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An important early Dutch ebony and rosewood pendulum clock with alarm
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An important early Dutch ebony and rosewood pendulum clock with alarm


An important early Dutch ebony and rosewood pendulum clock with alarm
Salomon Coster, The Hague. Dated 1658
The rectangular case with moulded frames to the front door, plain sides, the door opening on concealed hinges via integral side-positioned lock operated with the winding key, the upper rear with iron hanging loops, the dial opening on pins and with velvet-covered brass plate, brass Roman chapter ring with outer minutes, plain brass hands, steel tips to the minute hand and to the alarm indication tail of the hour hand, applied with an engraved brass lambrequin signed Salomon Coster/Haghe, and scratch-engraved below met privilege/1658, pivoted for access to the pendulum, the thirty-hour movement with tall rectangular plates joined by four square-sectioned back-pinned pillars, single barrel, four wheel going train with three spoke wheelwork, pivoted verge escapement with silk suspension and cycloidal cheeks, the rear-mounted ratchet wheel with steel ratchet and brass spring, with alarm release to the front plate for separate alarm movement positioned to the inside of the case, with conforming square section pillars and ratchet work, with alarm on substantial bell mounted on top of the case; some restorations to case; pendulum
32.5 cm. high
Hervé Chayette Nouveau Drouot, 5 June 1985, lot 168
Illustrated, 'Horological Dialogues', Journal of the American Section of the Antiquarian Horological Society, Volume Two, 1986, pp.24-25
Antiquarian Horological Society, Exhibition of Spring-Driven Table Clocks of the Seventeenth-Century, New York, June 10-14, 1986
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Christie’s charges a premium to the buyer on the Hammer Price of each lot sold at the following rates: 29.75% of the Hammer Price of each lot up to and including €5,000, plus 23.8% of the Hammer Price between €5,001 and €400,000, plus 14.28% of any amount in excess of €400,001. Buyer’s premium is calculated on the basis of each lot individually.

Lot Essay

There are three clockmaker trade labels to the inside of this clock. Two are on the rear of the brass dial, for: A. KOCH/HAREN and W.J. OLLAND HZ. The other is on the inside backboard and is for: H.H.M. MIDDENDORF/GRONINGEN.


Dr R Plomp, Spring-driven Dutch Pendulum Clocks 1657-1710, Schiedam, 1979, pp.11-27 & pp.114-120; Dr R Plomp, 'The Prototypes of 'Hague Clocks' and 'Pendules Religieuses' 350 Years after Salomon Coster's First Pendulum Clock', Antiquarian Horology, Vol.XXX, No.2, June 2007, pp.196-208; Dr R Plomp, 'Dutch Influences in French Clockmaking and Vice-Versa in the Latter Half of the Seventeenth Century', Antiquarian Horology, Vol.IX, No.1, December 1974, pp.28-45; Dr J L Sellink, Dutch Antique Domestic Clocks, Leiden, 1973, p.30; Tardy, French Clocks, the World Over, Paris, 1982, frontis page, pp.227-234; H.M. Vehmeyer, Clocks, Their Origin and Development 1320-1880, Vol.I, Gent, 2004, pp.226-227 and pp.282-283; Van den Ende, van Kersen, van Kersen-Halbertsma, Taylor & Taylor, Huygens' Legacy, The Golden Age of the Pendulum Clock, Frome, 2004, pp. 24-27 & pp. 32-33; Sotheby's New York, Masterpieces from the Time Museum, Part IV, Vol.I, 13 October 2004, lot 519; C.A. Grimbergen, De ontwikkeling van het Nederlandse uurwerk, Zaandaam, 1991, pp.8-11

There are seven recorded clocks signed by Salomon Coster, as follows.
1) Timepiece: Salomon Coster Haghe met privilege 1657 (Museum Boerhaave, Leiden). See Plomp p.114, Tardy p.234, Sellink p.30
2) Timepiece: Salomon Coster Haghe met privilege 1657 (Vehmeyer Collection, The Netherlands). See Vehmeyer pp.282-283, Plomp (AH 2007) p.197
3) Timepiece: Salomon Coster Haghe met privilege 1657, replaced cartouche (Museum van het Nederlandse Uurwerk, Zaanse Schans). See Plomp p.118, Sotheby's, lot 519
4) Timepiece: Salomon Coster Haghe met privilege (Science Museum, London). See Plomp p.119
5) Timepiece with alarm: Salomon Coster Haghe met privilege 1658 (the present clock)
6) Striking clock, tortoiseshell door: Salomon Coster Haghe met privilege (Museum van het Nederlandse Uurwerk, Zaanse Schans). See Grimbergen p.8, Tardy frontis page, Van den Ende et alia pp.32-33, Plomp p.120
7) Striking clock: Salomon Coster Haghe met privilege (Private Collection). See Vehmeyer p.226, Plomp (AH 2007), p.202
The present clock is therefore the only known example with alarm work. For a full account of the similarities and variances between the seven Coster clocks see Dr R Plomp (Antiquarian Horology, 2007). As Dr Plomp writes in the introduction to this catalogue, Coster's clocks were priced between 48-130 guilders. In a letter to the French astronomer Ismael Boulliau (1605-1694) of January 1659 he gives the following prices for spring clocks: spring-driven, going 30 hours, no striking -- 80 guilders; spring-driven, going 30 hours, striking -- 120 guilders; spring-driven, going 8 days, no striking -- 130 guilders. From this, Plomp surmises that the present clock would have cost about 120 guilders, at the top of the price range. The cheapest clock was a weight-driven 30-hour timepiece at 48 guilders. The average worker would have earned at most 40 guilders per annum (Vehmeyer, p.225).
In a letter to Ismael Boulliau, Christian Huygens dates his invention of the pendulum clock to 25 December 1656. His first known description of the clock is made in a letter to another French correspondent, Jean Chapelain (1594-1674), on 28 March 1658. From this, and from the drawings therein, it can be surmised that Huygens took a horizontal table clock, turned it upright and adapted the escapement to pendulum. Huygens was not, however, a clockmaker and to put his invention into production he engaged Salomon Coster.
In September 1658 Huygens published Horologium, an explanation of his invention and an attempt to ensure recognition of his patent. By then news of the new clocks had travelled widely; as early as 25 September 1657 a Coster clock had been presented Ferdinando II de Medici (1610-1670), Grand Duke of Tuscany (Plomp p.16).
Coster was born in Haarlem some time before 1623 and after marrying in 1643 he settled in The Hague, where he is recorded as a master clockmaker in 1646. That same year he took on Pieter Visbagh (c.1634-1722) as an apprentice for six years. On 16 June 1657 the Dutch States-General gave Coster the exclusive right ('privilege') to make and sell clocks according to Huygens' invention. This right was for 21 years. Coster was not employed by Huygens; it is probable that he paid the inventor a commission on the clocks he sold.
In a letter to another Parisian correspondent, Pierre Petit (1598-1677), dated 1 November 1658, Huygens states that the clockmaker (he does not refer to Coster by name) requires three weeks to a month to make each clock. With a starting date of June 1656 this suggests that the Coster workshop probably produced some thirty clocks between then and his early death in December 1659. During this time Christiaan Reijnaert (c.1647-1699) was in the Coster workshop, having been apprenticed for ten years in 1647. In 1657 John Fromanteel (1638-1682) came over from London to work with Coster and in 1658 Nicolas Hanet (?-1723) joined the workshop from Paris. Hanet acted as an agent for Coster in Paris and subsequently made the first French pendulum clocks. Plomp (p.19) concluded from Huygens' correspondence that at least eleven clocks were sent to Paris for sale, indicating the strong level of interest in the new pendulum clock in France and Huygens' wish for his invention to be recognised there. He suggests also that as the present clock has the feature of an alarm train on the upper inside of the case, found on later Dutch clocks but not on French clocks, then probably it was made for a Dutch client (AH 2007, p.201). The clockmakers' labels on the inside of the case certainly re-inforce the view that the clock spent most of its life in The Netherlands.
John Fromanteel was sent by his father Ahasuerus (1607-1693) to work with Coster in 1657. A contract between Coster and John Fromanteel was drawn up and dated 3 September 1657. In it Fromanteel is committed to making clock movements for Coster until May 1658 ('as he had made some already') at a cost of 20 guilders if he himself supplies the brass and steel and at 18.50 guilders if Coster supplies the metals. Fromanteel is also guaranteed free 'beer, light and heat'. Much discussion has risen from the interpretation of the wording of the contract, in particular the meaning of 'as he had made some already' (ie, did Fromanteel make the clocks referred to in Coster's workshop or in London before leaving for Holland) and also another sentence in which Coster promises to reveal 'the secret included'. What is meant by the 'secret' is the source of continued debate.
What is known is that in October 1658 Ahasuerus Fromanteel placed an advertisement in the Mercurius Politicus announcing that 'There is lately a way found out for making of Clocks that go exact and keep equaller time than any now made without this Regulater' and claiming to be the first in England to make pendulum clocks.

We are grateful to Dr Reinier Plomp for his advice in compiling this footnote

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