Square table clock with detachable alarm

From South Germany, around AD 1580

An 'Orpheus clock'

During the second half of the sixteenth century clocks became increasingly elaborate and lavishly decorated, particularly in Augsburg, South Germany. Here, clockmakers found a ready market in the courts of the Holy Roman Empire and in exports to the Ottoman Empire of Süleyman the Magnificent (reigned 1520-66).

This eight-day horizontal table clock is one of an identifiable group with depictions of Orpheus around the case. In this instance, 'Orpheus Charming the Beasts' and 'Orpheus and Eurydice' are cast and chased in the style of Virgil Solis of Nuremberg. On top of the main clock is a detachable alarm mechanism released by the hour hand.

The dial shows the hours in the six, twelve and twenty-four hour systems and has touch-pins for use in the dark. The central disc and the hands are later replacements and the central area possibly contained lunar or perhaps sunrise/sunset indications.

The movement has steel plates and steel wheels but over the back plate is an extra brass plate profusely engraved with foliate scrolls. The clock has a verge escapement controlled by a dumb-bell balance. The striking can be adjusted to either the six or twelve hour system.

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Square table clock with detachable alarm

  • Mechanism



More information


P.G. Coole and E. Neumann, The Orpheus Clocks (London, Hutchinson Educational Ltd., 1972)

K. Maurice, Die Deutsche Räderuhr (Munich, C.H. Beck, 1976)

F.J. Britten, Old clocks and watches and the, 9th edition (London, Sotheby, 1984)

E. von Bassermann-Jordan, Ein Handbuch fur Sammler und L (Braunschweig, Klinkhardt-Biermann, 1960)

H. Tait, Clocks and watches (London, The British Museum Press, 1983)


Height: 29.000 cm
Width: 22.500 cm
Depth: 22.500 cm

Museum number

M&ME 1888,12-1,102


Bequeathed by Octavius Morgan, MP


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