Back Up Next

Maker, Ferdinand Berthoud, Paris, France, c. 1785. Three train pinwheel escapement, 1/2 second gridiron compensated pendulum on knife edge suspension, 30 second Robin remontoire, full perpetual calendar, epicyclical equation of time, moon's age and phase, quarter strike on solar time Chime and strike can be silenced. 25.5"h x 12.25"w x 10.75"d, (65 x 31 x 27.5cm)


The first video shows an overview of the clock. The handler gives one an idea of the size of the movement. The second video is a close up of the remontoire flywheel mediating the reload (cycling) of the remontoire. This occurs every 30 seconds. The flywheel design is quite a bit noisier than the conventional fly fan since it is brought to a sudden stop when the wheel's pin contacts the detent; but to be honest it grows on you. This transverse-mounted flywheel design was favored by a few of the earlier, and higher end French makers of skeleton clocks. Other examples being Lepine and Le Roy.

Click on the links below or photos below for further details on this most interesting clock.

Close up views of the clock movement,   Detail of the frame fretting and decorationExamination of the decorative gilt ormolu statuary Examination the decorative gilt friezes around the rouge marble base The equation of time epicyclical complicationThe Robin remontoireThe perpetual calendar work.

 

 

This clock mirrored the timekeeping habits and standards of the owner at the time. Equation clocks were built originally not so much to verify the mean time they kept as to convert this to the solar time people lived by, what the French called "civilian" time as against astronomical. The intention showed on the dial: the first such clocks linked the solar minute hand to the hour hand so the latter showed sun time rather than mean time; when striking, they rang out the solar hours. This is precisely the setup used here.

A conventional equation kidney rotates once per year. In this clock it rotates daily and the readout is translated to the calendar via epicyclical gearing resulting in the correct annual reading. The striking is also synchronized with the solar time, so the quarter chimes and hour strike follow sun time and not clock time as seen on any other clock. The calendar is a full perpetual, allowing for the differing lengths of the months as well as a February of 29 days every four years (leap year). All dials have gilt inner and outer bezels. The base is a rouge marble with gilt repousse friezes.

Aside from the many mechanical complications, the three dimensional presentation of the statuary in front of the movement is exceptional. Rather than being molded into the frame of the clock or staged around the dial work they are fully formed and set naturally in front of the clock works. There is a pleasing quality to it, almost as if the woman and putties had just simply stepped onto the marble base.

Supposedly this clock was made as a pair, with the other being a barometer. During WWII both were located in a house in Austria which was bombed during the war, the barometer did not survive. Later the clock moved to Paris and was auctioned in 1966. It then came to the London dealer, Bobinet in the 1980's. Later it resided in Switzerland, and then came to a private collector in the USA around 2000, some time afterward it entered the current collection.

Back Up Next

Continental and American Skeleton Clocks, Derek Roberts, p. 24