Displaying exquisite craftsmanship and patina, this timepiece well illustrates the talents of Joseph Knibb (1640-1711), one of the most renowned clockmakers working in late seventeenth-century London, and his shop. Like the majority of surviving Knibb table timepieces and clocks, this example displays a phase III case design with its small, squared proportions, ebony veneer, cushion-moulded top, faceted and foliate handle model (here replaced), distinctive elongated 'S' shaped escutcheons, and flat base. The silver escutcheons on this example are particularly notable for their fine repoussé work. While the spandrels are apparently not original, their unusual foliate-and-scroll design is seen on other Knibb timepieces (Christie's, London, The John Parry Collection, 24 April 1997, lot 228 (£20,000); Sotheby's, London, 18 March 1974, lot 79 (£9,000); Sotheby's, London, 21 May 1973, lot 108 (£3,600); Sotheby's, London, 26 May 1967, lot 43 (£3,000); Garrard, advertisement, Antiquarian Horology (Summer 1980), p. 165). The profusely tulip-engraved back plate illustrates the work of one of the several engravers employed by Knibb. For similar engraved back plates on Joseph Knibb timepieces and clocks, see Christie's, London, 15 September 2004, lot 37 (£85,890); Sotheby's, London, 18 March 1974, lot 70 (£11,000); R. A. Lee, The Knibb Family Clockmakers, 1964, p. 128, fig. 137. Closely related designs also appear on clocks by Joseph's younger brother and apprentice, John (see Lee, op. cit., pp. 128-129, figs. 138, 140).
The alarm feature was a rare and expensive addition. On this timepiece, the faint scoring lines mapping its placement and lack of engraving around the strike no strike lever suggests that it was fitted after work had begun on the movement, possibly after it had originally left the shop. The fine quality of its workmanship and consistency with Knibb's practices indicates that it was very likely fitted in the clockmaker's workshop and probably illustrates an early upgrade. For other examples of Joseph Knibb phase III timepieces and clocks with alarms, see Lee, op. cit., p. 85, fig. 81; Sotheby's, London, 13 May 1960, lot 112 (£1,150); Sotheby's, London, 17 February 1969, lot 131 (£4,600); Christie's, London, 5 July 2002, lot 90 (£114,450).
Joseph Knibb (1640-1711), was the most famous, inventive and prolific member of the celebrated Knibb family. The son of Thomas Knibb of Claydon, he is thought to have served his apprenticeship with his cousin Samuel Knibb, who is thought then to have been working in Newport Pagnell. Joseph then set up in Oxford in 1665, taking on his younger brothers John and Peter as apprentices. On moving to London in about 1670/71, he took on a number of apprentices such as Patrick Vans, Edmund Massey, John Miller, John Drew and Brounker Watts.
The timepiece was sold to the father of its last owner in the late 1930's by Percy Webster (1862-1938), a Master of the Clockmakers' Company and a prolific antiquarian horologist of his day. His collection was sold in two parts at Sotheby's in 1954.