Miniature travelling clock by Thomas Tompion

London, England, around AD 1700

This miniature travelling clock is one of Thomas Tompion's more unusual and complicated pieces, and is the smallest and most complicated that he is known to have made. In addition to telling the time, the clock has grande-sonnerie striking, in which the hour and quarter are struck at every quarter; a pull-quarter repeat system, where the last striking can be heard by pulling a cord, and an alarm. Tompion's ingenious use of space is demonstrated by the fact that the mainspring for the striking and repeating mechanisms is situated within the bell.

The clock has a duration of eight days. While it now has a nineteenth-century escapement, it was originally made with pendulum control for use when the clock was stationary, and a balance and spring when it was being transported. The silver dial has an alarm setting disc at the centre and at the four corners are small subsidiaries for changing the clock from pendulum to balance (and vice versa), and key operated dials for adjusting the rate of both pendulum and balance. The fact that all the dial inscriptions are in French might suggest that the clock was made for a French patron or perhaps a Huguenot customer living in England.

The clock is housed in a beautifully-made silver and gilt-brass case with finely cast and chased ornament. It is signed 'THO. TOMPION LONDON' on a label at the top of the dial.

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Miniature travelling clock by Thomas Tompion

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Museum number

M&ME 1986,3-6,1



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