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Clocks of the World

The Clocks of the World gallery holds over 1,000 clocks, timepieces, and horological tools. Arranged both chronologically and geographically, follow the development of clockmaking and explore how it influenced (and was influenced by) all facets of society. Clocks have transformed innumerable industries and lifeways, including astronomy, navigation, economics, trade, and community. 

The mechanical clock did not arise until the late 1200s, but horologists made quick strides in accuracy, artistry, and accessibility. The British turned clockmaking into a science, resolving every major issue facing the mechanical clock by 1700. Additionally, they solved the longitude problem with the invention of the chronometer. This monumental achievement allowed sailors to calculate their East-West position on the seas for the first time, and the success of the British Empire was singularly the result of these timekeepers. Clocks were now precise enough to be used as scientific instruments. 

Once the accuracy of mechanical timekeeping had progressed exponentially, clocks began to develop in other spheres, like art, trading, and manufacturing. French pre-revolution clocks featured the efforts of many different craftsmen: bronze sculptors, porcelain modelers, and even cabinet makers. European clockmakers also crafted elaborate pieces for foreign markets. In particular, British clocks for Chinese market are well known for their mechanical moving elements, jewels, and chimes. Finally, it was the American clockmaking industry that refined the manufacturing process, resulting in greater efficiency, lower costs, and a wider variety of offerings.  For the very first time, it was possible for the everyday person to own a clock or pocket watch of their own. 


Over the course of just a few hundred years, the mechanical clock progressed from tower clocks that told the approximate time to entire communities to handheld, personal machines that told time to the millisecond. 

Ormolu Chinoiserie Mantel Clock

Clockmaker: Waltrin Fils, Bronzier: Saint-Germain
France, circa 1765

An excellent rococo style ormolu mantel clock. Drum case, with dial signed Waltrin Fils a Paris, is surmounted by an ormolu figure with plumed hat. Two chinoiserie figures hold the drum-cased clock, upon a rocaille (rock-shaped) base.

A very similar clock case signed St Germain is illustrated in French Clocks the World Over, Part 1, Plate XXX.


Mantel Clock with Pull Repeat and Bracket

Charles Dallier
Paris, France, circa 1720

This clock is a fine example of the transitional Regency period—it has the symmetry of the baroque style, yet it exhibits the curved lines of the coming rococo style. The “waisted” style of the case was adapted from the influential tête-de-poupée clocks that were popular twenty years before. This feminine shape became a hallmark of the Regency period. The putti exemplify the prominent use of gilt-bronze sculpture in 18th century French clocks. And this is an early use of the shell motif which would be prominent in the rococo period.

The clockmaker Dallie (also spelled Dallier) worked in Paris after 1720 and became a Master in 1722.


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