A rare late 18th century gilt brass and pinchbeck mantel timepiece with enamel dial and alarm Christopher Pinchbeck, London
Lot 127*
A rare late 18th century gilt brass and pinchbeck mantel timepiece with enamel dial and alarm
Christopher Pinchbeck, London
Sold for £ 3,840 (US$ 5,102) inc. premium

Fine Clocks

17 Jun 2008, 14:00 BST

London, New Bond Street

Lot Details
A rare late 18th century gilt brass and pinchbeck mantel timepiece with enamel dial and alarm
Christopher Pinchbeck, London
The shaped plate surmounted by a cast basket of flowers over an enamel signature plaque flanked by a pair of putto over the 4.5 inch one-piece enamel dial within a pierced pinchbeck bezel, set on four well-cast brass scroll feet with pinchbeck floral swag between, the going barrel movement with square plates united by four slender baluster pillars, the glazed panels revealing the verge escapement and alarm train, the 4.25 inch one-piece enamel dial plate with alarm set disc to the centre and shaped blued steel hands, 26.5cm (10.5in) high.


  • This is the third of these remarkable clocks to come to light. Both of the two previously recorded examples are illustrated and discussed in Jagger, 'Royal Clocks', London 1983, figures 375 and 376.

    The first known example is also illustrated in Brittens, 'Old Clocks and Watches and Their Makers', London, 6th Edition figure 534. It is a striking clock with enamel dial and separate base. The movement has an alarm and pull quarter repeat. This is said to have lived in the Hammersmith Mall house of George IV when Prince of Wales. At some stage it passed to Louis Welf, the maitre de cuisine at Carlton House. By the early 20th century, Britten knew it to be in the collection of Mr Hansard Watt. Jagger also adds that this clock was once in Windsor Castle.

    The second example appeared at Christies, London, June 21st 1978, lot 73. It again, is a striking clock with enamel dial. The going barrel movement with tapered plates had an incomplete alarm train, it had been converted to anchor escapement and lacked the repeating facility.

    While all three are essentially identical, there are minor differences. The bezels are all different - they use different patterns of scrolls and flowerheads and the current lot is more finely pierced than either of the other two examples. Each of the dial plates has a slightly different silhouette - the difference is most noticeable behind the rear of the cherub's legs. These differences lead to the assumption that these were not stock items, but were quite likely made to order. The current lot is the only timepiece, so perhaps was commissioned for bedroom use?

    Christopher Pinchbeck senior (1670-1732) invented the alloy that bears his name in the early 18th century. Its composition was closely guarded at the time, but is now known to consist of three parts zinc to four parts copper. Britten quotes W.J.Pinks "Mr Xtopher Pinchbeck had a curious secret of new-invented metal wch so naturally resembles gold (as not to be distinguished by the most experienced eye), in colour, smell, and ductability. Ye secret is communicated to his son." The son in question was his eldest, Christopher Junior. Pinks also gives us an insight into the esteem in which Pinchbecks clocks were held "Mr P. has finished a fine musical clock, said to be a most exquisite piece of workmanship, and worth about £1,500, wch is to be sent over to ye King of France (Louis XIV) and a fine organ to ye great Mogul, worth £300." Pinchbeck was obviously a showman and at Southwark Fair he joined forces with Fawkes, a celebrated conjuror and juggler to drum up trade! In August 1729 The Prince and Princess of Wales went to Bartholemew Fair to see his exhibition.

    It is assumed that Christopher Junior (1710-1783) learnt his trade from his father and what is certain is that he would have fought hard to nurture the royal connections that his father had forged. In a bold move, on his fathers death in 1732, he let his brother Edward continue working from their fathers premises and in a show of young self confidence, moved to nearby premises under the newly named 'Sign of Pinchbecks Head'. Both brothers continued to make ingenious toys, sometimes with musical and/or automata movements, aswell as clocks and watches. Christopher was not simply involved in 'novelty' wares, however. He traded under the title 'Watchmaker to the King' and it is recorded that in 1766 he purchased a pocket watch with compensation curb for George III from Ferdinand Berthoud. He also worked with Eardley Norton on the multi-dialled astronomical clock in the Royal Collection, the bill of account even being made out to Pinchbeck on 5th July 1765. A few years later, he supplied his own astronomical clock. Both of these are in the current Royal Collection. By the 1770s and '80s his business had reached a point where he had a semi-permanent exhibition of his clocks, watches and mechanical contrivances above his shop in Cockspur Street. He died there in 1783.
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