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Thématiques: Carriage Clock

  • Robert & Courvoisier
    Robert & Courvoisier

    Rare Gilt Bronze Pendule d’Officier


    Attributed to the Robert & Courvoisier firm

    Switzerland, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Louis XVI period, circa 1785

    Height19 cm Width12.5 cm Depth8 cm


    Chapuis, “Une maison chaux-de-fonnière: les Robert et les Courvoisier (1710-1830)”, in Pendules neuchâteloises, Documents nouveaux, Editions Slatkine, Geneva, 1987.


    The round white enamel dial, signed “Robert & Courvoisier”, indicates the Arabic numeral hours and fifteen-minute intervals by means of two hands in pierced bronze; it also has a blued steel alarm hand. The movement, with a 48-hour power reserve, strikes the hours, half hours, and quarter hours. It is housed in a finely chased gilt bronze neoclassic case. The bezel is adorned with a mille-raie frieze; the handle at the top of the clock takes the form of a snake biting its tail; this is the “Ouroboros”, a symbol of the infinite nature of Time. The handle is set on a bouquet of leaves and rests on an entablature that is adorned with a bead frieze. The concave sides are decorated with oak leaf and acorn garlands; the lower spandrels on the façade are embellished with foliage. The sides are decorated with large, leafy, seeded rosettes and reserves with stylized motifs set against matted grounds. The door on the back is pierced with a lattice pattern centered by cabochons. The clock is raised upon four flattened feet.

    Today only a small number of identical clocks are known. Among them, one example was offered at auction at Christie’s London on December 4, 1969, lot 29. A second clock, whose dial is unsigned, is illustrated in G. and A. Wannenes, Les plus belles pendules françaises, De Louis XIV à l’Empire, Editions Polistampa, Florence, 2013, p. 183. A third example, formerly in the collection of Count Lamberti, is illustrated in Tardy, La pendule française dans le Monde, Paris, 6th edition, 1994, p. 121. One further similar clock, whose dial is signed  “Dubois et Fils”, is illustrated in P. Kjellberg, Encyclopédie de la pendule française du Moyen Age au XXe siècle, Les éditions de l’Amateur, Paris, 1997, p. 174, figure B.

    Robert & Courvoisier

    Robert & Courvoisier is one of the best-known Swiss horological firms of the final years of the 18th century and the early years of the following century. It was born of the association of two horological families, the Roberts and the Courvoisiers. Josué Robert (1691-1771) established the family workshop in La Chaux-de-Fonds around 1715 and received the title of Clockmaker to the King in 1725. Having close family ties to the Jaquet-Droz and Sandoz families, he became famous for his inventions and numerous horological innovations, which helped make La Chaux-de-Fonds a very active clockmaking center. One of his sons, Louis-Benjamin Robert (1732-1781), worked in his father’s workshop and became its director after the death of his father in 1771; the company was called “J. Robert et fils”. In 1781, after the death of Louis-Benjamin, his son Aimé Robert (1758-1834) succeeded him and almost immediately (on April 30, 1781) went into partnership with Louis Courvoisier (1758-1832), the son of a Neuchâtel engraver, under the name “J. Robert et fils et Cie”. Aimé Robert was in charge of sales, seeking out commercial opportunities for their work throughout Europe. Louis Courvoisier was in charge of running the workshop and supervising production. In 1791, an inventory of the workshop mentioned hundreds of clocks, numerous employees, artisans and workmen, and highlighted the firm’s important commercial ties with Switzerland, France, Germany, Italy, and in many other European countries. At the time the company was known as “J. Robert et fils, Courvoisier & Cie”. The Napoleonic wars and political instability of the early years of the 19th century created great difficulties for the firm; the workshop decreased its production and concentrated its efforts on very high quality pieces that were destined for exportation. At the time the firm, then called “Robert Courvoisier & Cie”, dominated horological production, which was much decreased. In 1811, after Aimé Robert had retired, the company was known as “Courvoisier & Cie”. It remained active for nearly two more decades.

    In the same category
    François Viger (circa 1708-1784)

    Rare Gilt Bronze Traveling Clock with Alarm and Repeat, with Matte and Burnished Finishing


    Paris, Transition period between Louis XV-Louis XVI, circa 1765-1770

    Pendulette :
    Height21.3 Width11.3 Depth8.5
    Coffret :
    Height23.5 Width13.5 Depth11.5

    The round white enamel dial, signed “Viger à Paris”, indicates the Roman numeral hours and Arabic numeral five-minute intervals by means of two chased gilt bronze hands. There is a central ring for setting the alarm. The movement, whose plate is also signed “Viger à paris”, strikes the hours, half hours and quarters. The case, which is glazed on three sides, is made of finely chased and engraved gilt bronze with matte and burnished finishing. An aperture below the dial allows the movement of the pendulum to be viewed. The plate adorning the façade, which is surmounted by a rounded pediment that features a sunburst motif and a balustrade, and the one on the top of the clock, which is centered by a pewter bell, are decorated with four corner finials; there is a hinged, curved handle decorated with cross-hatching centered by four-leaf clovers. The clock is raised upon four molded feet and is accompanied by its original hinged leather carrying case that also has a hinged brass handle.

    This type of small traveling clocks, also called “officers’ clocks”, was greatly appreciated by lovers of precision horology beginning in the mid-18th century. Rivaling with pocket watches, they allowed their owners to determine the time in all places and circumstances. Among the comparable known examples, one, whose dial is signed “Robin”, is illustrated in Tardy, La pendule française dans le monde, Paris, 1994; p. 120. A second clock, by Lepaute, is on display in the Salon Murat in the Elysée Palace, the residence of the French President (see M. Gay, “Du Pont d’Iéna à l’Elysée”, in Bulletin ANCAHA, summer 1993, n° 67, p. 13; fig. 11). Two other identical traveling clocks are known. The first, whose dial is signed by Jean-Baptiste Dutertre and whose upper portion features a decorative balustrade, was offered at auction in Paris in 1980 (see Jean G. Laviolette, “L’horlogerie de Paris”, in Bulletin ANCAHA, Spring 1981, n° 30, p. 58, fig. 8); the second, also signed “Jean-Baptiste Dutertre”, was previously 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, Barcelona, 1955, plate LXII, catalogue n° 91).

    François Viger (circa 1708 - 1784)

    An 18th century Parisian clockmaker. Exercising independently at first, he became a master in August 1744 and opened a workshop in the rue Saint-Denis. As Jean-Dominique Augarde aptly states: “the pieces made in his workshop are of exceptional quality”. (Les ouvriers du Temps, Genève, 1996, p. 405). Viger ordered his clock cases from the best bronziers and cabinetmakers of the day, collaborating with such fine artisans as Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain, Antoine Foullet, and Jean-Baptiste Osmond. His work may be found today in important museums and private collections worldwide, including the Basel Historisches Museum de Bâle, the Wallace Collection in London, the Louvre in Paris, the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg and the Liazenski Palace in Warsaw.

    In the same category
    I. Têteblanche

    Rare Rococo Gilt and Silvered Bronze Pendulette de Voyage


    Paris, Louis XV period, circa 1745-1755

    Height16.5 Width8.5 Depth5.5

    The round enamel dial, signed “I. TETEBLANCHE A PARIS”, indicates the Roman numeral hours and the Arabic five-minute intervals by means of two pierced gilt bronze hands. The movement, also signed and numbered “325”, is housed in a magnificent, finely chased and engraved gilt and silvered bronze rococo case that features shells, flower swags, C scrolls, palmettes, flowerets, and scrolling, with matted reserves. Surmounting the clock, a wide leaf motif is flanked by C scrolls and flower and leaf swags. Glazed apertures on each side reveal the movement. The clock is raised upon four small leaf and scroll feet.


    – C. Vincent, Exhibition catalogue Northern European Clocks in New York Collections, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1972, p. 24

    – W. Edey, Exhibition catalogue French Clocks in North American Collections, The Frick Collection, New York, 1982, p. 60-61, n° 59 (illustration)


    This pendulette de voyage is a perfect illustration of the luxury to which important mid-18th century Parisian and European collectors aspired. Its fine chasing and extremely precise movement make it one of the most unusual horological creations of the Louis XV period. Surprisingly, the clockmaker who made this clock remains an unknown. All that is known about him is that he produced this type of travelling clock in the mid 18th century, and that an identical clock, with a movement numbered “206”, was formerly in the collection of Frederick P. Victoria in New York (illustrated in Jean-Dominique Augarde, Les ouvriers du Temps, La pendule à Paris de Louis XIV à Napoléon 1er, Genève, 1996, p. 95, figs. 57-58).

    I. Têteblanche

    Despite our research in the Paris National Archives, this clockmaker remains mysterious. He is not mentioned in any horological dictionaries or reference works. However, the exceptional quality of his work, consisting solely of small travelling clocks, suggests that he had previously worked in Germany and stayed in Paris only a short time. This signature very likely refers to Joseph Weishaupt, a master clockmaker working in Carlsbad in the mid 18th century. “Têteblanche” would be the French version of his name; travelling horologists often translated their names into the language of the country they were working in.

    In the same category