Michael Bennett-Levy's extraordinary collection of early technologies went under the hammer at Bonhams in London on Wednesday with 90% of the 758 lots on offer sold for a total of £683,384. A tidy sum no doubt, but having had the opportunity to examine the treasure trove closely, and the benefit of speaking at length to Bennett-Levy about the significance of key items, we can't help but conclude that many pieces were a steal for shrewd investors. The largest privately held collection of early televisions in the world - including 26 pre-war sets - made up a large slice of the auction and in the first of a series of interviews, Michael Bennett-Levy talks to Gizmag about outstanding items in his collection, starting with the much sought after Teleavia type P111, a rare 1958 console-stand television by Citroën DS designer Flaminio Bertroni that was not only a hallmark in style, but also one of the earliest examples of high-definition TV.
One look at this television and it's no surprise to learn that its designer was also responsible for the distinctive Citroen DS which was first produced in 1955. It features a 19-inch screen with white mask, in a tapered-hood case in deep purple with a gold trim. The controls and speaker sit in the rectangular box below and the screen can be turned independently through 150-degrees as well as angled vertically.
The set is also "dual standard", with capability to show 441 lines (which became the standard from 1952) along with a high definition facility of 819 lines, meaning it is high-definition even by today's standards. This system began in France in 1949 but never really got off the ground. Bennett-Levy speculates that Teleavia may have been trying to "future-proof" the P111 in case the French government decided to resurrect the service.
The television sold for £2,400 at the Bonhams auction.