A LOUIS XVI ORMOLU TABLE REGULATOR WITH EQUATION OF TIME AND REMONTOIRE
A LOUIS XVI ORMOLU TABLE REGULATOR WITH EQUATION OF TIME AND REMONTOIRE
A LOUIS XVI ORMOLU TABLE REGULATOR WITH EQUATION OF TIME AND REMONTOIRE
A LOUIS XVI ORMOLU TABLE REGULATOR WITH EQUATION OF TIME AND REMONTOIRE
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PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED NEW YORK COLLECTION
A LOUIS XVI ORMOLU TABLE REGULATOR WITH EQUATION OF TIME AND REMONTOIRE

THE CLOCKMAKER ROBERT ROBIN, HORLOGER DU ROI, PARIS, THE ENAMELLER JOSEPH COTEAU, THE DIAL DATED 1781

Details
A LOUIS XVI ORMOLU TABLE REGULATOR WITH EQUATION OF TIME AND REMONTOIRE
THE CLOCKMAKER ROBERT ROBIN, HORLOGER DU ROI, PARIS, THE ENAMELLER JOSEPH COTEAU, THE DIAL DATED 1781
CASE: The glazed case on block feet with overlapping stiff leaf gallery above, the doors and side panels cast with ribband ornament and flower heads, the glazed top cast with tongues overlapping acanthus leaves, foliate upper spandrels and drapery swag
DIAL: White enamel Roman and Arabic dial signed Robin H.ger du Roi, the reverse signed Coteau and dated 1781, pierced ormolu mean hour and minute hands, conterpoised sweep center seconds hand, blued steel solar and calendar hands, the outer calendar ring displaying months with their relevant number of days and with their Zodiac symbols painted within beaded ovals conjoined with gilt floral garlands, the dial plate engraved at the bottom Remonté à gauche and laisser passe(r) le quantieme, strike square to the top left of the dial plate
MOVEMENT: The going train movement with deadbeat escapement and knife-edge suspended gridiron pendulum with 50 second remontoire, the backplate engraved Robin Hor... du Roy APARIS, the separate striking movement mounted atop the main plates and having four back-pinned pillars and countwheel strike on bell
16 1/8 in. (41 cm.) high, 8 5/8 in. (21.9 cm.) wide, 6 ¾ in. (7.2 cm.) deep
Provenance
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 21 October, 1982, lot 229.
Sale room notice
Please note the striking mechanism and bell on this clock were added in the first half of the 19th century.

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Lot Essay

The present clock, created by Robin and Coteau, who were both masters in their fields, is both mechanically and artistically extraordinary. It is one of only eight other such regulators known, all but two of which have movements by Robin. The high quality of the ormolu, which features a strong construction to the upper section composed of ormolu dovetails, is a mark of the careful design and indicates the preoccupation with the protection of the exceptional quality mechanics within.

Robert Robin (1741-1799)
Robin was one of the finest clockmakers of 18th Century France and highly regarded for both the excellence and ingenuity of his work. J-D. Augarde notes: 'Il appartint au cercle restreint des grands horlogers de la fin du XVIIIe siècle qui apportèrent une contribution particulière au perfectionnement des instruments de la mesure du temps' (J-D. Augarde, Les Ouvriers du Temps, Geneva, 1996, p. 391). Robin was received as a master clockmaker in November 1767 by decree of the Council, which exempted him from the apprenticeship qualification, probably because he had already displayed exceptional talent. In 1778 he was appointed Horloger du Duc de Chartres and that same year he was honoured by the Académie des Sciences, who approved two of his inventions. One of the articles he presented to the Academy was on his remontoire: 'Mémoire contenant des réflexions sur le proprieté du Remontoire, un éschappement naturel avec une courte description d'une pendule dans lacquelle ces effets sont éxecuté'. Other appointments included Valet de Chambre-Horloger Ordinaire du Roi in 1783 and Valet de Chambre-Horloger Ordinaire de la Reine in 1786. In 1794 he was made clockmaker to the Republic and in 1796 to the Directoire.

Joseph Coteau (1740-1801)
Coteau was the most famous and arguably the finest enameller of his day, creating bejewelled dials for the greatest clockmakers. The renowned collector and horologist Winthrop Edey wrote of him: '[He] has remained unequalled... although the best of his successors were able to reach his level of virtuosity, they never achieved his perfect proportions nor his lush sweetness, which was an attribute of the ancien régime alone' (W. Edey, French Clocks in North American Collections, The Frick Collection, New York, 1982
p. 22).Originally from Geneva, he became maître in 1778 and maître-peintre-émailleur at the Académie de St.-Luc in Geneva in 1766. He moved to Paris in 1772, where he was installed in the rue Poupie. A skilled miniaturist, he discovered a new method for fixing raised gold on porcelain and by 1780 his name first appears in the kiln records at Sèvres. Coteau was appointed Peintre-émailleur du roi et de la Manufacture Royale de Sèvres circa 1780, and by 1784 his production was considerable, receiving 4520 livres from the Manufacture de Sèvres for executed commissions.

The Mantel Regulator
The design for this mantel regulator is said to have been inaugurated by Robin in 1777, with its glazed case intended to show his sophisticated remontoire system. The term regulateur de cheminée had not yet been invented and at the time such clocks were described as pendule quarrée en ordre d'architecture à panneaux de glace (square clock of architectural order with glass panels). This movement represents the most cutting edge technology of the time and epitomizes the definition of a masterpiece.

Although it is unknown who commissioned this clock, its extreme luxury and and sophistication indicated it would have been supplied to one of the pre-eminent members of the aristocracy if not a member of the Royal family. Interestingly, Marie-Antoinette is known to have liked such clocks. Four appear on the list of forty-five clocks she had put into safekeeping during the Revolution. An inventory of the chateau of Saint-Cloud undertaken by the Revolutionary government in 1794 describes two clocks in the Pièce des Nobles of Marie-Antoinette's apartment that had not been there at the time of the 1789 inventory. One of these was a clock of the same form as the present example by Robin and with a Coteau zodiac-dial. An example of this description is in the Frick Collection (1999.5.150). It has been suggested that the Frick example may be the one described in the 1794 inventory, but this has yet to be definitively identified.

The cases of the Frick model described above (1999.5.150), and another at the Frick (1999.5.151), are stylistically almost identical to the present clock. The Frick Collection have attributed the cases to Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751-1843), (see W. Edey, op. cit., p. 88).

Tardy illustrates several mantel regulators by Robin, including one almost identical to the present example, with just very minor differences to the Coteau dial, from the collection of Breguet. Three other table clocks, sharing the draped swag ormolu motif are also illustrated (see Tardy, La Pendule Francaise: Des Origines A Nos Jours, vol. 2, 4th edition, Paris, 1975, pp. 317-319 and 321). For another related example by Robin in the Louvre, the case of mahogany mounted with ormolu, dated circa 1786-89, see Augarde, op. cit., p. 392, no. 286.

Equation of Time
Prior to the standardization of time in the 19th and early 20th Century, a development required by increased speed of travel, each community used its own local time, determined by a sundial. As the observed motion of the sun is not constant through the seasons, apparent solar time (sundial time) and mean solar time (clock time) only agree four times a year and can differ by up to sixteen minutes. The difference between the two is the equation of time. Equation clocks such as this example by Robin automatically adjust the relationship between the two minute hands throughout the year. The gilt-metal hands show apparent solar time (hours and minutes) and the blued steel hands show mean solar time (minutes and seconds). The introduction of this concept was an important development in the history of clock making.

The Remontoire
The remontoire system on the clock frequently rewinds the weights, which therefore give a constant force to the escapement, thus increasing its accuracy. Remontoires are designed to compensate for variations in the driving force and power transmission which can result in fluctuations in the impulse delivered to the balance.

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