Maker, Ferdinand Berthoud, Paris, France, c. 1785.
Three train pinwheel escapement, 1/2 second gridiron compensated pendulum on
knife edge suspension,
30 second Robin remontoire, full perpetual calendar, epicyclical equation of
time, moon's age and phase, quarter strike on solar time Chime and strike
can be silenced. 25.5"h x 12.25"w x 10.75"d, (65 x 31 x 27.5cm)
The first video shows an overview of the clock. The handler gives
one an idea of the size of the movement. The second video is a close up of
the remontoire flywheel mediating the reload (cycling) of the remontoire.
This occurs every 30 seconds. The flywheel design is quite a bit noisier
than the conventional fly fan since it is brought to a sudden stop when the
wheel's pin contacts the detent; but to be honest it grows on you. This
transverse-mounted flywheel design was favored by a few of the earlier, and
higher end French makers of skeleton clocks. Other examples being Lepine and
Click on the links below or photos below for
further details on this most interesting clock.
This clock mirrored the timekeeping habits and standards
of the owner at the time. Equation clocks were built originally not so much
to verify the mean time they kept as to convert this to the solar time
people lived by, what the French called "civilian" time as against
astronomical. The intention showed on the dial: the first such clocks linked
the solar minute hand to the hour hand so the latter showed sun time rather
than mean time; when striking, they rang out the solar hours. This is
precisely the setup used here.
A conventional equation kidney rotates once per year. In
this clock it rotates daily and the readout is translated to the calendar
via epicyclical gearing resulting in the correct annual reading. The
striking is also synchronized with the solar time, so the quarter chimes and
hour strike follow sun time and not clock time as seen on any other clock.
The calendar is a full perpetual, allowing for the differing lengths of the
months as well as a February of 29 days every four years (leap year). All
dials have gilt inner and outer bezels. The base is a rouge marble with gilt
Aside from the many mechanical complications, the three dimensional
presentation of the statuary in front of the movement is exceptional. Rather
than being molded into the frame of the clock or staged around the dial work
they are fully formed and set naturally in front of the clock works. There
is a pleasing quality to it, almost as if the woman and putties had just simply
stepped onto the marble base.
Supposedly this clock was made as a pair, with the other being a barometer.
During WWII both were located in a house in Austria which was bombed during
the war, the barometer did not survive. Later the clock moved to Paris and
was auctioned in 1966. It then came to the London dealer, Bobinet in the
1980's. Later it resided in Switzerland, and then came to a private
collector in the USA around 2000, some time afterward it entered the current
Literature: Continental and American Skeleton Clocks, Derek Roberts, p. 24