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The best seller, always the favourite for the slot, was this late 17th century pocket watch, right, with the reverse of the case enamelled with The Toilet of Venus and another scene of figures in a landscape to the interior.

With a single-hand 13/4in (4.5cm) silver dial engraved with a vase and a movement signed Robert Lochard, London, the watch was consigned by the local vendor whose uncle bought it from the estate of John Player Jnr.

Although it was catalogued a/f, the watch is illustrated in Britten’s 1904 Old Clocks and Watches and was important and attractive enough to warrant a £4000-6000 estimate.

Bidders agreed and one of two rival collectors in the room finally beat a London specialist dealer with a bid of £7100.

From the same source came the cover lot – a miniature oval watercolour of the young Queen Victoria. Attributed to Sir William Charles Ross but unsigned, the 21/3in (6cm) portrait was estimated at up to £1000 but took a trade bid of £3300.

More of a surprise at the Devon sale was the reaction to a 19th century Continental carved wood study of a St Bernard dog. The 18in (46cm) wide piece was only expected to fetch around £200-300 but it had considerably more appeal. A dealer, buying the piece for his own collection, was pushed to £1550 to secure it.