Exceptional Equation of Time Regulator clock, Directoire period

Robert Robin

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Robert Robin, Reçu maître horloger en novembre 1767
Case Attributed to Ferdinand Schwerdfeger
Dials by Dubuisson Exceptional Equation of Time Regulator
Paris, late 18th century, Directoire period, movement dated 1802
Height 44 cm; length 24.5 cm; depth 19.5 cm

The enamel dial, signed Robin, indicates the hours in Roman numerals, with minutes, seconds and annual calendar; the mahogany case, with cornice, is glazed on all sides. The gilt bronze mounts are finely chased, the entablature mount featuring foliate motifs and an egg and dart frieze; the glazed panels are framed by twisted rope and stylised leaf mounts; there are gilt bronze vine branches in the upper corners and a finely chased drapery swag beneath the dial. The base, with a gilt bronze leaf frieze, rests on four quadrangular gilt bronze feet.

This regulator possesses a remarkable and finely made movement, with Graham-type dead-beat escapement, remontoir d’égalité transmitting constant force to the escapement, compensation balance with temperature indication, equation of time.

The sober and finely made polished mahogany architectural case perfectly complements the remarkable mechanism and beautiful dial. One particular cabinetmaker of the late 18th century was specialised in this type of case, Ferdinand Schwerdfeger (1734-1818), referred to as “Ferdinand” in many public sales of the early 19th century. Upon the death of his wife in 1803, his workshop was described as producing, almost exclusively, mahogany clock cases. It was Schwerdfeger who made the case of the geographic clock that Antide Janvier presented to King Louis XVI in 1791, and which today is in the Musée national du château de Fontainebleau (illustrated in M. Hayard, Antide Janvier 1751-1835, Horloger des étoiles, p. 1995, p. 79). Schwerdfeger – who also made extraordinary pieces of furniture for Marie-Antoinette, is almost certainly the maker of this clock’s remarkable case. Among the very rare comparable examples, a less elaborate clock signed Lepaute, intended for Napoleon’s chambers in the Palace of Fontainebleau, was delivered in 1804 (illustrated in J-P. Samoyault, Pendules et bronzes d’ameublement entrés sous le Premier Empire, Paris, 1989, p. 73); another clock, signed Robin, is illustrated in Tardy, La pendule française, 2ème partie: du Louis XVI à nos jours, Paris, 1975, p. 325.

Robert Robin (1741-1799) is one of the most important Parisian clockmakers of the late 18th century. Having received the titles of Valet de Chambre-Horloger Ordinaire du Roi et de la Reine in 1783 and 1786, he had an extraordinary career, distinguished himself by his exceptional contribution to the progress of time measurement during his lifetime.
In 1778 the French Académie des Sciences approved two of his inventions, one of which led to the construction of an astronomic clock representing a meridian drawn on a pyramid, which was acquired that year by the Menus Plaisirs on behalf of Louis XVI. Robin published a “Description historique et mécanique” of the clock. He constructed astronomic mantel regulators with compensation balance, which the Marquis de Courtanvaux, one of the period’s most important connoisseurs of precision horology, was among the first to acquire. During the Terreur he made decimal watches and clocks. He is recorded successively at the Grande rue du faubourg Saint-Honoré (1772), rue des Fossés-Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois (1775), rue Saint-Honoré à l'Hôtel d'Aligre (1778) and in the Galeries du Louvre in 1786.

Robin housed his mantel regulators in sober, elegant cases that were remarkably modern in style. He worked with excellent artisans such as Robert and Jean Baptiste Osmond, Pierre Philippe Thomire, E. Roy, J.L. Beaucour, P. Delacroix, François Rémond, Claude Galle, Balthazar Lieutaud, E. Levasseur, J.H. Riesener, Jean-Ferdinand Schwerdfeger and Adam Weisweiler for his cases; Barbezat, Edmé-Portail Barbichon, Dubuisson, Cave, Merlet and Coteau for his dials, and the Richards and the Montginots for his springs.
Robin’s sons, Nicolas Robert (1775-1812) and Jean-Joseph (1781-1856), were both fine clockmakers who continued their father’s business.

Object Name: Exceptional Equation of Time Regulator clock, Directoire period
Artist name: Robert Robin
Reference: R003
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