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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 the barrels.

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 feel.

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 pillars.


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.

Notice way 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 perimeter.

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