- Museum number
Candle-lighting alarm clock.
The case of semi-elliptical shape; the outside of the lid, the front dial, sides and back engraved with scrollwork. There is a pierced band below the hinge, next to the bell to allow the sound to escape.
Spring-driven movement of watch size with stackfreed and verge escapement (much of the movement has been restored and replaced, but the original stackfreed spring survives).
The watch movement triggers a wheel lock and flint mechanism (similar to a pistol) which is inteded to light a waxed taper at the same time as the alarm sounds on the bell.
Dial engraved with Roman hours I - XII. The alarm setting disc numbered 1-12 carries a pointer to show the time and the alarm is set by turning the central hand to the desired time. The present alarm disc is a replacement.
Copper-gilt case with a coarse screw engaging in a wooden base/stand.
All once in a wooden case; now missing. Openwork.
- Production date
Length: 76.90 millimetres
Width: 74.30 millimetres
- 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The following text is the entry for this object from the unpublished catalogue of pre-pendulum clocks by John Leopold, former Assistant Keeper of Horology at the Museum.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.
CANDLE-LIGHTING ALARUM CLOCK, SOUTH GERMAN, ca.1570.
Given by Max Rosenheim Esq. FSA, 68 Belsize Pk.Gdns., N10.
H.J. 44 (October 1901) 21 ("generally spoken of as strike-a-light clocks").
Wayman (2000) - 32-35, 65, figs.3.8-14, 4.15-16 (analysis of front plate of movement, mainspring, going, plate from wheel lock, flat spring from wheel lock, sparking disc).
No signature or mark.
Horseshoe-shaped case, made of brass, gilded on the outside only. The band is out of a U-shaped portion and a straight one, brazed at the sharp corners, and both brazed to the bottom. The case is engraved all over with strap-work and scrolls; the curved portion of the band has piercing to let out the sound of the bell, and the straight portions of the U are engraved with two female figures, one carrying a rake and the other a flail, both representing aspects of Summer (see commentary). The back of the case has two winding-holes and an aperture for the lever locking the alarum; it has been hammered out to suit subsequent alterations.
A group of small holes in the flat portion of the band may have accommodated an attachment to hold the taper.
Dial and cover.
Made of brass, gilded on the outside; it is fixed to the movement by four gilded plain feet. The dial is engraved with scrollwork and has, riveted to it, the gilded chapter ring, divided I-XII with simple half-hour marks and with twelve touch knobs. Within the chapter ring is an engraved gilded disc divided 1-12 and carrying the steel pointer which serves as hand for the chapter ring; this disc has no means of connecting it to the mechanism and is a restoration. On top of the disc is a steel hand to set the alarum.
The bell is attached to the centre of the dial-plate.
The lid is hinged to the dial-plate. It is of brass, gilded inside and out, and is engraved on the outside with strap-work and scrolls containing a dog and a fox. It has a brass catch. A raised portion, which used to cover the hammer of the wheel-lock mechanism, has been cut away. There originally was a small (3 knuckles) hinge which was enlarged, probably at an early stage, to 7 knuckles.
Plated movement, all the remaining original parts steel with the exception of four brass studs on the back plate, which serve as spacers between the movement and the case. Movement and dial are fixed in the case by two screws on the back of the case, screwing into the back plate (screws now missing).
Plated movement; the back plate is shaped like the case, the front plate is round (as in a watch-movement) and has the four plain pillars, which are riveted to the plate. The pillars, which have a profile that follows the curve of the plate, have lightly engraved lines along their vertical edges. This portion of the movement is contained within the bell.
The movement originally consisted of a going train, alarum, and the wheel-lock mechanism. Nearly all the moving parts are now missing. What survives is the following. On the outside of the back plate: the stackfreed-spring, the locking-lever for the alarum, and the lever for unlocking the wheel lock. On the inside of the back plate: the clip that held the escape-wheel of the alarum, and the wheel lock-mechanism with the remainder of its unlocking-lever. On the outside of the front plate: the unlocking-lever for the alarum and its spring.
The movement used to be secured in the case by two screws (both now missing).
The going train consisted of great wheel, 2nd, 3rd, contrate and escape.
The spring is held between four posts (the present spring is later).
The present brass escape wheel (wheel-15, pinion-5) is later, although the arbor and pinion may be original. The wheel is held between a potence and a counter-potence, both of brass and screwed to the back plate (both later).
The balance-staff was held between a brass bridge riveted to the front plate and a screwed brass cock on the back plate; both are later, and in the large hole in the front plate there are remains of the characteristic spiral arm to support the end of the staff.
The disc with the hour-indicator and the alarum-hand are now mounted on a single arbor, which does not belong to the movement.
This train consisted of a great wheel, 2nd, 3rd and escape. Unlocking was performed by freeing a sliding block (the brass spring for this, probably a replacement, is on the outside of the front plate). The alarum was released under the dial, separate from the wheel-lock.
Conventional wheel-lock, the wheel being connected to the large spring by a short chain. The lock is wound through a hole in the band of the case; it is cocked like an ordinary gunlock, and is released through levers on the back plate of the movement.
Several parts of the mechanism have been brazed with copper.
Clock: length - 77 mm
width - 73 mm
height -36 mm
Movement: distance between the plates - 12 mm
Given by Max Rosenheim Esq. FSA, in 1901.
Several brass parts show that the movement was extensively converted before most of the mechanism was discarded. At present little of the original parts between the plates remains.
This is an early and also a very small candle-lighting alarum-clock. Such clocks can be made to strike a light at any pre-chosen moment, by setting off a mechanism very similar to a gun-lock; this portion of the clock was presumably made by a gun-smith. In the present clock the candle-lighting device is combined with a conventional alarum; how the candle or taper was to be secured is not clear, unless several small empty holes in the straight part of the band accommodated some sort of clamp. For a later example of this type of clock see no. .
The construction of the clock is unconventional in that the dial is fixed to the back plate, thus allowing the much smaller front plate to the sunk into the bell. The clock is closely related to the so-called tambour-watches of the period; indeed, the movement is essentially a watch-movement. Such derivatives of watch work are occasionally met with; the best known example is book-watch by Hans Koch of Munich, which also has part of the movement, like a watch, covered by the bell (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; ill. Basserman Jordan/Bertele  fig.98).
The female figures on the band are after Virgil Solis; they were taken from an engraving representing aspects of Summer (O'Dell  e7). The original identifies the figure with the rake as MATVRI(ta)S (Maturity), and the one with the flail as PAL(e)S, a deity associated with cattle and shepherds (which is surprising: the flail more commonly symbolizes Harvest). Here both figures are likely to refer to Maturity.
The pierced ornament of the band is related to the band of watches; a tambour-case was in the Soltykoff collection (Cat.Soltykoff  pl.XIV), and it became the standard design for the band of rounded cases (a.o. Cat.BM I  pl.12d, 13a,e, 14b, 17e,f, 47).
Nut for bell missing.
Present mainspring: 0.2 x 11.5 mm.
When registered this clock had a wooden case. Where?
"The first alarm clock appeared in 1420. Its owner was a councillor of Milan. His clock sounded a bell at a stated hour, and at the same time a wax candle was lighted automatically." HJ (April 1929) 214.
BIBLIOGRAPHY (Pauline Wholey – 2019)
Wayman (2000) - M.L.Wayman ed., The ferrous Metallurgy of early Clocks and Watches - Studies in post medieval Steel, British Museum, Occasional Paper 135 (London 2000). Contributers: P.T.Craddock, J.L.Evans, J.Lang, J.H.Leopold, M.L.Wayman.
H.J. 44 (October 1901) 21 ("generally spoken of as strike-a-light clocks").
A short description of this clock appears on p.21 of the Horological Journal, October, 1901, British Horological Institute.
- On display (G38/dc4)
Latest: 4 (Oct 2018) inactive corrosion on steel work
2 (Oct 2015)
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number