See also : Clocks French time pieces English time pieces Meissen Silverware
1600-1610 Augsburg Elephant
2021 SOLD for $ 2.6M by Christie's
Four centuries later the Augsburg craftsmen were skilled to develop new machines enabling some playful entertainment on the banquet table beside the high variety of silver salts.
The model of the mechanical Augsburg elephant is directly inspired in its form and motion from al-Jazari's automaton. No less than ten Augsburg elephant clocks are known to survive. The beast is standing on a pedestal in which a mechanism enables a tight circular travel on the table. The clock is posed on its back like a minaret saddle, exactly like on al-Jazari's master model.
An elephant clock made in Augsburg ca 1600-1610 has just been restituted to a branch of the Rothschild after a Nazi spoliation in 1938. It was sold for $ 2.6M from a lower estimate of $ 700K by Christie's on October 13, 2021, lot 7. It is stated in the catalogue as "partially non-functioning but largely intact".
This piece 36 cm high including the 9 cm wood pedestal is made of silvered bronze, enameled silver and gilt bronze. The clock has an enameled dial on two opposite sides of the minaret plus glass windows revealing the gears from the other two sides.
In addition to the travel of the pedestal, the automata consist of a circular movement of the upper platform of the minaret holding four warriors, plus a back and forward movement of the eyes of the elephant. Two non-automated figures of armed putti carved in the round are driving the elephant, one riding it and the other beside it.
1677 Knibb Table Clock
2012 SOLD for £ 1.27M by Sotheby's
Not only it was one of the most useful of all inventions but also, by raising the skills of the mechanical craftsmen, it was certainly a key to the start of the industrial revolution.
Joseph Knibb, who worked in London since 1670, was one of those masters of the time. Skilled clockmaker, he was a precursor and perhaps one of the inventors of the anchor escapement, a basic accessory designed to ensure the isochrony of the pendulum as a function of the deflection angle.
Back to the beginnings of his career. The horological collection of the watchmaker George Daniels, auctioned on November 6, 2012 by Sotheby's, included a clock made by Joseph Knibb, sold for £ 1.27M from a lower estimate of £ 600K, lot 130.
Dated 1677, it has the shape already usual in his time of the table clock, a cube with a handle. This luxurious piece is in ebony, with Roman numerals on the dial.
1693 Tompion Q Clock
2019 SOLD for £ 1.93M by Bonhams
Aware of the quality of his production, Tompion numbered his instruments, an exceptional practice in his time for a manufactured product. He mixes in a single serialization list the table clocks and the long case clocks. His clocks have a long autonomy. His grande sonnerie pieces offer a repetition of quarters over a long duration.
From 1692 or 1693 Tompion improves the elegance of his design with his Phase Two which includes the cushion dome, the thistle bud handle, the bellflower keyhole and the operation of the mechanism from the front face.
The master seems more interested in standardization than in miniaturization. Nevertheless Number 215 appears as the first of a small series of Phase Two table clocks with a total height of 28 cm including the raised handle. It was sold for £ 170K by Bonhams on December 13, 2011.
Number 222, made especially for Queen Mary II in 1693 and known as the Q Clock, is the smallest clock ever made by Tompion with an ebony case. It is 20 cm high overall with the handle raised. It offers the quarter repetition and an autonomy of eight days.
Re-assembled in 1949 by a collector with its original movement, this silver mounted royal clock was sold for £ 1.93M by Bonhams on June 19, 2019, lot 103. A modern replica was joined to the lot. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
We are delighted to announce that one of the most valuable clocks ever to appear at auction, The King William & Queen Mary Royal Tompion, will star in The Clive Collection of Exceptional Clocks in London on 19 June.https://t.co/6ufWtyi4Ax pic.twitter.com/ROoThd69zu— Bonhams (@bonhams1793) May 20, 2019
1708 Tompion 483
2003 SOLD for £ 620K by Christie's
The length of the sidereal day is four minutes less than the length of the solar day. In 1691 Thomas Tompion executed a sidereal clock designed by Flamsteed for Greenwich.
On July 11, 2003, Christie's sold a longcase regulator at lot 156 for £ 620K from a lower estimate of £ 150K. This instrument one-of-a-kind in its time displays both solar and sidereal time on a dial with two concentric rings, with a one month reserve. The combination of the two mechanisms is a technical feat, including a wheel with 586 teeth for sidereal time and a wheel with 244 teeth for solar time.
Numbered 483 by Tompion, this regulator was made in his later career. The terminus ante quem is the end of his association with Edward Banger, around 1708 : a plaque bears these two names.
1725 Graham 634
2002 SOLD for $ 1.77M by Sotheby's
The escapements fitted to Tompion 483 are of anchor type with deadbeat, a mechanism tested in 1676 by Tompion from an invention by Towneley, and which will later be known as Graham escapement. Graham is not identified on the plaques of that clock.
Made circa 1725, the regulator numbered 634 by George Graham offers the very rare and perhaps unique combination of the functions of the 483 with a perpetual calendar. The sidereal and solar time dials are separate. 634 was sold by Sotheby's on June 19, 2002 for $ 1.77M from a lower estimate of $ 150K, lot 172.
1715 Boulle Clock
2011 SOLD for $ 1.26M by Sotheby's
1727 Meissen Mantel Clock
2021 SOLD for $ 1.6M by Sotheby's
This piece 44 cm high is made on a sculptural porcelain mantel fitted with a dial signed ca 1700 by a Parisian clockmaker and gilt bronze mounted in the mid 18th century. It is dated 1727 and inscribed Meissen in underglaze blue on the finial.
Its finial is a group of Minerva, the goddess of the arts, with her rival Arachne soon to be turned into a spider as narrated by Ovid. Chinoiseries in cartouches in front and side panels are a reference to the newly expected rivalry of Saxon against Chinese porcelains.
The pierced mantel body and the feet are decorated with scrolls and pilasters plus several figures including a kneeling supplicant in the round. The reverse is painted with blossoms emerging from a rock. The bright colors include turquoise, iron red, purple, green, gilt and black.
This set of exuberant figures had been designed in the lifetime of Johann Christian Kirchner, probably by his younger brother Johann Gottlieb, and modeled by Fritzsche. It was certainly produced for the Japanese Palace of Augustus the Strong in Dresden. 26 clock cases are known from that period.
#AuctionUpdate This 'Highly Important Documentary and Dated Meissen Mantel Clock Case' from 1727 brings $1.6 million. It is one of only five clocks of this model that appear to have survived by the early 20th century, two of which are in museum collections. #SothebysDecArts pic.twitter.com/6z2TSfZ0fU— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) September 14, 2021
1740 Tall Case Clock by Stretch
2004 SOLD for $ 1.7M by Sotheby's
This skilful craftsman produced until his death in 1746 all kinds of timepieces, and even some scientific instruments. His works are not dated, but he follows and influences the changing tastes of the rich bourgeoisie of Philadelphia, of which he is a prominent member.
The grandfather clock on the Tompion model became the most spectacular element in bourgeois homes. This model also known as longcase clock is an easy approach to improve the accuracy thanks to the lengthening of the pendulum. Stretch first made them in solid walnut and then in mahogany, with a beautiful dark brown color that responded to the Queen Anne taste reinterpreted in Philadelphia around 1740.
A mahogany clock was sold by Sotheby's on October 29, 2004 for $ 1.7M from a lower estimate of $ 600K, lot 205.
273 cm high and very richly carved, it is typical of the later career of Peter Stretch, notably with a signature sarcophagus shaped top. It has remained close to its original configuration. The magnificence takes precedence over watchmaking sophistication. The dial is silvered with a date aperture. Its complications are the phases of the moon and the seconds hand.
1766 Montigny Flat Desk with Cartonnier
2015 SOLD for € 2.22M by Christie's (unpaid)
All accessories are designed for writing: drawers and pull in the desk, black leathered top and the very tall serre papier now named cartonnier or filing cabinet which is surmounted by a clock.
The desks stamped by Montigny are rare. One of them was sold for € 2.22M by Christie's on November 4, 2015, lot 510. Please watch the video shared in 2015 by the auction house. It passed at Christie's on October 13, 2021, lot 16, from a lower estimate of $ 600K. The auction house indicated in the catalogue that it was "in whole or in part" owned by them, which suggests that it was unpaid in 2015.
It retained its matching cartonnier with its original clock as they were described in the inventory of the estate of a former intendant of Louis XVI in 1795. Two period écritoires are joined to complete the equipment.
The desk is adorned with a leafy garland in antiquisant style 'à la grecque' which was fashionable in the early 1760s. It certainly dates from the very beginning of the accession to the maîtrise by Montigny in 1766. The sets of furniture of this period in which desk, cabinet and clock were never separated are of extreme rarity.
1770-1773 Planetary Clock of Prince de Conti
2015 SOLD for £ 600K by Christie's
The Enlightenment fosters the scientific precision. In addition to the technical achievement already in combination with multiple complications, very competent astronomers such as Lalande and Cassini adjust the astronomical tables and mathematicians like Camus position their gears and wheels.
At the end of the reign of Louis XIV, Jean Pigeon realizes a moving sphere clock on the principle of Copernicus and publishes his invention in 1714. The astronomical clock by Passemant is presented in 1749 at the Royal Academy of Sciences and is used to set the official time of the kingdom. It is kept at Versailles.
The Prince of Conti had little skill in politics but became the greatest collector of his time. Resolutely dismissing the academies and corporations, he commissioned around 1770 the most complex astronomical clock of his time. The clockmaking is made by Mabille and the spheres by Baffert, certainly before 1773 which is the date of bankruptcy of the latter.
The clock displays all the possible elements for measuring time and a beautiful dial for the position of the moon. Extended to the outer planets, the planetary includes six rotating spheres with the highest scientific accuracy. It also marks ecliptic, solstices, equinoxes and zodiac.
Janvier, who had this piece in hand after the Révolution, noted that it is better than Passemant's clock by the accuracy of its annual rotation because it incorporates the calculations published by Camus in 1749.
The planetary clock of the Prince de Conti was sold for £ 600K by Christie's on July 9, 2015, lot 9.
1774 Régulateur de Parquet by Berthoud
1999 SOLD for £ 1.93M by Christie's
The marquis de Choiseul, raised to duc de Praslin in 1762, swapped in 1766 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Ministry of Marine, just as strategic. To cancel the French backwardness, he commissions the two most skilful watchmakers established in Paris, Pierre Le Roy and the Swiss born Ferdinand Berthoud. It is Praslin who conceives the first official French circumnavigation, whose captain is Bougainville.
In 1764 and 1765, Praslin acquires Fouquet's castle in Vaux and a residence in Paris, built on the banks of the Seine for Fouquet's grandson, which becomes the hôtel de Choiseul-Praslin. The luxury of its decoration, including some furniture by Boulle, is worthy of the minister disgraced by Louis XIV.
The régulateur de parquet (longcase clock) from the hôtel's grand salon is a work by Berthoud, with a case stamped by Lieutaud and gilded bronzes by Caffiéri's son. This is of course the best in Paris for that sort of piece. It includes the calendar, complications related to Sun and Moon, a needle barometer, as well as the équation de Berthoud revealed to the Académie des Sciences in 1752 to differentiate between apparent and mean solar times.
This sumptuous 2.66 m high piece of time and furnishing was sold for £ 1.93M by Christie's on July 8, 1999, lot 207. For the date, the only reference is a spring marked 1774.
1775 Philadelphia Chippendale Tall Case Clock
2004 SOLD for $ 800K by Sotheby's
1780 Tower Clock by Mottram
2022 SOLD for $ 690K by Christie's
John Mottram established in 1780 in London his workshop of musical automaton clocks. Nearly all his recorded output was made for the Chinese market. His pieces were generally built in pairs according to the fashion of the Chinese court.
A pair of musical and automaton tower clocks was made by Mottram at the very beginning of his business. Its 107 cm high structure takes the shape of a four tier pagoda including potted pineapple plants in clerestory at the three upper levels. The plants rise and swirl and the obelisk finial rotates while music plays. Mechanism and transmission are hidden in the columns of the tiers.
The tune selection dial is signed John Mottram. It activates twelve hammers on ten bells. The clock dial is in the lower tier. The maker of the ormolu case is not identified.
One of these clocks is kept in an abbey near Cambridge. Its pendant was sold for $ 690K by Christie's on October 20, 2022, lot 8.