François-Joseph Hartmann, who was probably of Swiss descent, is an unusual figure in Parisian horology. His surname, which is quite rare in Paris, is mentioned in several legal documents of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The death notice of Henriette Hartmann, daughter of the Bernese merchant Jean-Rodolphe Hartmann and his wife Marguerite Wagner, was mentioned in July 1790 (Archives nationales, Minutier Central des notaires, Etude XLVII/432); the probate inventory of cabinetmaker Jean-Georges Hartmann was drawn up in Paris several years later (Archives nationales, Minutier Central des notaires, Etude LXXXVII/1423/A).
The clockmaker himself is mentioned in few contemporary documents. His name first came up in the rental contract – for a duration of six years and three months – of premises comprising a boutique, a back shop, a bedroom and a basement; it was signed by Edme-Pierre Seguin and François-Joseph Hartemann, clockmaker, and his wife Marie-Louise Guitarde, at the time living in the rue de Vannes (MC/ET/IX/843, 27 vendémiaire an II). Some twenty years later, in a document dated July 23, 1814, Hartmann’s name was mentioned upon the purchase of a hôtel garni located at 54, rue Neuve Saint-Eustache, for the sum of 9,500 francs; at which time he was described as being a “property owner”, suggesting that he had temporarily ceased his activity as a clockmaker (MC/ET/IV/1033). His two children, Louise-Thérèse and Jean-François, were married on November 5, 1825 in the Saint-Eustache parish, and on September 27, 1832 in the Bonne Nouvelle district, respectively.
Around 1820, after the Bourbon Restoration, Hartmann opened a shop at 25, rue du Grand-Hurleur, and again took up his horological activities. The Bulletin de la Société d’encouragement pour l’industrie nationale stated that during a meeting on April 27, 1825, he was cited as having produced “Two beautiful gilt bronze clocks with several dials, indicating the seconds, the date, the position of the stars…”. The following year, he appeared in the “Liste générale par ordre alphabétique, des membres composant la Société d’encouragement pour l’industrie nationale à l’époque du 1er janvier 1826 suivie de celle de ses correspondants étrangers”. In 1827, the 10th volume of the “Revue britannique ou choix d’articles traduits des meilleurs écrits périodiques de la Grande Bretagne” mentions his book “Le Tems vrai et le Tems moyen” at length; it discussed the causes of the apparent irregularity in rate of watches and clocks indicating true solar time.
Hartmann’s career may be divided into two periods: from 1793 to 1805 and from 1820 to 1830, the first of these periods clearly being the most brilliant. During those twelve years he conceived movements with complications that he housed in unusual, and often unique, cases, due to his working with the finest Parisian artisans of the time. Today, only a few examples of this clockmaker’s work are known to exist. Among them one example, a desk regulator with annual calendar, is illustrated in P. Heuer and K. Maurice, European Pendulum Clocks, Decorative Instruments of Measuring Time, Munich, 1988, p. 64, figs. 106-107. A second clock, with an architectural case featuring lictors fasces and Masonic emblems, is shown in J-D. Augarde, Les ouvriers du Temps, La pendule à Paris de Louis XIV à Napoléon Ier, p. 78, fig. 48. One further clock, with five dials and allegorical figures, is illustrated in P. Kjellberg, Encyclopédie de la pendule française du Moyen Age à nos jours, Paris, 1997, p. 400. The present clock is almost certainly the one that was presented at the 1801 Exhibition. No doubt Hartmann’s finest clock, it represents the quintessence of Parisian horology during the late 18th century.