POUVILLON RESTORATION PROJECT - August 2011
A hypothesis on the time line of the clock's
Based on the observations gained in the deconstruction of
the clock as well as the literature we have so far, we have come to a
hypothesis about the time line in connection with the construction of this
clock. It has been widely quoted in prior literature and in particular the
two auction house
catalogs through which this clock has passed that the movement was a
masterpiece made by Mr. Paul Pouvillon between 1930 and 1939. In the
previous installments we have observed that the clock when stripped of all
of its complications looks to be a complete clock. One that easily could
have been conceived and executed as is and with no thought of future
alterations. This clock was a two train, hour striking clock sharing many
design elements seen in tower clocks; these are:
|A. The frames are made of wrought iron
rather than brass.
|B. The rear frame pillars are turned,
not unlike those seen in the tower clocks
which Pouvillon was familiar, specifically
the church clocks in Strasburg and
|C. The dial setting clutch mechanism for
the time is identical in design to those used in smaller tower
clocks of the day by other French makers, Schwilgue, Ungerer, Lepaute and Gugumus
|D. The oil holes used in the frame
members are seen only on tower clocks; not
on domestic movements
|E. The massive pendulum bob at 7.085kg
or 15 lb 9.5 oz is what would be expected in
a regular sized tower clock.
|F. As a result of the
heavy bob the entire pendulum suspension
system takes on the robustness of a tower
|G. The fine pendulum
adjustment is turned using a Tommy bolt due
to the weight of the bob.
|H. There is a pendulum
safety catch to prevent the pendulum
crashing to the floor in the event of the
suspension spring breaking; a feature
unheard of in domestic clocks, but quite
common in tower clocks.
|I. The construction of many of the main
frame wheels have integral collets which are
then pinned to the arbor. The collets are
not permanently attached to the arbor.
|J. Many wheels are bolted to their
collets as often seen in tower clocks, but not
in domestic clocks.
|K. The bevel wheels are cast in the
manner of tower clocks with the interior
spokes coved in relation to the rims. A few
of the larger steel pinions are also made
|L. The construction of the going and
strike barrels are exactly as those found on
smaller tower clocks, with removable, screw
down collets that act like nuts on a thread
cut into the arbor.
|M. The pins on the escape wheel are each
set within collets. Something sometimes
found on large tower clock pinwheels. On
domestic clocks the pins are set directly
into the wheel rim.
|N. The escapement pallets are removable
and are held with a screw. The pallet depthing is adjustable via a screw acting
upon a slit along the vertical axis of the
escapement. While this second arrangement is
not unheard of in domestic clocks, it is
quite common in pinwheel escapement tower
|O. Lathe turning centers left in the ends of the
winding square arbors, a common feature in
tower clocks, but unacceptable in domestic
|P. The strike hammer lift cam is fabricated
with separate components the same as some
French tower clocks, in particular
We believe Pouvillon constructed this clock before 1930 as
a standalone clock without consideration of later adding any complications.
This is supported by the fact that none of the attachment
points for the complications were special-made within the frame. All
attachment points were spots that were filed flat and holes that were often
awkwardly placed. In many instances we see parts of the frame that were
removed to allow for the positioning of a complication or peripheral
component. All of the drives to the complications mostly in the form
of bevel wheels are attached to the phase one arbors in what appears to be
an ad hoc fashion. There are no provisions made for correct fitting of
these later bevels on the tapered arbors. In the phase one clock, all wheels
had proper parallel mounting points on the otherwise tapered profile of the
arbor. None of these conditions would have been present with a
clockmaker of Pouvillon's talent if the clock was pre-planned with the
complications. Furthermore, the components of the clock have the wear one
would expect from a much older movement and that has been re-polished on
several occasions; all of wheel spokes and teeth corners have been slightly
rounded. None of these conditions are present in the various complications.
In addition the two sandwiched plates under the tellurian/orrery structure
which support those systems is a clear example of making the upper plate
which was original to the tellurian assembly and was not built by Pouvillon,
fit to the existing wrought iron clock frame via the lower plate. See
about the origin of the tellurian assembly. The fact that the phase one clock stands as a
beautiful example in its own right when completely stripped of all complications
stands as testament to this.
Below is the time line we think the clock took based on
our forensic disassembly and the written literature we have to date.
is the original clock, going, and strike trains – no orrery. We believe
this is pre 1930
and when built was not intended for use as a base for the
later complications. In other words it was built as a
complete, stand alone, clock. Probably in the very early
Phase two is the addition of the
"borrowed" tellurian (not to be confused with the later orrery
of the outer planets which was added during phase three.
That is below
the superstructure holding the tellurium). We believe this
to be the first complication as many power feeds to other
complications come from this system. This is the only
complication that was not entirely made by Pouvillon, the only other
parts Pouvillon did not make were a few watch-sized bevel
wheels in the mystery dial.
is 1930-1939. Here he begins his project to install the several
complications on the front and sides of the phase one clock
frame. These may not be all of the same complications we see
today. From a date stamped on the back of the Easter
calculator's center calendar disc, it appears the calculator
was completed sometime in 1946 and
from the literature we know he
had made a final adjustment to this system in 1953 (to make
the calculator perpetual). So either an earlier iteration of
the calculator was there or something
else may have occupied this space when the clock was
exhibited in 1939. It's unlikely Pouvillon
would have left this area empty. Therefore the Easter
calculator could have been either in the phase three or
phase four sequence. We think that probably an earlier, non
perpetual form of the calculator was in the clock when
Pouvillon was receiving his various acclamations in 1939. It
certainly is the one complication that makes this clock
stand out from from most others. Considering our assumption
that WWII disrupted his work, we feel that it is unlikely he
could have designed and built the entire calculator in one
year or less.
1940 through 1945, WWII could
have disrupted Pouvillon’s work and he may not have returned
to the clock until 1946.
is between 1948 through 1953, here he adds the seven small
white dials around the base of the orrery wheel pack. The
leap year, the unequal hours-state of strike, the day and
its zodiacal sign, the month and its zodiacal sign and the
is 1953-1954. In a newspaper article dated 1953 it is
reported that he conceives of the perpetual piece for the
We know the Easter calculator has to be tripped annually,
and this would have been from the missing assembly, the
'annual cam pack' that we have reproduced which drives the
mystery dial indicating 'sun time', as well as the sun rise,
sunset shutters and length of day, length of night dials. We
also know that for the Easter calculator to operate
correctly the Epact dial needs an extra feed every 19 years.
This will allow it to be perpetual for 400 years or until an
extra leap year needs to be inserted and we believe
Pouvillon used the fact that the Golden Number has a 19 year
cycle to give that extra feed to the Epact dial.
1955 newspaper article it is reported that Pouvillon was
working on a final indication, the rise and setting of the
see no evidence for this and in this effort we must assume
Pouvillon failed and had added no other features past this
date. By this time he was 77 years old.
Newspaper clipping written in France, presumably Paris and hand dated 1953.
Newspaper clipping dated February 20, 1955, Le Parisien.