Historic Pocket Watch from Battle of Trafalgar Era Heads to Auction


An antique pocket watch, believed to have been utilized by a naval officer during the famous Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, is set to be auctioned.

This 235-year-old silver timepiece comes with a compelling history and was accompanied by a handwritten note from 1897, offering insights into its past ownership.

Provenance Revealed

The watch’s intriguing history was unveiled when it was brought for evaluation at Hansons Auctioneers’ Derbyshire saleroom by a collector from Nottinghamshire who had acquired it approximately two decades ago.

note accompanying the watch unveiled its lineage, tracing back to Captain Charles Bennett, the great-grandfather of James H Waters, who wrote the note.

Captain Bennett had served on the vessel “the Tonnant at Trafalgar.”

Auction Details

The historic pocket watch will be presented in Hansons’ fine art auction on October 6, with an estimated value ranging from £400 to £500.

This valuable timepiece offers a tangible link to the Battle of Trafalgar, a significant naval engagement in British history.

Historical Insights

Matt Crowson, a militaria expert at Hansons, emphasized the significance of the handwritten note in shedding light on the watch’s historical context.

The note mentioned a seal attached to the watch chain, given to Captain Bennett by a French officer from the ship “Algesiras.”

Trafalgar Connection

The note’s contents strongly suggest that Captain Bennett carried this watch with him during the Battle of Trafalgar, where HMS Tonnant, a ship with historical significance, played a vital role.

HMS Tonnant had a fierce encounter with the French flagship Algesiras during the battle, culminating in the capture of the latter by British forces.

Lieutenant Charles Bennett’s Role

Lieutenant Charles Bennett, later referred to as “Captain” in the handwritten note, led a boarding party from HMS Tonnant that took control of Algesiras during the intense battle.

However, the British sailors found themselves in a precarious situation when Algesiras began drifting away, damaged.

A Difficult Decision

Lt. Bennett was faced with a difficult decision – whether to resist the French’s claim on the ship, which could have led to dire consequences for his men, or to cooperate with the French to save the vessel and spare lives.

Bennett chose the latter option, working alongside the French to reassemble three masts and allowing the ship to sail to Cadiz.

Post-Trafalgar Promotion

While official records from Trafalgar confirm Bennett as the 3rd Officer on HMS Tonnant, the handwritten note referred to him as “Captain,” suggesting a potential post-Trafalgar promotion.

This antique pocket watch, with its rich history and ties to the Battle of Trafalgar, is a unique and valuable artifact set to be auctioned to collectors and history enthusiasts alike.

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