Time Keeps on Slipping, Most Expensive Clocks in the World

Time keeps on slippin, slippin, slippin, into the future. Steve Miller wrote a classic song over 40 years ago, talking about time slipping away and flying like an Eagle. Each new year brings a few moments of reflection and some wonder where the time went. They start to hear Steve Miller singing in their head. The years fly by, and time will stop for nobody.

Before the days of iPhones in every pocket, there needed to be a way to keep the time so that it wouldn’t slip away. Every house had a clock of some sort until horologists designed miniature clocks that fit around the wrist; they called the inventions “watches.”

Time keeps on Slippin’… Into the future…

Some of the most amazing engineering on the planet came from clockmakers who designed the most expensive clocks in the world. They were able to bottle-up the passing of time and display it for all to see.

Duc D’Orleans Breguet Sympathique, $6.8 Million

In 1835, the Duc d’Orleans commissioned a clock by Breguet, which was one of the most expensive clocks to ever sell at auction. The clock was designed to hold a pocket watch inside, where it would be automatically adjusted and wound.

French watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet invented the Sympathique clock concept in 1795. He presented it to the public 3 years later, in 1798, at the Exposition Nationale des Produits de I’Industrie.

This particular model was one of the best-preserved clocks of its kind, completely repaired by a legendary horologist and master watchmaker, George Daniels. The clock rested at the Time Museum in Rockford, Illinois, for many years before it was sold in 1999 to a private investor for $5.7 million. In 2012, the clock was again offered at auction where it sold for $6.8 million.

There are 12 known Sympathique clocks remaining. Three were made for the Spanish Crown, four were created for the Russian Crown, one was commissioned by Napoleon, and another was made for British King George IV.

most expensive clocks
Duc D’Orleans Breguet Sympathique

Prague Astronomical Clock, Value unknown

Created in 1380, the Prague Astronomical Clock has been keeping time for centuries as one of the world’s oldest functioning astronomical clocks.

most expensive clocks
The Prague Astronomical Clock is one of the oldest fuctional astronomical clocks in the world.

Known as The Orloj, the astronomical clock in Prague has many functions beyond telling time. It provides the date and shows zodiacal and astronomical readings. The clock’s dial features the sun and moon positioning in the sky using a mechanical astrolabe. Used in ancient times, an astrolabe was a handheld model of the universe that influenced the creation of astronomical clocks.

The main background of the Prague Astronomical Clock displays ancient Czech time. Toward the center shows a set of Roman numerals showing 24 hour time. The variations of blue and red colors indicate sunrise, daybreak, daytime, and nighttime.

astrological clock
Prague’s Astrological Clock

Magpie’s Treasure Nest Clock, $2.3 Million

The Magpie’s Treasure Nest Clock sold for $2.3 million at a Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong in 2013, making it one of the most expensive clocks in the world. Designed by Patek Philippe with nearly 25 carats of diamonds and over 13 carats of rubies and arranged on a sculpted base of calcite, agate, and onyx.

The clock was built in 1992 and sold for $640,000. It features a bird dropping a 104-carat tanzanite pendant into a nest.

most expensive clocks
Magpie’s Treasure Nest Clock

Flamingo and Lotus Automation Clock, $1.2 Million

The Flamingo and Lotus Automation clock, built by Cartier, sold at a Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong in 2013 for $1.2 million. The rectangular base is made from 18k of yellow gold with onyx and hardstone. The total weight of the colorless diamonds is approximately 190 carats.

most expensive clocks
The flamingo and Lotus Automation Clock by Cartier

The Royal Tompion Clock, $2 Million

The “Father of English Clockmaking” was involved in some of the most historic and important clocks and watches of all-time. Thomas Tompion created The Royal Tompion clock for Queen Mary II in 1693. After the Queen’s death, the clock may have passed out of royal hands the following year.

Later in the 20th century, the clock was owned by Sir James Caird, a shipowner who influenced the creation of The National Maritime Museum at Greenwich.

The clock is known as one of the smallest ebony repeating table clocks.

most expensive clocks
The Royal Tompion Clock

Chinese Ormolu Clock, $4 Million

The Chinese Ormolu clock is one of the most impressive multi-functioning clocks ever built. The clock features music, a leaping fish, moving birds, and an automated function that raises curtains to reveal painted flowers and banisters. Dating back to 1736, the clock was recently sold for over $4 million at auction.

most valuable clocks
The Chinese Ormolu Clock

Rothschild Faberge Egg Clock, $18 Million

The jeweled, enameled, and decorated egg was created by the Russian jeweler Peter Carl Faberge in 1902. The egg was a gift from Beatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild as an engagement gift to Germaine Halphen, who would marry Beatrice’s younger brother, Edouard Alphonse de Rothschild.

Every hour, a diamond set cockerel pops up from the top of the egg and flaps it’s wings four times while crowing, and nods his head three times.

The Rothschild Faberge Egg clock is one of the few eggs not made for the Russian Imperial family. It has remained in the Rothschild family collection until it was sold at a Christie’s auction in 2007.

most expensive clocks

18th Century Automaton Clock, $3.7 Million

In 2015, a scarce musical automaton clock from the late 18th century sold for $3.7 million during an online auction. The Chinese Imperial clock is from the Guangzhou workshop from the Qing Dynasty. With only a few clocks such as this privately owned, they rarely come to market.

The clock represents the magical mountain Penglai, which is regarded as the place of the ‘Eight Immortals’ of Taoism.

The clock was purchased by well-known collector and investor Liu Yiqian from Shanghai, who also owns a small porcelain cup from the Ming dynasty known as ‘chicken cup,’ for $36 million.

most expensive clocks
18th Century Automaton Clock

10,000 Year Clock, $42 Million

While researching expensive and obscure clocks, I found one that might top the list as not only one of the most expensive clocks but one of the most interesting concepts I’ve ever heard of. There’s a team of clock builders who’ve been working on a clock for the last 20 years.

It’s called the ‘10,000 Year Clock,’ and it will be constructed inside a mountain in West Texas. Inventor, engineer and designer Danny Hillis is the mastermind behind the clock. It’s hundreds of feet tall and designed to tick for 10,000 years. Not only that, but the clock is built to play a melody from time to time.

The melody played by chimes inside the clock is a melody that’s never been played before, truly original each time. The chimes have been programmed not to repeat themselves for the next 10,000 years.

10,000 year clock
The 10,000 year clock built inside a mountain. This is a real thing, it’s actually happening.

Why is a team of scientists and engineers building a giant clock inside a mountain that will keep time for 10,000 years? A good answer to the question comes from the clock’s inventor, Danny Hillis, he says,

I cannot imagine the future, but I care about it. I know I am a part of a story that starts long before I can remember and continues long beyond when anyone will remember me. I sense that I am alive at a time of important change, and I feel a responsibility to make sure that the change comes out well. I plant my acorns knowing that I will never live to harvest the oaks.

Danny Hillis, LongNow.org

The clock was formed by Danny Hillis and the Long Now Foundation, which hopes to make long-term thinking more common. It also has a heavy hitter behind the project’s funding, Jeff Bezos, of Amazon invested $42 million in the project. Bezos actually owns the mountain, which he eventually plans to use as a Blue Orgin spaceport.

Time-lapse inside the 10,000 year clock built by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos