A fine and impressive Louis XVI style ormolu figural mantel clock with centre seconds and concentric calendar
The movement by Pierre-Honoré-César Pons and bearing signatures for Ferdinand Berthoud, Paris, circa 1830
The circular four pillar two train outside countwheel bell striking movement with the pillars pinned at the rear, the five-wheel going train with fine pinwheel deadbeat escapement positioned to the centre of the backplate with depth adjustment to the pallets, fine beat screw to crutch and regulated by half seconds disc-bob pendulum incorporating Brocot type regulation to suspension, the backplate stamped with Pons, MEDAILLE DOR, 1827 roundel over engraved initials B Y and stamped number 1 9, the lower edge also boldly engraved in a downward curve Ferdinand, Berthoud AParis and the left hand edge further stamped 200, the 7.5 inch circular convex enamel dial polychrome painted in the manner of Coteau inscribed Ferdinand Berthoud, AParis to centre within concentric red Arabic numerals for date of the month within chapter ring with vertical Arabic numerals and gilt fleur-de-lys half hour markers, the outer track annotated with the months of the year and their length in French within concentric band polychrome painted with oval panels representing the signs of the Zodiac with fine gilt foliate decoration between, with steel centre seconds hand, scroll-pierced gilt minute and hour hands and snakehead/tail hands for the calendar, set behind a hinged convex glazed gilt brass bezel cast with guilloche scroll decoration to surround, the fine substantial sculpted ormolu case cast with cherubs and lovebirds within billowing clouds enveloping the dial draped with floral sprays and with bows, quivers and trumpets applied around the swept panelled foot, the D-ended plinth base inset with crisply cast basket of flowers centred foliate scroll infill to the oxidised ground apron panel flanked by floral festoon swags to the conforming curved end sections, on six cast toupe feet, 66cm (26ins) high.
Provenance: Brocket Hall, Hertfordshire
Pierre-Honoré-César Pons was born in Paris in 1773 and after studying with the Jesuits in the rue Mouffetard he went to train under the eminent clockmaker Antide Janvier. Unfortunately the unrest of the French Revolutionary period disrupted his training but he was recommended by Janvier to the prestigious Lepaute family who took him on in 1798. Pons completed his training under the Lepautes and developed an interest in precision horology; in 1803 he opened his own workshop rue de la Huchette, near the Place Saint-Michel. In order to satisfy the financial demands of running a workshop, whilst taking time to work on the development of precision horology, Pons acted as supplier of movements to many the eminent horologists of the period such as Berthoud, Breguet and Lepine. During this time he developed several escapements and created improved wheel-cutting and pinion polishing machines. With the encouragement of Ferdinand Berthoud in 1804 Pons presented his Observations sur léchappement libre to the Academy of Sciences where it was praised by the jury and the Academy congratulated him.
Around this time the French clockmaking town of Saint-Nicholas dAliermont was in crisis due to the collapse of the industry. Napoleons minister responsible for Fine Arts, Industry and Commerce, the Count de Champagny, ordered the Académie des Sciences to find someone suitable to turn the industry around. Honoré Pons was approached as he had the necessary skills and had developed the tools and practices most appropriate for the task. After a period of reluctance he accepted on the basis that the state will pay him a generous amount for his machines as long as they were installed and used in the Saint Nicholas workshops. By 1808 Pons was producing fine quality blanc-roulants for an affordable price which received high praise from makers such as Breguet and recognition by the Academie in their report to Napoleon Bonaparte.
Over the following decades Honoré Pons expanded the Saint Nicholas operations and became a principal supplied of movements to the Parisian clockmaking trade from his premises in Pariss rue de la Barillerie on the île de la Cité. In 1827 he was awarded a gold medal and in 1839 was awarded the Croix de la Légion dHonneur by King Louis Philippe. In 1846, at the end of an illustrious career, pons sold his firm to Borromée Délépine and retired, living in an elegant Parisian mansion at 20, rue Cassette.
The movement of current lot is a faithful and beautifully made clock made in homage to one of Honoré Pons mentors, Ferdinand Berthoud. It is interesting to note that a second clock of exactly the same appearance is in in the collection of the Chateau de Compeigne; it is not known whether this other example also has a movement by Pons or an original mechanism by Berthould. The case of the current lot is beautifully cast and hand finished in bronze doré with visible evidence of hand tooling and burnishing commensurate with the finest products of the Louis XVI period. From this it is perhaps appropriate to speculate that the present clock falls into one of two camps. The first is that the case is a contemporary twin of the example in the Chateau de Compeigne but now houses a re-made movement by Pons signed in a similar manner as the original. The second is that entire clock was made in around 1830 as either a very expensive commission or as a tour de force to demonstrate that Parisian clockmaking trade were still able to produce examples equal (or better) than those made before the revolution.
The movement appears complete, original (with no visible alterations or significant replacements) and in working condition although a clean and overhaul will be required before putting into long term service. The dial presents as being in fine condition however appears to have undergone restoration to address chipping around the centre hole. All hands are present and appear original except for the centre seconds which is a recent replacement.
The case is in food original unrestored condition with minimal wear to the gilding. The cherub surmount would have originally held a wreath which is now missing, there is also a two sections of beading missing from the plinth -a length around 3 inches to the left hand curve and another straight section circa 2 inches at the rear on the right. The surface is dirty and the patinated background to the panels of the base have traces of coloured lacquer (probably to deepen the colour of the oxidised finish) which has mainly flaked away from the surface. The original rear cover for the movement aperture is not present.
Clock has a pendulum but no winder.
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