Rare Gilt Bronze Desk Regulator with Remontoir d’Egalité
Dial and movement signed by the clockmaker Robert Robin
Enamel Dial by Etienne Gobin, known as Dubuisson
Case attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire
Paris, Louis XVI period, circa 1785
The round white enamel dial, signed “Robin”, indicates the Arabic numeral hours, fifteen-minute intervals, and date by means of three hands, two of which are of pierced and gilt bronze. A central blued steel hand indicates the seconds. It also bears the abbreviated signature “Dub”, which stands for Etienne Gobin, known as Dubuisson, one of the most renowned Parisian enamellers of the time, and a colleague – and the main rival – of Joseph Coteau. The movement, whose back plate is signed “Robin à Paris”, features a heavy compensation pendulum with a polished iron rod and a copper bob. The gear train is purposely maintained under tension to improve the clock’s functioning and to eliminate backlash. The magnificent rectangular case with glazed sides is made of finely chased gilt bronze with matte and burnished finishing. The slightly protruding cornice is adorned with egg and dart and bead friezes. The front sides, with canted corners, are decorated with laurel leaf garlands terminating in seeds and rudented fluting. The gilt bronze frames of the glazed sides are adorned with twisted cord friezes; the dial plate is embellished above with acanthus leaf spandrels and below with a heavy fringed drapery from which are suspended flower and leaf garlands. By means of a small lever the drapery may be lowered as desired to allow access to the winding holes. The molded, slightly protruding base is raised on flattened ball feet.
Discover our entire collection of rare clocks online or at the gallery.
This type of clock, known as a desk regulator, is one of the most sophisticated models known to Parisian luxury horology in the late 18th century. Its sleek lines and streamlined design highlight the beauty and uncluttered design of the dial and movement. The exceptional chasing and gilding of the architectural case strongly support an attribution to Pierre-Philippe Thomire, the most important Parisian bronze caster of the period. Among the very small number of similar examples that are known, some of which include variations in the treatment of the cornice and the ornamentation, one example by Robin is illustrated in the Bulletin de l’Association nationale des collectionneurs et amateurs d’Horlogerie ancienne et d’Art, n°88, été 2000, p. 32C. Another clock (Breguet documentation) is illustrated in Tardy, La pendule française des origines à nos jours, 2ème Partie : Du Louis XVI à nos jours, Paris, 1974, p. 319. A further example by Ferdinand Berthoud, formerly in the collection of Edouard Gélis, is on display in the Musée Paul Dupuy in Toulouse (see Horlogerie et instruments de mesure du Temps passé, Musée Paul Dupuy, Toulouse, 1979, p. 85, catalogue n° 76).
Robert Robin (1741 - 1799)
Having become a master horologist in November 1767, he was one of the most important Parisian horologists of the last third of the 18th century. He received the honorary titles of Valet de Chambre-Horloger Ordinaire du Roi et de la Reine in 1783 and 1786. He enjoyed an extraordinary career, distinguishing himself by his exceptional contribution toward the improvement of time measuring instruments.
In 1778, the Academy of Sciences approved two of his inventions, one of which led to the construction of an astronomic clock with a meridian traced on a pyramid, which was acquired by the Menus Plaisirs for Louis XVI that same year; Robin published a very detailed historical and mechanical description of that clock. He also made mantel regulators with astronomic indications and compensation balance, of which the Marquis de Courtanvaux, a man of science and a great connoisseur of precision horology, was one of the earliest acquirers. During the Revolution he made decimal watches and clocks. He worked in the Grande rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré (1772), the rue des Fossés-Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois (1775), the rue Saint-Honoré in the l’Hôtel d’Aligre (1778) and the Galeries du Louvre in 1786.
For his desk regulators, Robin chose very sober architectural cases, which look extraordinarily modern to contemporary viewers. He always worked with the finest artisans of the day, including the bronziers and chasers Robert and Jean Baptiste Osmond, Pierre Philippe Thomire, François Rémond and Claude Galle, the cabinetmakers Jean-Henri Riesener, Ferdinand Schwerdfeger and Adam Weisweiler, the enamellers Barbezat, Dubuisson, Merlet and Coteau for the dials, and Richard and Montginot for the springs.
Robert Robin’s two sons, Nicolas Robert (1775-1812) and Jean-Joseph (1781-1856), were also fine clockmakers and ably continued to run their father’s workshop.
Dubuisson (1731 - 1815)
Étienne Gobin, known as Dubuisson, was one of the best enamellers working in Paris during the latter part of the 18th century and the early 19th century. During the mid 1750’s he was employed at Sèvres, then opened his own workshop, being recorded in the 1790’s in the rue de la Huchette and, circa 1812, in the rue de la Calandre. Specializing in enamelled watch cases and clock dials, he is known for his great skill and attention to detail.
Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1757 - 1843)
Pierre-Philippe Thomire was the most important Parisian bronzier of the last quarter of the 18th century and the first decades of the following century. Early on in his career he worked for Pierre Gouthière, ciseleur-fondeur du roi, and toward the mid-1770’s began working with Louis Prieur. He later became one of the bronziers attached to the Manufacture Royale de Sèvres, creating the bronze mounts for most of the important creations of the day. After the Revolution, he purchased the stock of Martin-Eloi Lignereux, thus becoming the most important suppliers of furniture bronzes for châteaux and Imperial Palaces. In addition, he worked for a wealthy private clientele, both French and foreign, including several of Napoleon’s Marshals. Thomire retired in 1823.