateful night; I do accept that and trust that the auction house represented that accurately. However, beyond that (missing movement, hands frozen at the time of the sinking), there just is not sufficient opportunity for the average person to confirm the details in the description. I assume (but am not sure) that the auction house would not make the watch available for close inspection and partial dismantling.

I did see the picture of the watch, and I did not see the “obvious trauma” referenced in the description, although I am sure it is there from another angle. My point, however, is that the front “cover” seems to be intact and functioning, so the trauma could not likely have been severe enough to cause the case to be compromised to the extent that the movement could have exposed and then dislodged “during recovery” (when the watch was in Mr. Asplund’s pocket, no less).

The fact remains that the reason for the missing movement suggested in the description is not among the most likely ones, yet it is the only one offered, and it is offered without a specific reason.
 

Mike Poirier

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May I ask why you have not contacted the auction house? Instead just repeating that you don't believe that the description is believable to you. If they do not respond in a reasonable time, I can see where you would have a reasonable concern, but if they direct you to the horologist used, why not? Doesn't it seem equally unlikely that a grieving widow would decide to take off the back of a watch and remove a few pieces, and then leave it unrepaired? Since the items were all together, it looks like it was all placed there and that was it. Again, speculation, but who is to say, until someone actually contacts the auction house...

And as stated above in the contracts above, people can inspect items, ask questions... It's very unlikely that a novice will be bidding at an auction house like Christie's or Aldridges.
 
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Jeff Kelley

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What seems absolutely likely is that someone tried to repair the watch at some point. I have clearly stated the reasons why I believe this is the most reasonable scenario. What you have offered seems like little more than blind faith in this auction house. (As for the list of experts associated with the auction house, I doubt most if any of them had any input in this particular aspect of the description. Besides, experts don’t impress me — their EXPERTISE impresses me — and I am not aware that any has been demonstrated in this situation.)

I may or may not contact the auction house, but if I did I would expect a good measure of indignation and push-back from them — even more so than has occurred on this thread - since they have a financial stake in the auction.

I personally don’t really care what comes of this auction as I won’t be bidding. However, I don’t think this situation paints a very good picture of some of the practices that go on in the auction world.
 
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Jeff Kelley

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By the way, elsewhere on the auction site these comments are included in a summary of the Asplund collection:

“The collection comprises of a number of significant items including a pocket watch which stopped at the exact moment the Titanic sank” and “The watch is one of the most iconic lots in the auction as the hands are frozen in time at 2.19am, a moment before Titanic sank beneath the waves and when Carl Asplund entered the frozen waters of the North Atlantic.”

I would suggest that the auction house’s speculation over the cause of the movement’s disappearance is directly in support of their efforts to promote the watch as “iconic”. If it were suggested that the movement were removed later, that might call into question the position of the hands, and that would rob the watch of significant aura and, subsequently, value.

I have no financial interest in promoting my theory, but the auction house definitely has a huge financial interest in promoting theirs. Or, to put it another way, as a seller, I would be inclined to support their approach, but as a buyer I would insist on mine.
 

Mike Poirier

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Well, they are a reputable auction house that has been open many years, I would think you would get the answer you were looking for as they are professionals.

Why you expect acrimony is beyond me... To them, I am sure, this is just a message board, that probably won't be swaying customers anytime soon... Especially, since you are not a horologist, have nothing to do with the watch, and seem reluctant the actually go to the source for an answer.

The auction will be going on soon, and if you do email, I am sure you will get an answer within the week. Especially since you have such concern. I probably would, from now on, also check the other auction house catalogs and make sure that also publish in a similar manner.
 
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