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Maker, Paul Pouvillon, Nogent-sur-Oise, France 1918-1939. Two train, weight-driven, pinwheel escapement, one second wooden rod, with fine calibration from the top of the frame. Count wheel strike, twenty one day duration. This clock is extraordinary on many levels. It is considered to be the most complicated domestic-sized skeleton clock made up to that time and has 44 complications including an ecclesiastical computer; something only a handful of clocks ever made exhibit. All this packed into the very small space of one-half cubic foot (0.0141 cubic meter). Movement 20"h x 6"w x 6"d, overall, with base 50"h.

This movement employs a unique type of three dimensional "space frame" rarely seen in other horological examples. 1 The dials appear uniformly on four of five possible sides of the rectangular shape. These also occur within different indentations from vertical not to mention the combined tellurium and orrery that crown the entire movement. It measures everything from seconds to the period it takes the firmament to make a single rotation - 25,794 years. It is probable that the the worlds most complex domestic sized astronomical skeleton clock ( 20 cubic feet, 0.566 cubic meter) completed by Rasmus Sorens in 1966 drew some design inspiration from this clock as well as the large institutional sized clock in Copenhagen, Denmark by Jens Olsen. 2, 3 The Pouvillon clock still holds the record for a skeleton clock with the number of complications and movement complexity within its its diminutive size.

The clock was restored in Australia by the firm of Buchanan from June 2011 through September 2012. You can explore the restoration process here. Also read a brief biography of Paul Pouvillon and his clock.


 Click on each photo to go to more photos.



Pouvillon (11).jpg (1720155 bytes)  Pouvillon (12).jpg (988210 bytes)

The last two black and white photos come from a dealer, Jean-Pierre Rochefort who last had this clock in 1983; this same dealer provided these photos as they appear in Continental and American Skeleton Clocks, Derek Roberts, pg. 122. At that time all of the planets were still attached to the tellurium and orrery. However there eighteen planets when in reality there are only nine. Each planet is duplicated 180 degrees apart. I believe this was an error and that there were originally nine planets with the other side having a pointer indicating their position within the zodiac, similar to that attached to the tellurium in the third photo.

Paul Pouvillon won several awards from the French government in connection with this clock.

In 1939 Mr. Pouvillon received a silver medal in Paris that same year he was awarded the title "Meilleur Ouvier de France" or "Best Craftsmanship of France”. In 1948 he was knighted 'Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur'.

The complications on the clock are:

1. Mean solar time for the meridians of Greenwich and Paris 15. Day’s ruling planet
2. Equation of time 16. Moon phase
3. Day of week 17. Moon’s age
4. Zodiacal sign for day of week 18. Cyclical Lunar Month ( used in determining epact, golden number)
5. Month 19. Planisphere showing northern hemisphere at near 490
6. Zodiacal sign for month a. With dial showing stars at positions at different times of the day
7. Leap year b. Position of Ursula Major and Minor for an observer in the northern hemisphere
8. Season c. North, South transit time of the stars
9a. Time of Sun rise 20. Sidereal time
b. Time of Sun set 21. Tellurian depicting the two inner planets plus Earth and Moon system
c. Sun’s elevation a. Moon’s nodes: rise, fall and 18.6 year precession
10. Length of day b. Year indication
11. Length of night c. Ring around Sun
12. Ecclesiastical calculator, 'computus': d. Position of the Sun in the zodiac
a. Dominical Letter e. Thirteen moveable pointers showing various ecclesiastical dates related to Easter on tellurian dial ring
b. Epact f. Indicator showing position of the sun at noon on the Earth globe
c. Golden Number g. Indicator showing the sun rise and sun set on the Earth globe
d. Solar Cycle 22a. Orrery with the seven remaining planets through Pluto
e. Indiction b. Indications of where each planet is in the zodiac
f. Day of week 23. Precession of the Zodiac over a 24,806 year cycle
g. Day that January 1st falls on 24. Zodiac sign indication for inner and outer planets (8)
h. Date of Easter  
13. State of strike  
14. Day Total = 44 

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1. The Cosmochronotrope is one other example that comes to mind. It is illustrated in Continental and American Skeleton Clocks, Derek Roberts, pg. 204-206.

2. The Clockmaker Rasmus Sornes, Tom Sornes. 3. Jens Olsen Clock, Otto Mortensen.


Christie's, London, December 9, 2010, lot 231, (145,250 GBS, $230,561), Antiquorum Geneva, 22 April 1995, lot 162, where acquired by the present owner (CHF. 220,000, $149,660).
Bernard Miclet, 'Paul Pouvillon M.O.F. et son horloge plantaire', Bulletin of A.N.C.A.H.A., No.43, summer 1985, pp. 23-28.
Derek Roberts, Continental and American Skeleton Clocks,
Atglen, 1988, p. 122, figs. 116 a, b, c.
Paul Pouvillon (1878-1969) was born in Nogent-sur-Oise. In 1896 he was awarded a bronze medal at the Besanon exhibition and in 1902 he settled in his home town. He was awarded a silver medal in Paris in 1939 for his planetary clock (Tardy writes of him succinctly - 'Il fit une horloge astronomique') with the title 'Meilleur Ouvrier de France'. He was made 'Chevalier de la Lgion d'Honneur in 1948. According to Miclet (op. cit.) Pouvillon started work on this clock in 1930 and finished in 1939 but was still carrying out further improvements in 1948.


Bernard Miclet, 'Paul Pouvillon M.O.F. et son horloge planetaire', Bulletin of A.N.C.A.H.A., No.43, summer 1985. Derek Roberts, Continental and American Skeleton Clocks, Atglen, 1988, p. 122, figs. 116a, b, c.