A Rare Gilt Bronze Officer’s Traveling Clock with Matte and Burnished Finish, early Louis XVI period

Antoine Beckers

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The dial and enamel plaques by Elie Barbezat
A Rare Gilt Bronze Officer’s Traveling Clock with Matte and Burnished Finish
Paris, early Louis XVI period, dated 1776.
Height 23.2 cm; width 12.5 cm; depth 9.2 cm.

The round white enamel dial, signed “Beckers à Paris”, indicates the Roman numeral hours and the Arabic numeral five-minute intervals by means of two pierced gilt bronze hands. The counter enamel is signed “Barbezat”, which refers to Elie Barbezat, a well-known enameler who was a contemporary and rival of Joseph Coteau. Above the dial there are two apertures for the days of the week and the date; below there is an enamel plaque bearing the indication: “Invenit et Fecit in 1776” (Invented and made in 1776). The movement, whose plate is signed “Beckers à Paris”, has a balance spring and an experimental duplex-type escapement; it strikes the hours and half hours in passing. The rectangular case, which is made of finely chased gilt bronze, has sides and a back that are glazed with beveled glass plates; it has a rounded arch on the façade. At the top of the clock there are four corner finials and a hinged and molded carrying handle. The front has a gadrooned frame and applied motifs, including ribbon-tied branches and an oval medallion that is centered by a sun mask and palmettes. The clock is raised on four feet that are adorned with gadrooned friezes.

Such small traveling clocks, sometimes known as officer’s clocks (“pendules d’officier”), became very popular with collectors of precision horology as of the mid 18th century. These clocks rivaled with pocket watches because they were easily transportable. They allowed their owners to tell the time anywhere, under any conditions. Today, among the small number of comparable clocks, one example was formerly in the Perez de Olaguer-Feliu horological collection in Barcelona (illustrated in Luis Monreal y Tejada, Relojes antiguos (1500-1850), Coleccion F. Perez de Olaguer-Feliu, Barcelone, 1955, catalogue n° 91). A second example may be seen in P. Kjellberg, Encyclopédie de la pendule française du Moyen Age au XXe siècle, Paris, 1997, p. 174, fig. A. One further clock by Beckers, identical to the present clock, though with a few minor variations in its decoration, is illustrated in the exhibition catalogue L’Heure en voyage, Musée de l’Horlogerie, Saint-Nicolas d’Aliermont, 2009, p. 21, fig. 1.

Elie Barbezat
An enameler who was active from 1768 to 1776.
Antoine Beckers (sometimes spelled Bekers) was one of the most important Parisian clockmakers of the early years of the reign of Louis XVI. He signed “Beckers à Paris”. After becoming a master on May 31, 1775, he opened workshops successively in the rue des Cordeliers, then the rue Guénégaud from 1777 to 1779 (see Tardy, Dictionnaire des horlogers français, 1971, p. 37). He soon gained renown among Parisian collectors of luxury horology. Several of his clocks are mentioned by the late 18th century as having belonged to influential collectors; examples are those mentioned in the probate inventory of the widow of Louis-Auguste de Sonning, formerly Receveur-général of finances for the city of Paris, and in the inventory of François-Martial, Count de Choiseul-Beaupré.

Object Name: A Rare Gilt Bronze Officer’s Traveling Clock with Matte and Burnished Finish, early Louis XVI period
Artist name: Antoine Beckers
Reference: P227
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