Fine Bontems singing bird clock with maiden and mirror gilt appliqué
Lot 27*
A rare and fine deux-ton gilt ormolu and enamel oiseau chantant mantle timepiece automaton, by Bontems circa 1890,
Sold for £55,250 (US$ 92,865) inc. premium
Lot Details
A rare and fine deux-ton gilt ormolu and enamel oiseau chantant mantle timepiece automaton, by Bontems
circa 1890,
No. 345,
with large going-barrel movement, horizontal endless with twin fan governor, scarce linier cam-feed drive with eight cam stack of maxi-size diameters providing almost 50 seconds of continuous birdsong, on open brass bedplate with polished and part-blued pin linkages, wooden reservoir with twin valve paddles, the bird with predominant red feathered plumage, layered with yellow, black and turquoise with subtle orange iridescent highlights, moving metal beak, head and wings and tailfeather, the 2-train timepiece stamped H & F, Paris, pendulum with anchor escapement, oiseau chantant actuation rod, and bird movement rods having a bench-reach of 16-inches from Y-pivot rack of three, each with horizontal coil sprung bars, the figural case of multi-cast ormolu of the highest colour, with standing maiden in tied ribbon flowing gown with draped sleeves and train back, face, hands and arms finished in matt burnished ormolu against richly toned casework, posed glancing up towards the singing bird with a contemplating expression with raised hand, the bird perched atop small cheval looking-glass with bevelled plate within shaped frame and crest, column supports with Doric and baulle crowns, the left column containing full rod drives for automaton, on cube clockface with the enamelled gilt dressed to resemble table drape, continuing to the floor in tones of black, clipper blue, red and racing green, pierced brequet hands and Roman numerals within solid chapter band, on elongated quatrefoil shaped base with repeating frieze of adverted rococo C scrolls and leaf swags above two-tier stylised frieze, under croft with delicate leaf scroll supports, on mantle movement base of gilded wood with simple fluted indent and moulded plinth, on bun feet, manual singing bird actuation override lever and winging T bar key in turned gilt metal with enamel banding detail and polished mahogany grip to right-hand side, clock with later pattern key, (no glass dome) - 20.1/2in. (52cm) high, the width 18.1/2in. (47cm) including T bar key


  • One of the rarest Bontems singing bird models, known examples are currently seen in only a handful of private collections and established institutions.

    It is very hard to pin down exactly how many Bontems made, as the serial number of others are not in consecutive order sequence and just as Leica Cameras Company used to do, Bontems' numbering does not suggest a firm date of manufacture due to the 'booking' of number runs for various reasons.

    Usually seen under dome, the mantle base was either finished in gilt, in an ebonised finish, or the rarest which had matching enamel - one has yet to be found, although it is mentioned in the 1893 company catalogue.

    The cam layout to achieve the 50+ second drive is the linier type, first devised by Bontems for their singing bird call boxes - one of which is being offered in this sale.
    Although obvious, this layout makes the most efficient use of the spring power by eliminating the use of the traditional U form drive, which would otherwise make the power shift through two 90-degree joints before coming to the bellow pump cam. Here, that cam forms part of the first stage.
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