With the earliest clocks, timekeeping was almost an afterthought. They were initially designed as mechanical calendars to accurately record the seasons, religious holidays and even curious superstitious practices.
Calendars continued to be incorporated into clocks and watches even after the purpose of minute by minute timekeeping became more prominent. With the best antique clocks and watches, a calendar shows the mechanical genius and craftsmanship of the maker.
Technology and the Clock
Calendar attachments can include indication of the year, month, day-of the-month, day of the week, moon phases, high and low tide, sun rise, sun set, signs of the Zodiac and more. Every important horologist throughout history has made a contribution to this technology in the never-ending human quest to understand our universe.
The Perpetual Clock
Henri Robert, creator of the perpetual calendar clock (1794-1874), likely began his career working with Abraham Louis Breguet (1748-1823) of Paris. Breguet’s most complex tool sold for $37,500 at Skinner in 2010, and from Breguet’s famed workshop came many of the finest technical and aesthetically pleasing watches and clocks made in the 19th century.
Watch the Perpetual Clock in Action
Up for Auction
Skinner auctioned off a Henri Robert’s perpetual calendar clock, which was shown in the Paris Exposition of 1839. The calendar mounted in the lower section of the Belgian slate case was uniquely designed to show the year, month, day-of-the-month and day-of-the-week through the use of a single silvered dial and concentric hands, all self-correcting for the four-year cycles of leap year.
The timekeeper, mounted above the calendar and under glass, is regulated by a ½ second beating pendulum and strikes the passing hours on a delicate bell. The visitors to the Paris Exposition no doubt found the movement rather mesmerizing to watch.
By Guest Luxury Expert contributor ROBERT C. CHENEY
Robert Cheney is Skinner’s Director of Science, Technology & Clocks, at Skinner Inc., auctioneers and appraisers. Skinner is one of only a few auction houses in the world to offer specialty auctions in Science, Technology & Clocks, and it is Robert’s unique background that has enabled the company to establish itself as a leader in this rare collecting category. www.skinnerinc.com