Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Clock Blogging Stub - eBay race results

by dmun Sat Jul 8th, 2006 at 07:31:07 AM EST


I don't have time for a full episode of Clock Blogging this week, and am announcing a summer hiatus, because of a time-consuming home renovation project this summer.  I'll resume the series in mid-September.

Read more... (1 comment, 463 words in story)

Summer Clock Blogging Special - eBay competition

by dmun Sat Jul 1st, 2006 at 09:08:16 AM EST

It's all about stuff - A fun diversion for a Summer weekend

This week, for a change, since I don't have access to my server to upload pictures, I am proposing an amusing game, where I point to a clock from each of a bunch of countries, any you guess, and vote, on which sells for the highest price.

Now it might seem really easy, since it's obvious from starting bids, which are the most expensive clocks.  The rule is that it actually has to sell, not just get bids under the reserve.  So look at the pictures, click through to the listings, and guess the winner.

I don't know any of these sellers, or have any interest in any of the clocks being sold. This is just for fun.

Next week in clock blog comments, I'll post the winner and how the poll voters did.

Read more... (2 comments, 1148 words in story)

Week-end Clock Blogging - John Ellicott in 18c England

by dmun Sat Jun 24th, 2006 at 10:33:49 AM EST


Our last portrait of an English clockmaker, Graham, focused on the invention of mercurial temperature compensation. Graham's idea was never really improved upon until 20th century revolutions in metal and material science, but it didn't keep a lot of makers from trying. Today's portrait is of John Ellicott, maker of regulators of extreme aesthetic elegance, and the inventor of a wacky brass-and-steel compensation system, that was itself much imitated.


(image credit: Old Clocks and Watches & their Makers  5th edition  F.J. Britten  Spon Ltd. London 1922)

John Ellicott was born in London 1706, the son of a watchmaker with Cornwall roots. He was admitted to the clockmakers company in 1728, and in 1738 he was elected to the Royal Society. He was clockmaker to the King, and made several important public clocks. He died suddenly in 1772, having fallen from his chair and instantly expired. The business passed to his elder son Edward, and remained in business until the middle of the 19th century.

Read more... (1 comment, 1070 words in story)

Week-end Clock Blogging - The 18th century in Germany

by dmun Sat Jun 17th, 2006 at 10:53:40 AM EST


We last visited the Germans in the rennaissance, before the invention of the pendulum, when Augsburg was the center of the clockmaking universe.

(image credit: Die Deutsche Räderuhr Band II    Klaus Maurice    Verlag C. H. Beck  Munchen   1976)

The shape and form of the Renaissance clock came into the seventeenth century, and became cased in wood. This example is from Augsburg at the end of the 17th century, by Johann Buschmann. You can see the similarities to the Augsburg tower form table clocks which preceded it.

Read more... (3 comments, 905 words in story)

Week-end Clock Blogging - The 18th century in the Netherlands

by dmun Sat Jun 10th, 2006 at 07:58:09 AM EST


When we last left the Dutch, it was the late 17th century, the pendulum, invented by Huygens and implemented by Coster, immediately spread to England and France.  Clockmaking, of course, continued in the Low Countries, but to a large extent, you are what you export.  There were a lot of countries, like the Scandinavian countries, and what is now the Czech republic, and Switzerland that made a lot of clocks for domestic use, but never developed export industries, so foreigners don't know that much about them. The Netherlands, being a trading country, and New York, being a former colony, had a certain amount of interchange, so we know more about them than other minor clockmaking countries.

(image credit: Dutch Antique Domestic Clocks    Dr. J. L. Sellink   Clock Trade Enterprises Bronxville, NY 1973)

The tradition of the Hague clock continued for a while after Coster's untimely death. Here you'll note a clock that looks a lot like the French Religieuse clocks we saw in the Louis the fourteenth period. It has a stern ebonized finish instead of the gaudy died tortoise veneer, and the pierced chapter ring is very characteristic of Dutch work.  This is a clock by Johannes van Ceulen-Haghe, late 17th century.

Read more... (5 comments, 961 words in story)

Week-end Clock Blogging - George Graham and compensation

by dmun Sat Jun 3rd, 2006 at 11:52:34 AM EST


We've covered some technical advances that brought the pendulum clock to the edge of accuracy.  By the late 17th century, the pendulum, the anchor escapement and the seconds pendulum, and weight drive coupled with maintaining power brought the clock to 10 or 15 seconds a week as opposed to the 10 or 15 minutes a day that was common in renaissance clocks. In fact, a lot of these clocks are still running, and keeping better time than when they were new.

(image credit: Wikipedia)

I know. Poor George. Ugly as homemade sin. But he was a remarkable clockmaker. He invented the dead beat escapement, that didn't put the brakes on the pendulum with every tick, and it's watchmaking equivalent, the cylinder escapement. He invented the Orrery, a teaching tool that demonstrates the relative positions of the planets in the Solar System.  But most important, he invented the first, and until modern times, the best method of compensating for changes in temperature in pendulums. His portrait, above, shows his compensation pendulum in the background.

Read more... (7 comments, 951 words in story)

Week-end Clock Blogging - La Regence

by dmun Sat May 27th, 2006 at 09:04:07 AM EST


For years, I've been quoting a French saying "everything exquisite is a little bit disgusting"  This week, when I wanted to get a citation for the quote, I can't find any trace of it in English or in French - "tout exquis est un peu répugnant".  Maybe I made it up.  Who knows. In any event, here I am on the premier european leftist political blog talking without contempt of the sun-king and his successors, and their namesake periods of decoration.

This week we talk about the next period of clock design in Paris, the Regence, when clocks begin to loose their rectangular form and begin the transition to the free sculptural forms that prevailed in the mid-eighteenth century.  The designs start to get a little, well, exquisite, for most tastes.

It doesn't help that for years, 18th century French furniture has been the decorating choice for arivistes and the newly wealthy.  That's how the Frick, and the Getty, and the Metropolitan Museum got full of the stuff, after all.  In it's lesser pieces and the endless 19th century reproductions it is truly repellant: in the trade such expressions as "Louis the who" and "Bronx revival" drip with contempt for the stuff.

(image credit: Phototypie A. Faucheaux, Chelles.  An old print: more Louis XVI than Regence, but you get the idea)

I begin last week with a snarky remark about the French golden age of interior decoration.  It's easy to condemn for it's excess, but in a real sense, the modern world was invented in the Salons of 18th century Paris.  The idea was not only that every interior was to conform to accepted taste, and be fitted with harmoniously designed furniture and fittings, but the home was an important place, and that women had an important place in the social and intellectual life of the comunity.  Even the idea that a chair should be comfortable, and fit the human form was a Parisian invention of this period: Up until this time the bench of the peasant and the throne of a king differed only in size and material - they were both equally uncomfortable.

Read more... (6 comments, 1135 words in story)

Week-end Clock Blogging - Louis Quatorze

by dmun Sat May 20th, 2006 at 09:49:19 AM EST


This week we return to Paris, and the early development of the pendulum clock in France.  While the English were having their "golden age" of horology, the French were having a golden age of interior decoration.

(image credit: Jean Trzaska)

With the reign of Louis XIV, the decorative aspect of clocks became supreme. The many artisans and artists working for the glory and under the patronage of the Sun-King contributed to the style that was to contribute to France's glory at the end of the 17th century. Certain privileged artisans were given lodgings by the king: André Charles Boulle, the celebrated artist in marquetry, was among them, as were clockmakers such as Gilles Martinot, Augustin François Bidault, and Jacques Thuret.

Louis XIV clocks were richly decorated with Boulle marquetry and ornamental bronzes depicting themes often suggestive of power and glory: Apollo on his chariot, Chronos, the three Parques. Although certain clocks of the period were placed on a piece of furniture, many others were destined to be placed on a bracket fixed to the wall - these are examples of the Louis XIV wall bracket clocks, or "cartels sur console murale", in French.

The architectural rigor of this era - of which the typical horological representation was the rectangular "Religieuse" clock - featured strict lines and ceremonious decor...

(credit: antiquorum.com)  

Read more... (2 comments, 966 words in story)

Week-end Clock Blogging - The Balance Spring

by dmun Sat May 13th, 2006 at 09:15:24 AM EST


This week's article delves into the story of two great scientists and their competing claims to the invention that made portable timekeepers almost as accurate as pendulum clocks.

(image credit: Science Museum, London ,an early balance spring watch by Thomas Tompion)

Huygens also developed a balance-spring clock more or less contemporaneously with, though separately from, Robert Hooke, and controversy over whose invention was the earlier persisted for centuries. In February 2006, a long-lost copy of Hooke's handwritten notes from several decades' Royal Society meetings was discovered in a cupboard in Hampshire, and the balance-spring controversy appears by evidence contained in those notes to be settled in favor of Hooke's claim.

(credit: Wikipedia)

Read more... (3 comments, 955 words in story)

Week-end Clock Blogging - England's Golden Age - Review

by dmun Sat May 6th, 2006 at 08:39:00 AM EST


In our recent series, we have been considering some of the great names of late 17th and early 18th century English clockmaking. There have been individual monographs on Fromenteel, Clement, Tompion, East, Quare, and Knibb. This might be considered overkill, but for a long time, this was considered the only important period in English clockmaking.  To understand we need a bit of an overview of English clock history:

The first image, from 1690, is small in scale, with a 10" dial and an elaborately inlaid case.
The next, from 1730, is a bigger clock, and the 12" dial has grown a break-arch on the top.
By 1780 the elaborate multi-piece dial has become flat and silvered, and the case is mahogany.
In the early 19th century, the painted dial took over, and the creeping obesity advances...
By the end of the line, in 1850, the clock is huge and fat, with a 14" dial, and a riot of veneers.

This process was once considered a rush to the bottom, and only the earliest pieces were esteemed.

Read more... (1 comment, 879 words in story)

Week-end Clock Blogging - Joseph Knibb

by dmun Sat Apr 29th, 2006 at 09:13:44 AM EST


Joseph Knibb was from a family of clockmakers, in the Oxford area. There were a Samuel, Peter, and John Knibb in the clockmakers company in the late 17th century, but the famous memeber of the family in Joseph.  He got his start as a royal clockmaker by making a tower clock over the state entrance in the quadrangle of Windsor Castle.  This was said to be the first tower clock with brass wheels, which may be a testament to the depth of the royal purse than any engineering decision.  Perfectly good tower clocks were made until the 20th century with at least the large wheels made of iron.

This back plate view of a Knibb dutch striking bracket clock shows the decorative engraving that would become common on English bracket clocks in the 18th century. The early feature of the exposed count wheel is growing larger than the ones we've seen earlier, and will soon disappear from the back plates of longcase clocks, and from bracket clocks entirely.

(image credit: R. McEvoy)

Read more... (3 comments, 808 words in story)

Week-end Clock Blogging - Daniel Quaire

by dmun Sat Apr 22nd, 2006 at 08:20:26 AM EST


Of the great names in early English Clockmaking, Daniel Quare is the subject of our discourse today.


(images credit:Derek Roberts fine antique clocks)

Quare was a royal clockmaker, and noted inventor.  We know a lot more about the clocks than the man who made them  

Read more... (3 comments, 877 words in story)

Week-end Clock Blogging - Thomas Tompion

by dmun Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 09:47:03 AM EST


Thomas Tompion was England's foremost clock and watch maker in what is considered the greatest period of English clocks. Spurred on by a great increase in wealth, a general interest in scientific interests among the affluent end of the general population, and not coincidentally the complete rebuilding of London after the great fire, The best clockmakers of the age were kept very busy.


(images credit:history.org)

Like the other clockmakers of the time, Tompion started his career making ordinary things like thirty hour lantern clocks. With his royal connections and monied clientele, he was well positioned to take advantage of his skills and advance his business.

Tompion was clockmaker to royalty, not just of England, but the world, as his works were presented as gifts of state. There is so much good stuff to write, and so many sites to point to on the subject of this great maker, that I can only skim the surface.  

Read more... (4 comments, 1370 words in story)

Week-end Clock Blogging - Edward East and England's "golden age"

by dmun Sat Apr 8th, 2006 at 08:13:20 AM EST


Edward East was the premier clock and watchmaker in London at the time of the arrival of the Pendulum from the Netherlands.  He had been established in premises in Fleet Street by 1635.  He was president of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, and clockmaker to King Charles I.  

(image credit: Old Clocks and Watches & their Makers  5th edition  F.J. Britten  Spon Ltd. London 1922)

He made a full range of clocks of the time, including this unusual "winged" lantern clock, with matching enclosures for the huge swing of the short pendulum.

Read more... (2 comments, 683 words in story)

Week-end Clock Blogging - Clement's long pendulum

by dmun Sat Apr 1st, 2006 at 08:17:57 AM EST


In 1670 the ancient tower clock in St. Giles church, Cambridge ground to a halt. A maker named William Clement was engaged to make a modern replacement, using the new pendulum technology which enabled clocks, for the first time, to keep time.  This is what they received for their 40 pounds:  

(from the Science Museum) in London

This is considered to be the first clock with an original Anchor Recoil escapement. Clement is widely credited with it's invention.

Read more... (4 comments, 879 words in story)

Week-end Clock Blogging - Huygens goes to Paris

by dmun Sat Mar 25th, 2006 at 08:33:10 AM EST


Two weeks ago we were in The Hague, Netherland: Salomon Coster had just received the rights to make clocks with Huygens' remarkable pendulum.  So why didn't Coster become the most famous clockmaker in the world?  Why are there only seven Coster pendulum clocks? Well, Coster died the next year, in 1659.  In the mean time, his patron, Christian Huygens was lured to Paris.

(from the Koninklijke Bibliotheek)

One of those Coster clocks was presented to the King of France, who was very much impressed.

Read more... (3 comments, 729 words in story)

Week-end Clock Blogging - Fromanteel conquers England

by dmun Sat Mar 18th, 2006 at 07:17:53 AM EST


Last week we were in The Hague, Netherland: Salomon Coster had just received the rights to make clocks with Huygens' remarkable pendulum.  He had a problem.  It takes a long time to make something by hand. You can only hire so many journeymen, and  you don't want to train your competition. You are restricted by guild regulations as to how many apprentices you can take on, so what could he do?  He called on his English cousin Aususerus Fromanteel, and contracted for the services of his son.


(from antique-horology.org)

Amazingly, this contract still exists.  Although both Fromanteel and his son had been born in England, the contract is written in Dutch.

Read more... (2 comments, 970 words in story)

Week-end Clock Blogging - Huygens and the pendulum

by dmun Sat Mar 11th, 2006 at 09:18:46 AM EST


This week the focus shifts, momentarily, back to Italy, and the education of Galileo at the University of Piza where he was a student.  He would have had to spend long productive hours at the cathedral:


where a person of enquiring mind would have to think about something.  Galileo, as it turned out, watched the lamps swinging in the draft. As Albert Van Helden, puts it:

Because of his mathematical approach to motion, Galileo was  intrigued by the back and forth motion of a suspended  weight. His earliest considerations of this phenomenon must be  dated to his days before he accepted a teaching position at the University of Pisa. His first biographer, Vincenzo Viviani, states that he began his  study of pendulums after he watched a suspended lamp swing back  and forth in the cathedral of Pisa when he was still a student  there. Galileo's first notes on the subject date from 1588, but  he did not begin serious investigations until 1602.

Read more... (5 comments, 888 words in story)

Week-end Clock Blogging - Early English Lantern Clocks

by dmun Sat Mar 4th, 2006 at 08:30:24 AM EST

fascinating series from the diaries.


This week the focus shifts, as it often will, to England. The reason for this is simple.  Not only did England have a large and influential clock industry, but also, much clock history is written in English, and has a slant ranging from anglophilic to downright xenophobic. This combined with the fact that I can read only a little French and no German or other European languages means that my exposure to other cultures is limited.


This is a typical early English lantern clock. This image is from the site of Robert Loomes, an English restorer.

Read more... (4 comments, 478 words in story)

Week-end Clock Blogging - Spring driven Renaissance table clocks

by dmun Sat Feb 25th, 2006 at 10:08:23 AM EST


This week we talk about the the first real technical advance in horology.  Almost everything we've talked about so far had been borrowed from other mechanisms. The German makers, seeing the limitations of a clock which needed to be driven by falling weights and attached to the wall, invented a way to power the clock with a coiled steel spring.

Although this is a French rather than a German example, which would have had an iron framework, you can see the two spring barrels clearly.

Read more... (15 comments, 566 words in story)
Next 20 >>

News and Views

 November 2021

by Bernard - Nov 1, 177 comments

Your take on this month's news

 Winter 2021 Open Thread

by Bernard - Nov 2, 25 comments

Winter is coming...

Occasional Series
Click for full list