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Fancy Timeworks: A 19th-century Pistol Clock
Fancy Timeworks: A 19th-century Pistol Clock

By Devra Ferst

Published July 22, 2009, issue of July 31, 2009.

The case involving one of Israel’s most notorious heists has finally been cracked, and the looted goods, worth millions, are on display for all to see.

What was stolen? More than 100 watches and clocks from the collection of Sir David Salomons were taken while on display in Jerusalem at the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art.

In 1983, Naaman Diller, a notorious Israeli thief, stole the time pieces and sold many of them on the black market, while keeping some with him when he moved to Europe from Israel and then finally to the United States. The case remained a mystery until two years ago, when the museum purchased several of the pieces for $40,000 from an anonymous American woman.

The Israeli police traced the watches and clocks to Diller, who had confessed the crime to his wife on his deathbed several years earlier. All but 10 of the stolen timepieces were recovered and went on display July 21.

The collection includes a pocket watch that was commissioned by the royal court for Marie Antoinette. The timepiece, however, never made it to the former queen, as she was in prison by the time it was completed. The Antoinette watch, along with a clock in the shape of a pistol and with several others in the collection, was created by Abraham Louis Breguet, who lived from 1747 to 1823 and is considered one of the world’s most influential modern watchmakers.

Just to make sure the clocks don’t go anywhere this time, the exhibit is displayed in a large vault.

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