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    Sale 7604

    Important Clocks and Marine Chronometers

    1 July 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 59

    A William III miniature brass-mounted and inlaid ebony striking eight day table clock with pull quarter repeat


    Price Realised  


    A William III miniature brass-mounted and inlaid ebony striking eight day table clock with pull quarter repeat
    Thomas Tompion, London, No.271, in second case. Circa 1696
    The case with gilt-brass bound inverted bell top surmounted by a typical Tompion gilt-brass foliate-tied handle and with acanthus leaf and foliate scroll brass marquetry inlay depicting birds and flowering urns, gilt-brass moulding above gilt-brass lined doors with later(?) gilt-brass sound frets to the top rail and foliate scroll brass inlay to the bottom and side rails, with conforming sound frets above brass-lined glazed rectangular side panels flanked by conforming brass inlay, above gilt-brass bound plinth raised on later block feet, the 4½ in. wide brass dial with double-screwed cherub mask and foliate spandrels to silvered Roman and Arabic chapter ring with sword hilt half hour and half quarter hour markers, chamfered mock pendulum aperture and date square to the finely matted centre, silvered subsidiary rings for pendulum regulation and strike/not strike flanking signature Tho. Tompion/LONDINI/Fecit within engraved acanthus leaf cartouche, latches to dial feet, later blued steel hands, the movement plates joined by seven latched and ring-turned pillars, twin chain fusees and restored verge escapement, pull quarter repeat on small bell via Tompion's system of double-cocked interconnecting steel levers on the back plate and restored spring-loaded cantilevered arms on the front plate, internal rack strike for the hours on larger bell, scrolling foliate and bird engraving to the back plate signed Tho. Tompion/LONDINI/Fecit within engraved acanthus leaf cartouche, later chamfered and engraved back cock and suspension cock; some restorations to case; pendulum, case key
    11 in. (28 cm.) high, handle down

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    No.271 was acquired by Sir Hugh Walter Kingwell Wontner G.B.E., C.V.O. (1908-1992) in the early 1970s. Former Chairman and Managing Director of the Savoy group, Sir Hugh participated actively in City life. He was an Alderman of the City of London in the 1960s, Sheriff in 1970 and in 1973-1974 served as the 646th Lord Mayor of London. He was knighted in 1972. Sir Hugh's interest in horology was reflected in his election to the position of Master of the Clockmakers' Company in 1975.

    Prior to being owned by Sir Hugh No.271 was with Mrs Amy Oakes. In Horological Journal (October, 1965) there is a reference to Mrs Oakes flying to Glasgow in 1963 and paying £10,000 for the clock, using it as the 'most expensive footstool ever' on the flight back. The auction in which she purchased No.271 is described by De Carle (from his notes at the British Museum) as being of the property of the late Miss E.T. Brown of Grantown-on-Spey, Inverness-shire. The R.A. Lee advertisement in Connoisseur (1973) shows many of the fine clocks handled by his company to that date, not only those then in stock, and it is not clear when No.271 was with Lee, although as Sir Hugh Wontner acquired the clock at around this time it is reasonable to assume that he bought it from Lee.

    No.271 has an extremely unusual case, which appears to be its second, although of the same period. Another case, in ebony and of typical Tompion 'Phase II' design and numbered 271 on the front door-sill, was sold Bonhams London, Fine Clocks, Scientific Instruments and Barometers, 28 May 2002, lot 202. That clock, which has a later handle and handle block, houses a replacement dial and movement. No.271 will fit into that case although in order to do so the date ring needs to be removed as the corresponding cut out in the case has been filled in.
    The construction and decoration of the present clock case dates it to the late 17th/early 18th Century and makes it contemporary with the movement, for which it was clearly purpose made. Assuming the numbered case was the first one made for this clock, why would a second be made? The likeliest explanation is that the owner wished for more elaborate decoration, probably having seen the inlays on contemporary French furniture. Interestingly, the Tompion handle was retained. Nor would such a case necessarily have been made in France. The distinctive acanthus decorations of the upper corner mouldings do indeed reflect those found on French clocks of the late 17th Century (both as mounts and inlays, see Tardy, French Clocks, Part I, 1981, pp.138-144) but it should be noted that they are also seen in the silver mounts of the Mostyn Tompion (see Symonds, figs.135-136). Note also the remnants of a wooden fret -- typically English -- to the dial mask behind the front door top rail fret.
    We are grateful to Mr Jeremy Evans for his assistance in compiling this footnote.

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    Lady Wontner; Sir Hugh Wontner, G.B.E., C.V.O.; Mrs Amy Oakes; Miss E.T. Brown; Mallets, London

    Pre-Lot Text

    The Property of the Estate of the late Lady Wontner


    Apollo, Connoisseur, Antique Collector (Mallets advertisments, July 1938)
    Connoisseur, December 1973, R.A. Lee advertisement
    Meyrick Neilsen, 'Three Miniature Spring Clocks by Thomas Tompion, A Comparison of Nos. 225, 270 and 272', Antiquarian Horology, December 1974, pp.66-67


    Mallets, 40 New Bond Street, 14 June-10 July 1938, Exhibition of Fine Old English Furniture & Silver