- Museum number
Table clock; two-tier spring-driven movement; upper tier accommodating the four-wheel going-train with verge escapement, balance and fusee; lower tier with striking-train with going barrel and count-wheel (hours only); striking-train not governed by a fan in conventional manner, but by crown wheel engaging a verge; gilded-brass case of hexagonal section with pierced dome; three punched marks: one for maker, town mark (fleur-de-lis for Paris?), third unidentified.
- Production date
- 1540 (circa)
- Curator's comments
- The following text is the entry for this object from the unpublished catalogue of pre-pendulum clocks by John Leopold, former Assistant Keeper of Horology at the Museum. This information is unedited and should be used accordingly.
HEXAGONAL VERTICAL TABLECLOCK, MARKED B:COULDROIT WITH FLEUR-DE-LYS.
Ascribed to Guillaume Couldray of Blois, ca.1540.
AJ 25 (1868) 94.
Milham (1923) 128-9.
Cat.Sotheby's London 26th Feb. 1962 lot 15 (this clock mentioned).
Tardy 5 (1981) I 57 (shown with the later dial; ascribes this clock to Julien I Couldray).
Mis-described as a watch dated 1616 in Tardy (1971-2) 143.
On the outside of the base a large punchmark "B:COVLDROIT" above a fleur-de-lys. The mark was struck twice, each time making about half the impression, and leaving clear evidence that the fleur-de-lys was part of the same punch.
On one of the sides and on the top finial a mark consisting of a crowned C has been punched (see Commentary).
On the outside of the barrel cap, scratched: "AN 1603". On the top plate of the movement: "A" (related to the subsequent balance spring regulator).
The case is made of brass, gilded on the outside only. It consists of three parts: the top, the band and the base.
The band, of hexagonal section, is made out of a single sheet; each corner was deeply scored on the inside to ensure a clean, sharp fold. The join (at the right-hand back corner) was brazed. Two profiled rings, each made out of six sections brazed together, were riveted to the band; the section above the dial was subsequently filed away and the surface shows that the rings were also partly brazed in position. The raised ring around the dial was a separate part, sunk into the band and brazed. The hinge of the small door, on the right, is rivited to the band. In the lower part of the band is a square hole to take the latch of the movement.
The top is a complex structure. It is built up on a hexagonal plate with six profiled strips brazed under it, and with a large hole to accomodate the vertical openwork ring (bent out of strip and brazed at the join), surmounted by the pierced and engraved dome. The whole structure is held together by profiled bands brazed into place; the s-scrols at the corners (bent out of strip) are also brazed. At the top there is a finial, riveted into position; the is not original but must be at least 18th century (see Commentary). The top was originally friction-tight to the band, but is by now very loose.
The base consists of a hexagonal plate with six profiled strips brazed to the top. It is friction-tight to the band.
Top and base each have on the front edge three deep score-marks for positioning; the marks were cut through the gilding and are therefore comparatively recent. At the bottom of the front of the band, however, there are three light scratches under the gilding, so there may originally have been lighter positioning-marks.
The dial is fixed to the movement within the case: it is dovetailed in the centre plate and pinned to the top plate. The chapterring is riveted to the dial plate; it is marked I - XII (punched) with small trefoil half-hour marks and an inner ring divided for half hours.
Subsequently a larger dial was fitted outside the case. For this purpose a brass ring was riveted to the dial plate by a single stud, and the dial pinned to this ring. In order to allow the movement to be removed from the case a slot had to be cut in the case; the movement henceforth slipped into the case from the top. An inverted fleur-de-lys was riveted to the lower end of the brass ring. The ring is now fitted with a simple silvered dial (itself late 17th century), but a second series of three holes shows that the present dial is actually the third one. See Conversions.
Plated two-stage movement, made largely of brass, but with six pillars of steel, secured by pins in collets which are brazed to the plates. The centre plate has double collets but only one side is pinned. At the top of the movement the spider is also pinned into collets, and on the bottom plate six decorative knobs take the place of the collets.
All brass parts are gilded. All train-wheels have four crossings except the scape wheel of the going train which has three, and the great wheel of the striking which is solid (part of the going barrel).
Originally movement and dial slipped into the case from the bottom, being secured by a single sprung latch on the bottom plate. Since the application of the subsequent exterior dial the movement can only be mounted from the top, after the top of the case is removed.
4 8 ║ 54 48 36
── ── ║ ── ── ── 13 (x 2)
12-hour ← 48 10 ║ 6 5 6
Barrel with one cap brazed (repair), the other dove-tailed. Outer end of spring held by a cross-bar stuck through two holes in the spring and secured by holes in the caps; inner end riveted to the arbor. Blued spring (one beginning crack stopped by filing a notch), measurements: 18-18.5 x .2 mm (width not quite regular). Bow-and-arrow set-up with ratchet wheel of 6; all these parts are of brass. Barrel and fusee are now connected by a long chain.
Great wheel and pinion-of-report (of brass) riveted to a brass pipe, which fits loosely inside the brass fusee; at its top the hole in the fusee narrows to a square which is pinned to the long steel arbor (pierced fusee); the arbor extends through the striking train and has the winding square at the bottom end. Fusee re-cut for chain, 24 turns. The fusee has 10 ratchet teeth for winding; brass click and click-spring. Horizontal hole for gut (entry hole now riveted up to accept chain). Conventional hinged stopwork.
Second wheel replaced.
Scape wheel replaced. Screwed counter potence; potence now screwed (originally pinned to the top plate).
Later balance and spring, with screwed bridge and ring-shaped regulator (held by three screws).
Dial-wheel: brass wheel pinned friction-tight to the arbor which carries the steel starwheel for unlocking (held between two steel spring-washers). The arbor has been extended to accomodate the later dial. The back of the wheel is held by a screwed cock (replacing the earlier pinned cock, the missing stud accounts for the hole in the dial at XII).
48 ┌ 48 48
── │ ── ── 11 (x 2)
8 ┤ 6 6
8 ║ ┘
12-hour ← 78 ║
Greatwheel: teeth individually marked. Going barrel construction; steel ratchet wheel of 8 for winding, brass click and clickspring (the click replaced). Outer end of (apparently original) spring now hooked by a block riveted to its end and let into the edge of the wall; however, the wall also has an unused rivet-hole and the cap has several holes to correspond with a single hole in the wheel for the original cross-bar hooking (compare going train). Inner end hooked over a stud on the arbor. Spring not blued; measurements: 18.5-19.5 x .2 mm (width not quite regular).
2nd wheel: 8 brass lifting pins. Brass pinion-of-report.
3rd wheel: pins for warning and locking.
Counthweel: brass ring, internally geared (teeth individually marked). The numbers for the hours are engraved on the ring. The ring is positioned by three ridges riveted to the plate; the ring and the brass pinion-of-report are held in position by a trople armed piece pinned to the plate.
Detends: steel arbors, brass arms (except indexing and locking which are of steel). The arms that connect the unlocking arm to the locking-assembly are brass replacements. The warning detend is mounted on the centre plate (one cock riveted, the other pinned).
The hammer arbor is pivoted in the bottom plate and in a pinned cock on the top plate. Hammer repaired. Brass hammer-spring pinned to the top plate.
The bell and the brass spider are replacements.
Warned striking with hammer lifting off the 2nd wheel and warning and locking on the 3rd.
Hight - 131 mm.
Width - 69 mm
Depth - 60.5 mm.
Movement: distance between the plates (going) 31.5 mm (striking) 29.5 mm.
Great wheel: 1 rev. in 1¼ hour.
Escapement: ca.10,780 beats per hour.
Duration: 30 hours.
PROVENANCE AND HISTORY.
The crowned-C marked shows that at some time during the years 1745 and 1749 this clock was in France, where permission was obtained to have it re-gilded. This is interesting because the early 18th century is not a period when a 16th century clock could be expected to be valued.
Octavius Morgan collection. Morgan showed the clock at the Archaeological Institute on 6th December 1868.
Octavius Morgan bequest; reg.1888,12-1,125.
No B.Couldroit is known. All the recorded makers of this name (Couldray, Coudray) were of Blois: Julien I, Guillaume and Julien II, together spanning the years 1504-86. The B in the signature is therefore likely to stand for BLOIS. The fleur-de-lys seems to suggest a Royal connection, and in fact the earlier Couldray's (Julien I and Guillaume) were both Clockmaker to the King. Julien I is described as "horloger du roy" from the earliest mention in 1504; he died 1529. Guillaume, who may have been a son, is described as Horloger du Roy in 1532; he is last mentioned in 1547. Julien I and Guillaume Couldray are the two earliest recorded makers of small clocks in Blois; indeed two watches built into the pommels of daggers, which Julien I supplied to King Francois I in 1518, constitute the earliest known mention of a French watch (Develle  15-17, 128-140; Tardy [1971-2] 142-3).
One other clock marked like the B.M.-one is known to exist; it has a similar hexagonal case dated 1543, but it has lost its original movement 1). It may be assumed therefore that Guillaume Couldroit was the maker of the B.M.-clock. - There is an interesting similarity with the punchmark on a small alarm-clock of this type with a single-stage, all-steel movement and with a 24-hour dial; its case is marked simply "BLOIS" with a fleur-de-lys 2). There also exists an empty case similarly marked (private coll.). Both these objects have early characteristics; in view of the above it seems likely that they are by Julien I Couldray.
For other "single-name" signatures on French clocks compare AUGUSTIN (Forfaict, Sedan) No.-- and LOIS F(rancois, Paris) No.--; a third one is (Antoine) BEAUVAIS (Paris) 3).
It may be noted that the mark was clearly produced by a punch and a hammer: at the first blow only a portion became visible and so the other part was struck again. This has produced a double impression of the fleur-de-lys, showing that this was not produced by a separate punch but was part of a single one.
Brass plates and simple steel pilars with plain brass collets are also found in the small cyl. clock by Beauvais in Rockford (Cardinale  21); also in a hex. clock by Jaques Bor(lion, Paris), V.& A.(notes P.G.C.).
The "crowned C"-mark on the case indicates that special permission to have the clock gilded was obtained between the years 1745 and 1749 4). Presumably that dates the later silver dial and its surround, and may also apply to the conversion of the going train from gut to chain. This re-gilding was limited to the case: the movement retains the original gilding. The consequences of this mark, incidentally, are interesting: it shows that in the 1740's, a period not known for its interest in old clocks and watches, somebody felt this clock was sufficiently important to have it re-gilded.
1) Sir John Findlay coll., cat. Sotheby London 26th Feb.1962 lot 150 with plate; now private coll., U.S.A.: Edey (1982) no.5 (Edey's localisation of the maker in Aix-en-Provence, based on the similarity of the dome to those of clocks by Pierre Fobis, is not convincing). This clock was first recorded in the John Edwars Taylor collection, sale cat.Christie's, London, 1st July 1912 lot 200 (although the catalogue describes the marks as "R.Couldroit" with fleur-de-lys, and the date as 1541, the description leaves no doubt that this is the same clock).
2) Time Museum, Rockford, Ill.; formerly coll. T.F.Flannery jr., cat. Sotheby, London, 1-2 Dec.1983 lot 272. - Another(?) hexagonal clock with this mark, and having a leather traveling case covered with letters S, was in the coll. Pichon, Paris, auctioned Maison Drouot 23 March 1897 lot 1036.
3) Cat. Ecouen (1989) No.11; Rockford, see Edey (1982) no.4 and Cardinal (1989) 20-21.
4) P.Kjellberg, "Nouvelle précision à propos du C couronné", Connaissance des Arts no.169 (March 1966) 13, 15.
Springs: both open little, particularly the striking. Spring of striking very likely original (hooking of outer end repaired several times); going probably not (depth of barrel: 22.5 mm).
There has been severe damage to the movement: the frame is twisted and the plates have been bent.
The balance-spring arrangement with its screws looks 19th century: this is probably contemporary with the chain, and possibly with the reconstruction of the going train.
Justice Shepro's silver clock is marked BLOIS (AH 14 no.6 [June 1984] 622): check this.
Is the spider wrong? it is brass, but may be the right shape.
BIBLIOGRAPHY (Pauline Wholey – 2019)
AJ 25 (1868) 94.
Milham (1923) W.I.Milham, Time & Timekeepers, including the History, Construction, Care, and Accuracy of Clocks and Watches (New York 1923).
Cat.Sotheby's London 26th Feb. 1962 lot 15 (this clock mentioned).
Tardy 5 (1981, 1982) Tardy, The French Clocks, 5th ed., Part 1, 2 (Paris 1981) Part 3 (Paris 1982)
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1995 05 Jun-09 Jul, Norwich, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, About Time.
- Latest: 2 (Oct 2015)
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number