The Paul & Terry Somerson Collection

Largest private collection of American Arts & Crafts metalwork and jewelry

Paul Somerson
Paul Somerson

On May 5, 2019, Toomey & Co. held a single-owner auction, The Paul & Terry Somerson Collection of 20th and 21st Century Metalwork and Jewelry. This carefully curated sale showcased the largest private collection of American Arts & Crafts metalwork and jewelry ever assembled. The Somerson Collection also featured a range of impressive works by modern and contemporary silversmiths and makers. Altogether, 500 lots were included in the auction, the sell-through rate was 93%, and the total result with premium was $650,000.

Paul Somerson was a highly successful tech journalist and author in the 1980s and 1990s. In 2001, Paul and his wife Terry began collecting American Arts & Crafts metalwork and jewelry as well as Stickley furniture, art pottery tiles, and vintage photography. Paul eventually founded, a guide to Chicago's renowned Kalo Shop and other Arts & Crafts makers. On May 25, 2018, Paul died unexpectedly at age 68. We were deeply saddened by his passing, but it was a distinct honor to handle The Paul & Terry Somerson Collection.

Since 2019, Toomey & Co. has offered a variety of additional material from The Somerson Collection at auction.


Founded in 1884 by Léon Breitling, Swiss luxury watchmaker Breitling is best known for its precision-made chronometers designed for aviators. Breitling founded his company with the goal of creating watches and timing instruments of superior accuracy to keep up with the rapidly progressing fields of industry, science, and sports. His primary obsession, however, was aviation. Pilots were in need of an easy-to-use timer and pocket watches, en vogue at the time, were too awkward to use in the cockpit. Breitling’s innovative solution was the world’s first wrist-worn chronograph with a push piece separate to the crown. It became a popular adornment both in the air and on the ground.

Breitling also gained recognition for their aeronautical timing instruments and were contracted to make chronographs for the Royal Air Force in WWII. The company was able to navigate changing tastes and styles and by the 1950s were producing slimmer, elegant watches for men as well as timepieces for women, an oft-overlooked market at that time. They continued to also design new chronographs, with Willy Breitling (Léon’s grandson) designing their iconic Navitimer in 1952. One of their watches even went to space in 1962 when Lt. Commander Scott Carpenter orbited the earth three times while wearing a Navitimer Cosmonaute.

The company remained a family-owned business up until 1979 and continues to be an innovative and desirable brand for aviators, divers, captains, and lovers of exceptional design around the world.

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