- Museum number
Astronomical observers 'follower' clock; movement with centre-seconds; pendulum and remontoire constant force escapement; white enamelled dial; ring with aperture allowing escapement to be seen; mahogany pedestal case with glass dome containing freak regulator.
Gt wheel 100
Inter wheel 84/16
Centre wheel 64/14
3rd wheel 60/8
4th wheel 60/8
Escape wheel 60/10
and 10 pins and 10 leaves to star.
Fly 6 leaves.
Canon pinion 12
Minute wheel 36
Minute wheel 10
Hour wheel 40
- Production date
- c1810 (circa)
Height: 42.50 centimetres
Width: 18.50 centimetres
Depth: 16.80 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Text from 'Clocks', by David Thompson, London, 2004, p. 136.
Breguet et Fils
Astronomer's follower clock
Paris, c. 1815
Height 42.5 cm, width 18.5 cm, depth 16.8 cm
Abraham Louis Breguet, born in 1747 in Neuchâtel in Switzerland, was without doubt one of the most ingenious of watch- and clockmakers. At the age of eighteen he moved to Paris, then to Versailles where he studied with the watchmaker Etienne Gide. In 1775 he married Cécile L'Huillier and established his own business at Quai de l'Horloge in Paris in partnership with Xavier Gide, the brother of his former master. He very quickly rose to eminence, becoming Clockmaker to Louis XVI, and was soon supplying watches and clocks to the nobility of Europe. He suffered problems during the French Revolution and spent time in exile in Switzerland but when France settled down during the Empire under Napoleon Bonaparte he returned and became Clockmaker to the Emperor. He took his son Louis-Antoine into partnership in 1820 and, following his death in 1823, Louis continued the business, which produced some of the finest watches made in the nineteenth century and still exists today.
For their observations, astronomers needed a precision regulator. In some instances, however, they might also make use of a timekeeper which struck a bell at second intervals which could be used to time observations when the astronomer was working alone. Of the few examples of these clocks which do survive, this is perhaps the most sophisticated. It contains refinements rarely found in precision table regulators and is one of just two clocks made by Breguet which survive today. This clock has a constant-force escapement of Breguet's own design with the impulse provided by a falling platinum weight. A gridiron pendulum provides compensation for changes in temperature.
The rear case panel is numbered 04813 and the number '4' appears on some of the components suggesting that a batch of clocks were made. Indeed, George Daniels in 'The Art of Breguet' illustrates a clock numbered '3', bought by Breguet from a Monsieur Lolloé and then improved by Monsieur de Proney, who added the latitude compensator.
The woods chosen for the plain mahogany case are finely figured, giving the clock a simple but elegant appearance with only a moulding around the top and an extended plinth to add weight to the overall effect. The dial is simple with an outer enamel ring for the centre-seconds hand and a subsidiary enamel dial in the lower part for hours and minutes. In the upper centre a glazed aperture reveals Breguet's escapement.
The unusual and sophisticated feature of the clock, however, is the glass dome at the top, which reveals two small balls at the end of a bar mounted horizontally at the very top of the pendulum rod. The position of these balls affects the rate of the pendulum by only tiny amounts, but moving them in or out from the centre is enough to compensate for the variations in the force of gravity, which is strongest at the poles and weakest at the equator. A scale inside the dome, calibrated 0-90, allows the bar-and-ball compensator to be adjusted according to the latitude where the clock is being used.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- The Ilbert Collection of clocks, prints and other related material was destined to be sold at Christie's auction house on 6th-7th November 1958. As a result of the generous donation of funds by Gilbert Edgar CBE the sale was cancelled and the material purchased privately from the beneficiaries of the Ilbert Estate.NL1Ilbert's watches were then acquired with further funds from Gilbert Edgar CBE, public donations and government funds. These were then registered in the series 1958,1201.
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Previous owner/ex-collection number: CAI.2122 (Ilbert Collection)
Previous owner/ex-collection number: Q323 (Ilbert Ledger)