16 May 2016
German. A fine, very rare and unusual gilded brass and steel “Steinschloss-Weckuhr” table clock with combined flintlock candle lighter and alarm
Signed Namröh, circa 1730
Rectangular gilt brass chain fusée movement, verge escapement, fixed barrel for the striking, alarm stroke by two hammers on bell, patinated steel flintlock lighting a candle when the alarm is activated or on demand, dial with Roman numerals on silvered chapter ring, outer minute track with five-minute Arabic numerals, inner alarm disc with Arabic numerals, steel beetle and scroll hands, rectangular, spring-loaded cover engraved with two putti holding torches flanking a vacant cartouche, compartment for the spring-loaded candle released by the action of the hammer set alongside, internal box with sliding cover engraved “Zünder”, side panels engraved with putti in scenes allegorical of love, dial plate signed
170 mm. length, 90 mm. depth
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Meister der Uhrmacherkunst, Jürgen Abeler, Wuppertal, 2010, p. 401. A comprehensive article on the history of the combined candle lighter and alarm clock is published in the Peter Finer catalogue, London, 2010, No. 23, pp. 108-110.
This combined candle lighter and alarm clock is a fine and rare example dating from the first half of the 18th century. These ingenious marvels were part of the fashion for expensive mechanical novelties and would have been a source of wonder to behold. The alarm can be set to give the wake-up call and at the same time light the bedside candle by means of sparks produced by the flint striking against the steel in the manner of a flintlock pistol. Before the invention of the striking match by the English chemist John Walker around 1826, lighters were regarded as important objects. Mechanical lighter alarm contrivances of this type were known since the sixteenth century, this is proved by the existence of a wheel-lock candle lighter alarm in the British Museum (No. 1901.0115.1). A small number of examples including the present clock survive from the 18th century and are signed by makers such as Johann Maurer, Berlin; Ferdinand Engelsalchk, Prague, and Joseph Sich, Vienna. A maker called Namröh is first recorded working in Prague and Augsburg around 1580 and noted for a “Steinschloss-Weckuhr”. The present clock is certainly of later date and stylistically compares closely to other examples dating from the first half of the eighteenth century. Whether the Namröh dynasty continued into the eighteenth century or whether this clock was signed by a later maker in homage to an earlier master is unknown.
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