Ethiopia – Emperor Menelik's Watch sold for $52,000 at Geneva auction

A watch made specially for Ethiopia ‘s emperor Menelik II, has sold for $51,607.20 at an auction in Geneva , Switzerland . The very rare and historically important watch is made of 18K Yellow Gold and sold for 52,500 CHF which is about $51,607.20 based on XE’s currency conversion.


The watch is also known as The ‘Negus Watch’. The following is the note published on Sotheby’s auction catalog.

Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia , (1844 – 1913), was baptised Sahle Maryam and was known as Negus of Shewa from 1866 to 1889 and finally as Nəgusä Nägäst of Ethiopia from 1889 to his death.

‘The Negus Watch’ stands for progress, innovation and modernity, which in turn are key characteristics of the reign of Emperor Menelik II. The Watch was a gift to Léon Chefneux in 1893 in recognition of his contribution to the implementation of Ethiopia ‘s first railway line, which ran from Djibouti to Addis-Ababa. Specifically, in his choice of the Watch, it is highly likely that Menelik II was influenced by the Swiss engineer, Alfred Ilg who was responsible for the construction of the railway system. The Negus is a precision timekeeper with chronometer detent escapement.

As inscribed on the inside of the case ‘Don de Sa Majesté Menelik II Empereur d’Ethiopie’, the Watch was probably presented as a welcome gift before the commercial agreement signed by the Compagnie Impériale des Chemins de fer Ethiopiens, a company founded by Alfred Ilg and Léon Chefneux.

Menelik II took an independent stance in relation to other colonised countries in Africa . He was intrigued by modernity and actively sought to introduce Western technological and administrative advances in Ethiopia . Notably, Menelik II founded the first modern bank in Ethiopia , the Bank of Abyssinia, he introduced the modern postal system, the supply of electricity to Addis-Ababa and telephone and telegraph systems.

Inevitably this desire for modernity mostly impacted the capital, Addis-Abeba, which became a large cosmopolitan city and an important destination for traders from around the world, typically Armenian, Yemenite, Greek, Indian and French merchants worked in Addis-Abeba at this time. Menelik II’s accomplishments were also down to his charismatic personality and his genius at diplomacy with Western powers, mainly France and Great Britain . His charm remained a powerful asset until the final years of his reign.

‘The Negus Watch’ has remained in the same family for over 100 years and it is the first time it has appeared at auction. It is an historical fragment from a pivotal period in the history of Ethiopia and encapsulates the visionary role played by Emperor Menelik II.

6 thoughts on “Ethiopia – Emperor Menelik's Watch sold for $52,000 at Geneva auction

  1. The watch was given to king Menelik for doing business with them. that is why his name is written all over it. There is a Ghez numbers written on it so that the king can understand and use it with out any problem. Leon Chefnuex doesnt read Ghez. He gave the king the watch not the king to Leon. this is to confuse people so that the person who stole the watch from the Royal familys house from USA would not be cought. the first buyer from the thief btween 2009 and 2010 should be able to tell us who sold it to him. this is a clascical froud case that needs an investgation by the authoritys and brought to justes because, this is Ethiopian tresure.

  2. I think who ever brought this news or who ever discovered this news that the watch is on auction and says the Emperor gave away his gift to Leon as a gift has to bring the evidence and show it to the Ethiopian people. where did the news first come from? who discover the tatch is in auction? who is the saler? where was this watch all this time? how did it endup in auction? Is Leon still alive? if so where is he? was it in his familys house all this time if so why did they deside to sale the watch now? Ethio sun, Tadias and Nazret news has to answer this quitions. we have said the watch has been stolen from USA several times, now we are asking the news media to tell as and explain all this quitions. THANK YOU

  3. Tadias news media siad Emperor Menilik gave the watch to Leon Chefneux as a gift in recognition of his contributions to the emplementation of the first railway in Ethiopia, where is the decument to suport that? what was the deal about Jeubuity given to French Gov. for 99 years in exchange to the railway?
    TADIAS, arent you misleading the Ethiopian people in telling the story reversed? It was the French government who desined the watch to King Meneliks name writen in Ghez nembers so that the king can read it and gave him as a gift in doing business with them. not King Menelik who gave the watch to the french man as a gift. Leon dosent read Ghez and his name is not writen on it saying a gift to Leon. Tadias you better tell us how you came up with this story and why.

  4. The wife of the can artist who stole Empeor Meneliks watch which they soled should be investigated as well. because she has contributed to all the things he has comitted. She live with him and their two children in Arlington Verginia for over 10 years. The woman never worked in the United State even one day. she just councles him in to any thing he does as he him self said it. NOw she and her two children are in Canada Toronto and he is in Ethiopia. He couldnt go to Canada because when he was there, before he came to the Us to work for the Crown Prince, what ever crime he has commited in Canada he couldnt go back to Canada with his family. When he was told to get out of the US he whent to Ethiopia tell the Ethiopian people on the radio who are in Washington area he is taking the Royality to Ethiopia which another ly.

  5. Nazret news media is misleading the public by saying King Menelik gave his gift back to the giver as a gift. the only logical sense I can came with is, may be Nazret has being paid to say that so that the thief canot be cought.

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