A fine and rare late 17th century ebony veneered, quarter repeating table clock Thomas Tompion, London, number 171
Lot 68*
A fine and rare late 17th century ebony veneered, quarter repeating table clock
Thomas Tompion, London, number 171
Sold for £194,500 (US$ 317,827) inc. premium

Lot Details
A fine and rare late 17th century ebony veneered, quarter repeating table clock Thomas Tompion, London, number 171 A fine and rare late 17th century ebony veneered, quarter repeating table clock Thomas Tompion, London, number 171
A fine and rare late 17th century ebony veneered, quarter repeating table clock
Thomas Tompion, London, number 171
The caddy top surmounted by a faceted handle centred by a pair of conjoined buds on internal pommels, over three gilt brass repousse mounts, each centred by a mask the larger including a pair of reclining cherubs among flowerheads, fruit and interlaced foliage, all set over an intricately moulded cornice, the sides with silk-backed sound frets and long glazed apertures, the front door adorned with twin escutcheons, on a moulded base and block feet, the movement secured in the case via two steel screws running through the bottom of the case into the lowermost pillars and further secured by a steel L-shaped bracket on the upper right hand side.

The rectangular gilt brass dial measuring 7.5 inches by 6.75 inches, signed along the lower edge 'Tho:Tompion Londini fecit' between a pair of winged cherubs head spandrels to the lower corners, the upper corners set with twin subsidiary dials; to the left regulation marked in Arabic five minute divisions with arrow-headed pointer, to the left Strike/Not strike actuated via a steel arrow with brass pommels, with engraved detailing of running foliate scrollwork, the silvered Roman and Arabic chapter ring with elaborate half hour markers and inner quarter hour track enclosing the finely matted centre with mock pendulum and date apertures, both with chamfered gilt bevelled edges, with good blued steel hands of characteristic design, the dial secured by latched dial feet.

The twin fusee movement united by seven knopped pillars, each secured via a substantial shaped latch, the verge escapement with shaped top potance and mock pendulum screwed to the front of the verge arbor, the pendulum with brass rod and screwed lenticular bob, secured to the heavy shaped brass rise and fall arbor via two screws passing through the jaws of a shaped cock, the rack strike sounding the hour on a bell, repeating the quarters on a smaller bell set between the plates, activated from either the left or right hand side via a pair of linked steel levers, secured by an engraved square-footed cock, the frontplate shaped in order to accommodate part of the highly finished quarter repeating system, the backplate with a single line border enclosing a fully engraved pattern of interlaced foliate scrolls, pendant harebells and strapwork, centred by the copperplate signature 'Tho: Tompion, Londini Fecit' within a shaped cartouche with a running wheatear border, punch numbered along the lower edge 171. 38cm (14.5in)

Footnotes

  • Literature:
    RW Symonds; Thomas Tompion his life and Work, 1951, figs, 125 and 183, in the collection of Mr. Melvyn H. Rollason;

    Antiquarian Horology June 1964, p.217.

    Antiquarian Horology, December 2004, p.519.

    Provenance:

    Christie's London, 14th July 1938, lot 25A, the property of a Gentleman. Bought by Percy Webster for 390gns.

    With Malletts, Bond Street, 1939.

    Christie's, London, 25th November 1997, lot 67, the property of the late Mr. and Mrs. Melvyn Rollason, Ludstone Hall, Shropshire.

    Thomas Tompion's career as watch, clock and scientific instrument maker spanned one of the most important periods in the history of scientific development in London. The first written record of Thomas Tompion living in London is from a tax collectors book; early in 1671 he paid one shilling and sixpence 'watch rate' having moved into a newly built house in Water Lane.
    Tompion, the son of a blacksmith, was baptised in Northill, Bedfordshire on the 25th of July 1639. Little is known of his early life and how he learned the clockmaking skills that were to make him famous. In July of 1671 he became a brother in the Clockmaker's Company and in 1674 bought his freedom, certainly by this time his skill was highly developed as he made a turret clock for the tower of London and a quadrant for the Royal Society in the same year. He made a number of instruments for Robert Hooke, the curator of experiments for the Royal Society and also for Sir Jonas Moore, who was responsible for the building and equipping of the observatory at Greenwich. Such associations and subsequent commissions would have established Tompion's good reputation and pushed his clockmaking business to a new level. Like his contemporaries, in the early years some movements were bought in and finished to a high standard in his workshops in order to meet demand. Tompion's workshop was producing up to one hundred and fifty watches and twenty clocks per year in the early 1680's. Despite the high turnout the excellence of quality continued as the business grew. In 1676 Tompion paid £200 to Edward Barlow (Booth) for the right to use his rack and snail design, which was incorporated into the series of grande-sonnerie striking and repeating table clocks. Edward Barlow and Tompion worked together to develop a virgule type escapement, which was later developed by Graham into the cylinder escapement. George Graham was taken into partnership in 1711 and continued the business after Tompion's death in November 1713.
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