No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VA… Read more The Property of The Hillingdon Heirlooms Settlement, sold by order of the Trustees


By Ferdinand Berthoud.
The case by Balthazar Lieutaud
The shaped top framed by rockwork and c-scrolls surmounted by scrolling acantus leaves flanked by floral garlands, the round glass with pierced foliate borders, enclosing a circular gilt dial with silvered Roman and Arabic chapter ring with half hour markers and outer minute divisions, foliate pierced and engraved blued steel hour and mean time minute hand, the gilt solar hand intricately entrelac-pierced and engraved with an arrowhead terminus and chased and engraved Apollo mask, the centre engraved with tulips and sunflowers within scrolling foliage, signed Fnd Berthoud A Paris within the silvered seconds ring with serpentine arrow-head seconds hand, two rectangular windows above chapter VI displaying the full annular calendar, the equation of time aperture engraved 'LE SOLEIL AVANCE OU RETARD', the smaller window by chapter IIII engraved A Pres la Bissextile displaying the four-year cycle, the movement with rectangular brass plates secured with five baluster pillars pinned at the backplate, 1¼ seconds beating deadbeat escapement with long crutchpiece with beat adjustment, 170 cm. long steel and brass rod compensated pendulum with calibrated gilt-brass regulation nut, the high-count weight-driven going train with maintaining power, spring barrel signed and dated ..... for the strike train signed and dated Richard fevrier 1787 (therefore a late 18th century replacement), and with indirectly wound barrel and calibrated countwheel on the backplate signed Fnd Berthoud Inv. Et Fecit Aparis, the equation system operated from a stepped brass large cam wheel fixed to the reverse of the calendar wheel, the equation hand being adjusted once every 24 hours via the interaction of a pivoted lever resting on the cam wheel simultaneously adjusting a delicate brass star wheel with elliptical gearing to the equation hand, above a spreading bulbous body with a hinged door, headed by an Bacchic mask above a swag of flowers and flaked by s-scrolls and acanthus, centred by a shaped panel inlaid with scrolling foliage, the lower section headed by a shell surrounded by floral foliage and a rose finial, above a shaped glazed lenticle, above a gadrooned moulding centred by a shell, the angles with arcantus-leaves terminating in scrolls, the sides quarter-veneered with simulated panelling, on a moulded rectangular plinth with a serpentine apron, an engraved steel plaque to the inside 'Cette Pendule à Equation et à Verge compofèé, a été faite par FERDINAND BERTHOULD, Horloger à Paris qui en inventè l'Equation, et qu'il préfentée en 1752 a l'Académie Royale des Sciences de Paris. Voyez l'Annee 1752 des Mémoires de l'Acémie des Sciences de Paris, Page 147. de l'Histoire, le Tome VII du Recueil des Machines, page 425e. et l'Essay sur l'Horlogerie par le dit Berthoud, Tome 1er. Chapitre XVe. page 79eme. et suivantes.', the case stamped 'B. LIEUTAUD', the plinth with additional strengthening struts. possibly added in the 19th Century
86½in. (219 cm.) high; 24¾ in. (63 cm.) wide; 12 in. (30 cm.) deep
Acquired by Sir Charles Mills, Bt. (1792-1872), or possibly by his son Charles, 1st Lord Hillington (1830-1898), Camelford House, London, and Wildernesse Park, Kent.
Thence by descent.
Catalogue of the Furniture, Porcelain, Pictures &c. at Wildernesse Park, Sevenoaks, The Seat of Lord Hillingdon, privately printed, 1891, p. 8, pl. 1 (recorded in the Inner Hall).
London, 25 Park Lane, The Three French Reigns (Louis XIV, Louis XV & Louis XVI), 1933, no. 449, fig. 93.
Special notice
No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 17.5% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.

Lot Essay

Balthazar Lieutaud, maître in 1749.
Ferdinand Berthaould, maître horloger in 1754.

This magnificent longcase clock is not only the first masterpiece by the greatest clock-maker in France in the 18th Century, Ferdinand Berthoud, presented by him to The Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris in 1752, but it also formed part of one of the most celebrated collections of French furniture in the 19th Century, The Hillingdon Collection.

The clock proudly displays an engraved steel plaque detailing its unusually well-documented inception, recording an important moment in horological history.
In 1752 at the remarkably young age of 24, while not yet a maître horloger, Berthoud was invited to display his prodigious talents to the Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris and presented this sumptuously inlaid régulateur de parquet to demonstrate his ability to invent a remarkable and highly complicated clock movement incorporating an entirely new system showing the equation of time.

The difference between solar and mean time is known as the equation of time. The invention of the pendulum in 1658 brought a far great degree of accuracy to timekeeping and it became very apparent to the new owners of these clocks that the solar day (time taken from a sun dial) does not accord with the mean day. This variation is duel in part to the earth's eccentric path around the sun and, in part, to the inclination of the earth's axis to the equator. These factors sometimes act in concert and sometimes in opposition which means that whilst mean time is a constant factor, solar time can vary throughout the year by as much as 16 minutes fast or slow of mean time. Clocks showing solar time had been invented by 1700 but they were very simple affairs compared to Berthoud's invention which required elaborate and highly complicated differential gearing. The result of which meant he was able to display two minute hands revolving in concert on the same dial, with the mean time hand displaying 'regular' time whilst the solar hand is constantly varying in front or behind the mean hand throughout the year.

The Academy was evidently impressed, as a report made on 26 April commented 'Cette construction d'horloge ©a équation nous a paru fort ingénieuse et plus simple que celle des autres qui ont été proposies jusqu'à présent ©a l'Académie', while in the report on the 'machines ou inventions' approved by the Academy, it was praised as follows: '... l équation s'y opère d'une façon absolument nouvelle et très sure.'

The demonstration to the Academy obviously produced the desired effect as Berthoud achieved his maîtrise in 1754 and went on to enjoy perhaps the most celebrated career of any 18th century French clock-maker.

The history of this spectacular clock later in the 18th century is frustratingly scant, although it could perhaps be associated with an example in the 1799 inventory drawn up after the death of M. Patu de Mello described as 'une autre forme ancienne de Ferdinand Berthoud à équation boite de placage, fonte dorée.'


The clock next appears in the fabled Hillingdon Collection, which was formed by Sir Charles Mills, Bt. (1792-1872), and enlarged by his son the Ist. Lord Hillingdon (1830-1898). The Hillingdon Collection was one of the greatest groups of 18th century French furniture and works of art assembled in the 19th century, and remarkably included 17 pieces of Louis XV and Louis XVI porcelain-mounted furniture, the largest accumulation of such pieces ever to be assembled. These pieces (together with other furniture and Sèvres porcelain), were sold from the collection in 1936, and are now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York (Decorative Art from the Samuel H. Kress Collection, London, 1964, pp. 116-119 et passim).

Charles Mills was born into a banking family and was the third generation to be associated with the private banking house of Glyn, Mills & Co., becoming a partner in 1821. He and his wife Emily, the daughter of a partner of Cox's bank, divided their time between Camelford House, at the corner of Oxford Street and Park Lane, and Hillingdon Court, their country house in Middlesex. He and his brothers, who were also passionate collectors, were regular customers at the leading London dealers of the day such as John Webb, while many pieces from Charles Mills's collection were included in the Loan Exhibition of Art Treasures of the United Kingdom held at Manchester in 1857. The curator of the exhibition, J. B. Waring, noted that 'Mr. Mills has ... quite a museum ...' His son, the 1st. Lord Hillingdon, added to the collection formed by his father, and was a buyer at the legendary Hamilton Palace sale of 1882, where he acquired a superb pair of Boulle pedestals. He also commissioned from Christie's a privately printed catalogue of the collections at Camelford House and at Wildernesse Park, the country house near Sevenoaks he had acquired from Lord Camden, where the Berthoud clock appeared in the Inner Hall.


Ferdinand Berthoud was the greatest French clock-maker of the 18th century. He was born in Placemont, the son of Jean Berthoud, an architect and judiciary. In 1741 he was bound over to his brother, Jean-Henri, with whom he served a three year apprenticeship before leaving for Paris where he worked with the great master Julien Leroy (1686-1759). In 1752, two years before receiving his maîtrise, he was invited to present this clock to the Academie des Sciences. Eleven years later, in Essai sur l'Horlogerie (1764), the first of many of Berthoud's highly respected horological dissertations, he devoted an entire chapter to the movement of this clock; a telling indication of how important he felt this invention stood in the context of horological innovation. The very nature of the clock's complexity and its sumptious case indicate that it was probably the very masterpiece upon which Berthoud was judged to achieve his maîtrise in 1754.
On 24 July 1764 he was appointed Horloger Mécanicien de sa Majesté et de la Marine ayant l'inspection de la construction des horloges Marine with an annual stipend of 3,000 livres that increased to 7,000 by 1782. The position was of considerable importance at the time when the race to construct a timepiece capable of finding longitude at sea was the social and political talk of all western Europe. From 1766 he designed all the marine clocks and watches used on the king's ships. Later in the same year he was appointed a member of the Royal society of London and later a Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur. In 1786 he was a member of the commission to establish a Royal clock factory and in 1793 he was a member of the Temporary Commission for the Arts. Berthoud's writings covered more than 4,000 quarto pages with more than 120 engraved plates from drawings by his own hand; his most important works included: Essai sur l'Horlogerie (1763), Traite des Horloges Marines (1773), De la Measure de Temps (1787) and Histoire de la Measure du Temps par les Horloges (1802).

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