The son of a French Protestant watchmaker, Henry Massy was a Brother in the Clockmakers' Company in 1692. In 1698 he married Anne Brissett. He is recorded as working until at least 1704. See Brian Loomes, The Early Clockmakers of Great Britain, NAG, 1981, p.381. Examples of Massy's work are illustrated in Dawson, Drover and Parkes, Early English Clocks, Antique Collectors' Club, 1982, p.297, plate 422 and p.455, plate 666.
'Key-plate' table clocks derive their name from their false back plates, which are secured to the actual back plate via pillars slotting into key-hole shaped cut-outs. Few examples are known. In an article in 'Horological Dialogues' George C. Kenney mentions three examples, all by Daniel Quare and dated by him to the period 1703-1710 (Vol.I, 1979, pp.39-48). Interestingly, Kenney writes 'the clocks were also fitted with special and unusual...features such as maintaining power, seconds dials, quarter striking, and/or tortoiseshell cases'. The present example has the comparatively rare features of both a seconds dial and a tortoiseshell case. Moreover, the movement of the present clock displays a construction that bears all the hallmarks of a product from Daniel Quare's workshop.
The sight of a false back plate filling the rear view of a clock movement is aesthetically extremely pleasing. One of the advantages for the clockmaker is that it offers a 'blank canvas' and thus allows a free rein to the engraver unspoilt by unsightly pivot holes, repeat cocks and movement securing brackets.
One of the most notable features of this superb clock are its silver mounts. Set against the red of the tortoiseshell the effect created is one of unparalleled opulence. Silver mounts were reserved by Tompion for his Royal clocks and by Knibb for his 'special' clocks. They were expensive to produce and a luxurious addition to the casework. As such they were reserved only for the finest pieces, as with the present example.