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Clock case

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    early 19th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Robin, Nicolas Robert and Jean-Joseph (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    ormolu, slate, enamel, brass, gold leaf, steel

  • Credit Line:

    Gift from Somers Clarke

  • Museum number:

    M.234:1 to 8-1916

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

A skeleton clock on an ormolu frame with enamelled dials and mahogany plinth, signed 'Robin a Paris', French, early 19th century. The so called 'skeleton' clock was introduced during the reign of Louis XVI at a time when there was increased interest in the scientific aspects of time keeping. The clock movement was immediately visible whilst reading the time. This clock was made by Nicholas-Robert and Jean-Joseph Robin, sons of Louis XVI's clockmaker Robert Robin, who succeeded to their father's business on his death in 1799.

Physical description

Case: ormolu clock with polished slate plinth, enamelled dials, and brass skeleton frame. In a glazed cabinet on a mahogany pedestal with ormolu mounts. The frame rises on four lions' legs terminating in winged lions' heads. An openwork plaque of floral design hangs from the large dial; the smaller one above is supported by acanthus leaves; both have moulded ormolu frames. The mahogany pedestal is decorated with an applied openwork plaque of floral design in front with the figure of a nymph holding a garland in a lozenge shaped frame and four swans in circular frames with a festoon at each end and rests on four knob feet. The dial for the phases of the moon is painted with a landscape. The clock strikes hours and half hours.

Dial: the steel and gilt brass hands, pierced in the shape of a lyre, show seconds, minutes, hours, day of week, and day of month, and the upper dial the phases of the moon. The main dial is of ormolu, recessed to receive a white-enamel chapter ring. The outer minute-ring also serves as a ring for the centre-seconds, having 60 main divisions and intermediate half-divisions for the half seconds and is numbered in Arabic at 15, 30, 45, and 60. Within this is a set of roman hours I to XII, and two further internal rings: a set of figures 1 to 31 for the date and, within this, a set of abbreviated weekday names in French in the upper half of the dial and a set of corresponding planetary symbols representing the phases of the moon. The clock strikes hours and half-hours, and has a pin-wheel escapement and gridiron pendulum. In glazed cabinet on mahogany pedestal with ormolu mounts, depicted a figure of a nymph holding a garland and four swans in circular frames. The backplate is signed 'ROBIN A PARIS'. French; early 19th century.

Movement: both going and striking trains, both with going barrels rotating once in 3 days and giving at least 14 days duration. The going train has an Amant-type of pin-wheel escapement and a gridiron compensation pendulum, with 5 steel and 4 brass rods. The heavy brass-covered lead pendulum bob is supported at its centre and there is a knurled regulating screw. A simple thermometer mechanism is incorporated in the pendulum, part of which is missing, but the indicating pointer survives, also the scale, engraved on a white-enamel arc, ranging from +15 to -15 marked 'Chaud', 'Tempere' and 'Froid', entitled collectively 'Clementa suis propriis annis victo (Clements their own years in defeat). The striking train is of locking-plate type, and the count-wheel permits an extra single stroke at each half-hour. The calendar and lunar mechanisms operate once per day, and are released by a lever projecting from a wheel driven by a 3:1 speed-up from the great wheel of the striking train. The star-wheels for the date and day-of-the-week hands have 31 and 14 teeth respectively, and the ratchet wheel for the lunar dial has 59 teeth.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)


early 19th century (made)


Robin, Nicolas Robert and Jean-Joseph (maker)

Materials and Techniques

ormolu, slate, enamel, brass, gold leaf, steel

Marks and inscriptions

+15 -15 'Chaud', 'Tempere' 'Froid' 'Clementa suis propriis annis victo'
hot temperate cold and 'Clements their own years in defeat'
Inscribed on the thermometer which forms part of the pendulum

Robin in Paris
Inscribed on the back of the movement


Height: 2, 5.8 ft Clock, Width: 15 in Clock, Height: 6 ft cabinet and pedestal, Weight: 2, 5 ft cabinet with pedestal, Depth: 9.6 in cabinet with pedestal

Object history note

Given by Somers Clarke

Historical context note

This is a new form of clock that emerged during the reign of France’s King Louis XVI (1638-1715) with its movement on view; known as ‘skeleton clocks’.

Descriptive line

Skeleton clock with case, signed ROBIN A PARIS, early 19th century

Production Note

The clock was probably made by one of the sons of Robert Robin (1742-1799), clockmaker to Louis XVI. Both Nicholas-Robert Robin (1775-1812) and his elder brother Jean-Joseph (d.1858) worked for Louis XVIII.


Ormolu; Gilt-brass; Steel; Enamel


Clocks & Watches; Scientific instruments; Metalwork


Metalwork Collection

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