John Ellicott F.R.S. (1706-1772) was one of England's greatest clockmakers of the 18th century. He was the son of John Ellicott, a London watchmaker who was himself the son of a watchmaker from Bodmin, Cornwall. His workshops were his father's in Swithin's or Sweeting's Alley, Royal Exchange.
By 1738, at the age of 32 he had already made his mark and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, a great privilage, and was later elected to its Council. He patently ensured that he mixed with the right people for his sponsors to the Society were none other than Sir Hans Sloane, President of the Society, Martin Ffolkes, the antiquary, John Senex, the globe-maker and John Hadley, the astronomer.
One of his most recognised inventions was his contribution to the compensated pendulum; Ellicott's design was clever and aesthetically pleasing but expensive and, as it turned out, not as effective as Berthoud's nine-rod steel and brass pendulum. He wrote a paper to the Royal Society on this subject in 1752 describing its complicated methods to compensate for the influences of heat and cold. Ellicott also made a large number of watches which were always of top quality. He not only developed the use of the cylinder escapement, bringing it to perfection with ruby cylinders but his movements were often in fine cases of gold repousée made by fashionable master-craftsmen such as Henry Moser and Joseph Heckel or in gold cases embellished with beautiful enamels.
Like every truly great clockmaker Ellicott's clocks were always made to a high standard, even his ordinary clocks were a just a cut above other London makers (see lot 92). Ellicott was also interested in the equation of time, he invented his own tables and made a small number of outstanding clocks with equation of time - two magnificent examples of which are in the Spanish Royal collection in Madrid.
Besides his work on precision he was also renowned for his musical bracket clocks. The present clock conbines a host of calendrical elements by displaying the time, day of week, date and the age of the moon - which in turn provides indirect drive to the moon sphere revolving above the case - and of course, it also has a musical movement. Not only has it all these scientific elements but also, like every great clockmaker, the case is of equal quality. Ellicott was never going to allow this movement to be housed in a typical bigger-than-average bell-top bracket clock case. It was specially created with pleasing chamfered angles, a brass line-inlaid deep concave-moulded top and wonderful thick, bold brass mouldings, one above the dial and two around the base, which cleverly emphasises the stature of the whole case.
It was patently made to order by a very discerning and extremely wealthy patron.