Height

7½ inches.

Case

The rare nickel-silver case, with thick bevelled glass to each aperture. The top with a two-piece split handle, hinging into recesses and flush-fitting into the sections surrounding the glazed escapement aperture. The removable glazed rear, with dust shutters for the winding and setting holes set into the glass.

Dial

The perfect white vitreous enamel dial with Roman hours and minute divisions, signed DENT, LONDON, with subsidiary Arabic seconds ring bisecting XII, indicated by fine blued-steel moon hands, all set within a silvered electroform foliate mask.

Movement

The very substantial plates held by five pillars with twin chain fusees and spring barrels. The going train with Harrison’s maintaining power, up to the deeply planted gilt platform, with Earnshaw’s spring detent escapement and Dent’s staple balance with blued helical balance spring. The rack governed strike train ting-tang quarter-striking on two vertically mounted bells, the hours sounding on gong. The backplate with STRIKE/SILENT lever, signed Dent, London, 14806, and repeat numbered 14806 to the gong block.

Duration

8 days.

Provenance

The Vitale Collection, sold by Christie’s, 26 November 1996, lot 209;
Christie’s, Magnificent Clocks, 15 September 2004, lot 26;
Christie’s, 18 November 2010, lot 102, for £91,250;
Private collection UK.

Comparative Literature

C. Allix & P. Bonnert, Carriage Clocks, Their History and Development, Woodbridge, 1974, p.258;
R.V. Mercer, Edward John Dent and His Successors, London, 1977, pp.341-342;
D. Roberts, Carriage and Other Travelling Clocks, Atglen, 1993, p.306, pp.312-315.

Notes

Edward John Dent (1790-1853) went into partnership with John Roger Arnold at 84 Strand. In 1840 he set up on his own at 64 Strand, and also at 28 and 33 Cockspur Street. He was granted the Royal Warrant as Chronometer Maker to the Queen in 1841. In 1852 Dent won the commission to make the great clock for the Houses of Parliament at Westminster but died before it was completed. When Edward John Dent died in 1853 his business was split between his two stepsons who both adopted the surname Dent. Richard Edward Dent inherited the Cockspur Street business which passed to his wife, Marianna Frederica Dent, when he died in 1856. The business continued as M. F. Dent until 1920 when it merged with E. Dent & Co. Ltd.

Nickel silver, also known as German silver, is a copper alloy that usually contains a 60% copper base metal, 20% nickel, and 20% zinc. It earned its name due to its silver-white colour, but it contains no silver. It was first developed and used in China, becoming particularly popular during the Qing dynasty. German imitations of the Chinese alloy began to appear in c.1750, and by 1770, Suhl metalworks was able to produce a similar alloy. The Germans perfected the process in the early 19th century, and soon it was introduced in England, where the alloy was dubbed German silver.

Nickel carriage clocks by Dent are very rare and, including the present example, it is believed there are just eight such clocks and only two with Dents Staple or Prismatic balance and one other by Edward White. They are among the finest carriage clocks ever made by the Dents, and the vast majority of by them have chronometer escapements. Of these clocks, only six have the split handle found on the present clock. At the time, nickel carriage clocks were amongst their most expensive; a Dent price list of 1873 gives a price of 40 to 55 guineas for a striking example with lever escapement (see Roberts, Carriage and Other Travelling Clocks, 1993, p.308) and to put this in perspective, a good quality French timepiece carriage clock would be offered by the firm at 6 guineas.

The following list is of the 8 known:

No 1392. F. Dent, 61 Strand & 34 Royal Exchange, London, spade hands, foliate mask, polygonal handle;

No.1458. F. Dent, 61 Strand & 34 Royal Exchange, London spade hands, foliate mask, polygonal handle;

No.1567. Dent, 61 Strand & 34 Royal Exchange,London spade hands, foliate mask, polygonal handle, with prismatic balance;

The present clock, No.14806. Dent, London, moon hands, foliate mask, split handle, quarter striking, Dent patent double staple balance;

No.14880. Dent, London, moon hands, foliate mask, split handle, quarter striking, Dent patent double staple balance;

No.15956. E.J. Dent, London, fleur-de-lys hands, engine-turned mask, split handle, striking and repeating, Dent patent double staple balance;

No.17783. Dent, London, moon hands, foliate mask, split handle, striking and repeating, alarm, Dent patent double staple balance;

No.25712. Dent, 33 Cockspur Street, London, moon hands, engine-turned mask, split handle, striking.