POUVILLON RESTORATION PROJECT - August 2011
An examination of the frame design
The design of the frame for this clock is as unique and
important to the skills and legacy of Pouvillon as are the myriad of
complication he added to it. Here Pouvillon achieved a design that has been
unequalled in for want of a better word, its 'airiness' and I have designated it
as a space frame design. I have seen many skeleton clocks of
various designs and complications, some more esthetically beautiful as
demonstrated by some of James Condliff's work, but I have yet to see this quality
of the wheels floating free duplicated to such a degree. It is
instantaneously recognizable. Pouvillon used four concepts to achieve this effect.
The first is that he chose to run all of the time train
and strike train wheels in a horizontal line one above the other, but
cleverly left out the going barrels from this horizontal line. In this way
he only left the smaller, lighter wheels on the vertical line. Instead he
placed the barrels directly below each and separate to make these as exposed
and light as possible. This also allowed extra space between the two
horizontal line of wheels, making these sets of wheels seem to float above
Second he used a triple frame for the time train and a
double frame for the strike train. A conventional single frame consists of
two plates, front and back containing the wheel works within. A double frame
has a third plate so one can have a dual set of wheels side by side. Triple
allows another set. This allowed the wheels to all be hung together in a
confined lineal space.
Third he chose to have very long spaces between the
overall front and rear plates. While there may have been short arbors
between the internal sub plates the overall effect is to impart an airy
Fourth he employed heavy pillars on the rear of the clock.
These are necessary since the pendulum is quite heavy. But he cleverly used
them to give the illusion that the entire movement wheel set is
attached to these pillars and literally hangs off them out into thin air. He
did this by de-emphasizing the front support structure. These pillars
actually contribute nothing to the movement's structural integrity.
Pouvillon's creation came before the two other significant
astronomical clocks of the twentieth century. The Jen's Olsen clock in
Denmark, which was largely built by 1945, but not dedicated until 1955 and the Rasmus Sornes clock, completed in 1966. In my opinion, there is no question
Mr. Sornes drew his overall columnar design from Pouvillon.
The first photo shows the complete movement frame with the upper triple
frame and the lower double frame. It may appear that the lower level is also
a triple frame but the second horizontal member from the rear does not hold
any wheels. The second photo shows the movement frame backed up to the
The first photo is a three-quarter view. The next shows the two floor
pillars. The left for the fly fan the right for the bell support.
These photos show the wheels mounted within the frames.
Another set of three-quarter views with the wheel works within. One can see
how the design makes the entire wheel works look like they are supported
only by the large rear pillars. Some of this effect is obscured when all of
the complications are mounted, but these photos are a testament to
Pouvillon's unique and beautiful contribution to horological design.
the polished surfaces of the steel base and brass rim makes the clock look
like it is sitting on top a still pool of water. The steel portion is yet to
receive a better high polish to make its surface match exactly to the brass