Clock-watch with calendar and alarm by Jean Vallier

Lyon, France, around AD 1630

By the early seventeenth century, watchmaking in France had reached a high level of sophistication; the quality of engraved decoration on the cases was perhaps better than anywhere else in Europe. One of the more important centres of the art and craft was Lyon. Among those working there in the first half of the seventeenth century, Jean Vallier (Master 1602, died 1649) was probably one of the most celebrated. This watch, with its unusual case design, finely engraved decoration, striking, calendar and alarm, possibly represents the best that money could buy at the time.

All the finely pierced and engraved components on the back-plate are original. Only the plain brass balance has been replaced in more recent times. The case band has intricate designs of foliage incorporating fabulous birds and is pierced to allow the sound of the bell to escape. At the top and bottom of the case are unusual rope-twist rims. Apollo and the Nine Muses adorn the case back, each named and depicted in character: in the middle are Euterpe, Erato and Terpsichore with the other muses surrounding them.

The dial is of the highest quality. A small rectangular aperture shows the date at the top of the dial, above a subsidiary dial indicating the age and phase of the moon. To the left, another dial shows the days of the week, with each day's ruling deity appearing in a sector. On the right an engraved silver chapter ring indicates the quarters. The bottom dial is for the hours with an alarm-setting disc at its centre. Two sectors in the upper right-hand area show the seasons and the months, with the number of days in each.

It is a great pity that the cover of the watch was cut away, probably during the late seventeenth century when the watch was glazed; there can be no doubt that it too was finely engraved with a classical subject of a similar quality.

Find in the collection online

Clock-watch with calendar and alarm by Jean Vallier

  • Mechanism



More information


E. Vial and C. Côte, Les horlogers Lyonnais de 1550 (Paris, 1927)


Length: 7.870 cm
Width: 6.200 cm
Thickness: 3.430 cm

Museum number

M&ME 1888,12-1,177


Bequeathed by Octavius Morgan, MP


Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore