- Museum number
Horizontal table clock; unusually tall spring-driven movement with fusees; going-train with worm-wheel set up; verge escapement and balance; present balance, cock and spring are later improvements; striking-train with ratchet wheel set up; count-wheel for hours only; both count-wheel and bell are positioned beneath dial; silver chapter-ring marked I-XII, with later pierced and engraved central roundel of gilded brass; circular brass case with pierced and engraved foliate bands at top and bottom; modern engraved band of silver.
- Production date
- 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- The following text is the entry for this object from the unpublished catalogue of pre-pendulum clocks by John Leopold, former Assistant Keeper of Horology at the Museum.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.
HORIZONTAL ROUND TABLECLOCK, BY ISAAC DEFINOD, GIEN, ca.1650.
Tardy (1971/2) 181 (misquotes the name as "Izaac Desmond").
Purchased from Messrs. J.& S.Goldschmidt, Hotel d'Angletèrre, Frankfort am Main, £ 40.
A reproduction clock apparently inspired by this clock, with 8-day lever movement, was produced by Grimshaw, Baxter & J.J.Elliott, 29-37 Goswell Road, London EC1 and 81 Mitchell Street, Glasgow, some time after 1925 (Shenton  139).
Signed on the back plate of the movement: "Isaac Definod A Gien".
Scratched on the movement side of the back plate, under the striking barrel: "Repassé 1869" and "Dit la que. verte" (=? the missing letter could be`"u"). The bottom cap of the spring barrel of the going train has scratched: "mouuem" (mouvement = going train). The removeable cap of the spring barrel striking train has an engraved "S" (= Sonnerie); its bottom cap has, faintly scratched, "10 tour" (? = 10 turns).
Case and dial.
Cylindrical case, made largely of brass, gilded on the outside only. The band was made of strip bent into shape and brazed at the join, and at top and bottom a small portion was pierced and engraved with a floral patern. At the inner edges of the pierced portions profiled rings were brazed around the band, and at the upper end a broader profiled ring was pinned around the band; these rings were made out of strip, bent into shape and brazed at the join.
The part of the band between the narrow rings originally was probably covered with leather; it had two doors for inspecting the state of winding (on the inside of the case the rectangular apertures for the doors are still present), as well as a hole to synchronize the striking. The present engraved silver band is a 19th century addition. In order to fit it the brass band of the case was cut through at the lower of the narrow rings, the silver band fitted (it consists of two portions brazed together), and the severed portions brazed together again. The silver band is engraved with semi-17th century ornament.
Brazed to the top of the uppermost ring is a flat brass ring to which the silver chapterring is pinned (6 feet). It is divided I - XII with small stars as half-hour marks; along the inner edge each hour is divided in five parts (suggesting that at some time a minute hand was fitted). The centre of the dial, of gilded brass, is fixed to the movement; it consists of a disc with an overlay which is pierced and engraved in a patern of foliage with flowers, incorporating the letter JLR. This dial-centre is an associated part (see Conversions).
On the inside of the band of the case there are two guiding ridges for the movement.
The base is made of gilded brass. It consists of a flat circular plate brazed to a profile ring; the ring, which was bent out of strip and brazed at the join, is friction-tight to the band of the case. A small portion of the band was cut away and riveted to the band, for locating. There are three ball-feet riveted to the base.
The base has two winding holes, marked with a large "M" (Mouvement = going) and "S" (Sonnerie = striking); these letters have been engraved before gilding.
Plated movement, made largely of brass gilded on both sides, except the portions under the dial. Four simple turned pillars, riveted under the dial and pinned on the back plate. Many of the steel parts are now blued. All train-wheels have four crossings, except for the two great wheels and the second wheel of the striking, which are solid, and the scape wheel, which has three.
The very flat bell and the centre of the dial are mounted on a steel bridge on the front plate of the movement, the dial-centre doubling as the nut that secures the bell. These three parts are an incorrect restoration (the original bell will have been deeper and the dial-centre domed, see Conversions).
The movement with the centre of the dial and the hand slide into the case from the bottom; there are two guiding ridges, and the movement is secured by two revolving latches on the back plate.
Both springs are later; the double hooking in both barrels suggests that these tall, slender barrels originally held two springs each.
12 ║ 64 55 46
── ║ ── ── ── 25 (x 2)
84 ║ 8 6 6
Spring barrel with one cap brazed, the other dovetailed (and subsequently pinned). The fixed cap with profile rings. Spring replaced; not blued, 48 x .4 mm. Outer end hooked over double hook in the wall; the wall has another two rivet holes as traces of earlier hooking. Inner end hooked over two riveted hooks in the arbor.
Set-up by endless screw, mounted on the back plate; single start snail, steel set-up wheel of 20 angled teeth.
Split fusee, cut for gut; 18½ turns, 24 ratchet teeth for winding. Click and click-spring, both of steel, recessed in the wheel. Steel nose. Conventional stopwork.
Second wheel: planted towards the centre of the movement ("Deep-set" second wheel).
Potence riveted; the slide in the potence has subsequently been made adjustable. Counter potence screwed; it was subsequently fitted with a screwed-on steel end-piece (now missing).
Very small scape wheel (badly repaired); wheel and arbor are a replacement. The balance has been fitted with a balance spring and geared regulator; the pinion is missing but holes and scatch-marks show where it and its indicator used to be.
The hole in the plate for the staff is unusually small; it is shaped as a trefoil. The balance cock has been replaced (the original cock had an upright stud and a different screwhole).
The dial wheel is friction-tight on its arbor, which carries the steel star for unlocking the striking. The entire assembly is a restoration.
The pinion-of-report slides onto the square of the arbor, but is not secured; however, the end of the arbor retains traces of a pinhole, showing that the arbor has been cut down.
10 ║ 50 42 35 25
── ║ ── ── ── ──
12-hours ← 78 ║ 5 6 6 6
Spring barrel with one cap brazed, the other dovetailed (and subsequently pinned). The fixed cap with profile rings. Spring replaced; not blued, 48 x .4 mm. Outer end hooked over double hook in the wall; the wall has another two rivets and three empty holes as traces of earlier hooking. Inner end hooked over two riveted hooks in the arbor.
Set-up by ratchet and click (steel tooth let into a decoratively pierced and engraved brass click). The wheel has 20 ratchet teeth and was originally mounted on the end of the barrel arbor in the conventional way; however, the end of the arbor has broken off and the set-up was repaired by forcing a rectangular peg into the ratchet wheel to fit into a slot cut into the end of the arbor.
Split fusee, cut for gut; 22 turns, steel nose, 22 ratchet teeth for winding. Recessed clickwork with steel click and spring; 10 lifting pins.
Conventional stopwork (spring missing and the stoppiece made heavier with a block of brass).
Second wheel: pin for locking and pin for warning (the latter broken off and replaced by a thinner one).
Third wheel: the pinion has been repaired by brazing two rings to it.
Thin brass fly (replacement, as is its arbor). The back pivot now runs in an adjustable excentric plug.
The disc of the countwheel has been doubled to allow the notches to be re-cut. Examination has shown that no engraving is hidden between the two discs.
The pinion-of-report of brass sits on a steel pipe which is pinned to the arbor. Striking detends steel, decoratively pierced to form "gates"; both have been repaired, and the warning arm is a brass replacement. Very flat bell (modern).
Warned striking with unlocking without nag's head; hammer lifting off the great wheel; warning and locking on the second wheel.
Going train: great wheel - 1 rev. in ca. 1 h. 43 m (7 revs. in 12 hours).
escapement: ca.16,398 beats per hour.
duration - ca.32 hours.
Striking train: duration - 220 strokes (= 24 hours + 64 strokes).
Height (without hour-wheel arbor): 133 mm.
Diameter: 117 mm.
Movement: distance between the plates - 68 mm.
There have been two major conversions to this clock: the conversion to balance spring and the restoration to its present condition.
The conversion to balance spring probably took place in the late 17th century, judging by the tri-part ornament of the balance cock and the style of the regulator. Presumably at the same time the clock acquired a minute hand (witness the minute-division of the chapterring), loosing the original domed dial centre in the process.
When the clock was restored (perhaps this was the repassage refered to in the repair-inscription of 1869) the dial was restored to what was assumed to have been its original state. The under-dial work was rebuilt with a new hour-wheel, bell and steel bridge, and the dial centre was replaced by an 18th century ornamental disc of altogether different provenance.
HISTORY AND PROVENANCE.
The repair inscriptions suggest that until the 19th century, and certainly in 1869, the clock was in France (or at least a French-speaking area).
In 1891 it was purchased by the Museum for £ 40 from Messrs. J.& S.Goldschmidt, Hotel d'Angletèrre, Frankfort am Main. Reg. 1891,3-9,1.
Since then the clock has had remarkably little impact on the horological world; the maker is not even mentioned in Baillie's lists.
No other work by the maker is known to exist. Isaac Definod was a protestant who was born in Geneva; he was a son of the Genevan clockmaker Julien Definod. Isaac was apprenticed to Antoine I Arlaud in 1617, and is described as "maitre horloger" when he married in Gien in 1626. There he had children baptised until 1647. He was not burried in Gien before 1667 but it is possible that he later moved away from there. Isaac had a close relative Gaspard Definod, also a clockmaker, who came from Collonges (near Geneva) and is mentioned in Gien 1634-1640 1).
The general character of the movement (particularly the tangent screw set-up, the deep-set second wheel in the going train, and the ornamental detends for the striking), as well as the ornamentation, leave little doubt that this clock dates from the middle of the 17th century. That is quite late for a French horizontal table clock; in fact no comparable clock has come to light so far. It is therefore particularly important to analyse the changes it has undergone.
The present dial is obviously a concoction: the chapterring is original, but the pierced and engraved ornament of the dial-centre is too small for the aperture, and the ornament is later in style than that of the pierced portions of the band of the case. Moreover, the arbor for the hand cuts through the L of the initials 2); all this makes likely that this pierced plaque originally formed part of something quite different.
Actually there is reason to believe that the original dial-centre was domed. The countwheel and its drive appear to be original, but the arrangement for the hour-hand wheel is very tight and the present bell, which is comparatively recent, is unusually shallow. The square of the great wheel arbor now has no pinhole to secure the pinion-of-report, but its end shows the remain of such a hole, cut through when the arbor was shortened. All this makes likely that originally there was more room above the front plate of the movement and within the chapterring.
This puts the clock in the tradition of the horizontal tableclocks made in France in the late 16th century, which often have a dome, though usually it is surmounted (rather than surrounded) by the chapterring.
Technically the most striking feature of the clock are the unconventional gearing-ratios, particularly in the going train. The old rule that the number of leaves on the pinion should always divide the teeth of the wheel it meshes with has been abandoned, forshadowing de la Hire who at the very end of the century was to publish his arguments against the old established rule 3).
1) The registers of the protestants in Gien were lost in 1940, but 19th-century copies are preserved in the library of the Société de l'Histoire du Protestantisme Français (Paris), ms.1082. The entries that concern Isaac Definod are: Vol.2 p.321 no.2070 ("Isaac Defino, maitre horloger, né à Genève, fils de Julien et de Marie Messonnier"), also p.375 no.2745, p.383 no.2820, p.387 no.2884, p.400 no.3019, p.406 no.3184, p.415 no.3284, p.424 no.3368, p.431 no.3443, and p.444 no.3620; those refering to Gaspard are Vol.2 p.329 no.2159 ("Gaspard de Finod, horloger, de Colonges en Gex"), also p.407 no.3194, p.415 no.3279, and p.423 no.3361. Both men had children named Isaac, Gaspard and Susanne. Additional information in Patrizzi (1998) 152. There were three protestant clockmkakers Definod in Lyon between the years 1633 and 1660 (Louis Definod and his sons Vincent and Jacques) who may have been members of the same family (Vial/Côte  45-6, 153-4).
2) The initials habitually occur in the ornament of the cock of watches signed Julien Le Roy (but made by Pierre Le Roy), but this appears to be a coincidence.
3) See Introduction.
The join in the band is at the former door for the striking. All the joins on the rings can be found.
The upper ring with the chapterring comes off (all the pins gone).
Slipping the movement into, and particularly out of, the case is problematical: make sure that the small bit of the guiding ridge in the case is properly in position.
The repair on the 3rd wheel striking is old: red brazing. There is a lot of wear on the pinion.
Spring barrel going. The arbor has been repaired as in the text; in order to avoid that the slotted arbor would wear away the top hole in the barrel a brass ring was forced around the slotted part (and presumably the hole in the cap enlarged). The top portion of the steel arbor was half cut away and a new portion brazed in (with yellow brazing).
Spring: not blued. 48 x .4 mm (the inner measurements of the barrel: depth 51, diameter 38.5 mm). There are 19 turns of spring in the barrel (compare inscription, which mentions ten turns).
Spring barrel striking. Spring: not blued, 48 x .4 mm (inner measurements of the barrel: depth 53, diameter 39 mm).
Springs not taken out of the barrels.
The going train has a deep-set second wheel.
This was the first early clock acquired by the museum after the Morgan-bequest.
The gut-holes in the fusees do not go horizontal, but down.
BIBLIOGRAPHY (Pauline Wholey – 2019)
Tardy (1971-2) - Tardy, Dictionaire des Horlogers Français (Paris 1971-2).
Shenton (1985) - A./R.Shenton, The Price Guide to Collectable Clocks 1840-1940, 2nd ed. (Woodbridge 1985).
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2009 22 Jul- 2017 Jan, London, Science Museum, Measuring Time, LT Loan.
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number