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Exhibit № 19: The Daniels Grande Sonnerie Knibb. Circa 1680

Exhibit № 19: The Daniels Grande Sonnerie Knibb. Circa 1680

A very fine Charles II ebony veneered Phase III gilt-brass mounted double six-hour Grande Sonnerie striking table clock by Joseph Knibb, London

£350,000


Height

13¼ inches high (345 mm)

Case

The archetypal Phase III case, ebony veneered onto an oak carcass, the cushion domed top with fine quality gilt-brass foliate mounts to the sides and front, surmounted by a gilt-brass foliate-tied handle with turned pommels and base plates, and flanked by four gilt-brass urn finials. The flat-top main cornice moulding over the square front door with typical opposed winged cherub head escutcheons, the left pierced with key-hole for the lock and the top rail inset with a gilt-brass foliate and mask sound fret, the sides with glazed apertures, and the inset glazed back door framed with half-round mouldings. The typical plinth moulding supported by four later turned gilt-brass bun feet.

Dial

The 7¼ inch square fire-gilded brass dial, attached to the frontplate by four latched dial feet. The delicate skeletonised silvered chapter with inner quarter division ring, pierced Roman hour numerals and ‘spear’ half-hour markers, the outer ring divided for minutes and each Arabic minute individually numbered outside, with well pierced and sculpted Knibb-pattern blued steel hands.  The particularly fine and skilfully matted centre with three winding holes and chamfered date aperture below XII, with Knibb’s early cherub head corner spandrels and signed along the lower edge, Joseph Knibb London. Held in the case by two typical dial turns behind III and IX.

Movement

The delicate three-train fusee movement with ten typical vase-shaped baluster pillars, latched to the triple divided front plate for individual train assembly, with triple gut line fusees and spring barrels. The knife-edge verge escapement with short bob pendulum. The quarter train striking on the smaller bell above and governed by a small numbered countwheel to the backplate with four lifting pins that trip, via a posted lever, the large double six-hour numbered countwheel, releasing the hour train to strike on the larger bell above. The backplate with a line border, symmetrically engraved with tulips and open flowers, scrolling foliage, typically signed in an arc Joseph Knibb Londini Fecit with crossed stems and leaves directly below.

Duration

8 days

Provenance

Sotheby’s, 28 April 1988, Lot 290 to George Daniels, watchmaker (1926-2011);

Sotheby’s, The George Daniel’s Horological Collection, 6 November 2012, lot 136, sold for £349,000;

John C Taylor Collection, inventory no.146

Literature

Garnier & Hollis, Innovation & Collaboration, 2018, p.324-325

Escapement

Knife-edge verge with short bob pendulum

Strike Type

Double six-hour Grande Sonnerie striking via linked outside countwheels

Exhibited

2018, London, Innovation & Collaboration, exhibit no.96

The scarce double six-hour Grande Sonnerie striking system is a power saving arrangement first used in continental Europe and later adopted by Joseph Knibb. The hour count wheel is cut for two runs of six-hours in the twelve hour period, resulting in a maximum of 42 blows to the hour bell as opposed to 78 blows on a twelve hour system in any twenty four hour period.

This is a superb example of Knibb’s ubiquitous Phase III pattern case, but with complex linked countwheel striking, first pioneered by him in c.1672 (see his early Phase I example from this collection, inventory no.32). While Joseph Knibb’s Phase III clocks changed little over the 1680s, closer inspection provides us with clues that this example was most likely made in the early 1680s; the dial signature Joseph Knibb London is now no longer Latinised and Knibb is using his later winged cherub head spandrels, but the backplate remains in his earlier open tulip style, signed in an arc Joseph Knibb Londini Fecit and with distinctly early crossed stems below. Knibb’s backplates had generally changed to more profuse foliage by the end of the decade, often with the central signature in a reserve on two lines. Meanwhile, this dial has a top-of-the-range skeletonised chapter ring that is extremely aesthetically pleasing, giving a feeling of lightness, but requiring skilful close-edge matting that, in this instance, is particularly fine and difficult to achieve.

With the exception of a small number of his later (post c.1680) Phase III spring clocks, the majority of Knibb’s complicated striking arrangements were ingeniously designed within the constraints of countwheel governance, often, as in this instance, to reduce the number of blows required on the bells and save power within the strike trains. Each method allowed for either longer duration and/or more complicated strike combinations on conventional clocks.

Knibb used double six-hour striking specifically on Grande Sonnerie clocks to save on power in the strike train, because the hour is struck at every quarter as well as on the hour. The first six hours are struck normally, but the strike reverts to 1 blow at VII o’clock, through to 6 blows at XII o’clock. The double-six Grande Sonnerie method requires a total of 288 blows every 12 hours: 120 blows from the quarter train and 168 blows from the hour train. As seen in the backplate illustration, the double-six Grande Sonnerie hour countwheel is divided: 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2 etc., through to 6, 6, 6, 6, but twice, to make 12 hours.

At this time, more than any other maker, Knibb’s customers would have been impressed with the combination of strike options he offered. Whereas just a short time before those customers had been confined, with a few exceptions, to inaccurate clocks going for only short periods and striking only on the hour, they could now buy clocks of longer duration and/or a choice of striking work, including Dutch, Roman and quarter striking, as well as double-six and full Grande Sonnerie clocks.

 

George Daniels CBE DSc FBHI FSA AHCI (1926-2011) was an English watchmaker who, during his lifetime, was considered and celebrated as one of the finest in the world. He built complete watches by hand, including the cases and dials, but it was his invention of the Co-Axial Escapement in 1974, which theoretically removed the need for lubrication, for which he is most celebrated, and it represented the greatest advancement in mechanical escapement design since the invention of the lever escapement by Thomas Mudge in 1754.

Daniels was born in Sunderland in 1926, his mother was unmarried when she became pregnant and fled from London, only when they then returned did his mother wed his father. In 1944, Daniels started his National Service in the army, he already had an interest in watches and did repairs for his colleagues. On leaving in 1947, he used his £50 gratuity to buy tools and started to work as a watch repairer, studying at night classes and graduating as a member of the British Horological Institute, later gaining Fellowship (FBHI).

After a decade of working privately, Daniels opened his first watch repair shop in London in 1960. He became particularly interested in the works of the notable French watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747-1823), becoming the world’s leading expert and soon started advising on his work, eventually penning The Art of Breguet in 1975. When he opened his shop, Daniels met and befriended the wealthy and influential collector, Sam Clutton, who introduced him to the upper echelons of horology and convinced him that he had a future in expensive handcrafted luxury watches. In 1969, Daniels constructed his first pocket watch for Clutton for £2,000, and when Clutton showed the piece to fellow collectors, it created enormous interest and immediate further orders, five years later, Daniels bought Clutton’s watch back for £8,000.

Throughout his making career, Daniels made signature timepieces for personally selected customers, saying I never made Twatches for people if I didn’t care for them. The watches took more than 2,500 hours to make, and his hallmark was to give them clear and clean dials, much influenced by his admiration for Breguet, with subsidiary dials interwoven with the main chapter ring. During the quartz crisis of the 1970s, George Daniels accepted a commission from the American industrialist and collector, Seth G. Atwood, who had just founded The Time Museum in Illinois. The assignment was to create a timepiece that would fundamentally improve the performance of mechanical watches. By 1974, after much experimentation, Daniels had designed and made his new type of Co-Axial Escapement; the watch was first unveiled in 1976 as the Atwood Daniels, but the escapement took until 1980 to be patented.

The extraordinary low friction design avoided the need for the escapement to be oiled, which caused problems with accuracy as it thickened and degraded over time. Using radial friction instead of sliding friction, lubricants are theoretically unnecessary, but in practice, a small amount of lubrication is used on the impulse and locking surfaces of the pallets. Daniels’ Co-Axial Escapement has since been described by some as the most important development in horology in the past 250 years. and has been used by Omega in most of their collections since 1999, with the exception of the Speedmaster Moonwatch, until the release of the calibre 3861 in 2021.

Although the horological industry was first introduced to the concept in 1976, Daniels’ escapement was met with scepticism in the then notoriously conservative Swiss watch industry. Although Patek Philippe infamously and unsuccessfully experimented with it, initially, in Daniels own words it was not made correctly to my design. Thus, it was not until the 1980s that Swatch Group chairman Nicolas Hayek adopted the concept, eventually using it in his upmarket Omega brand. The company unveiled, to great acclaim, its first automatic watch using Daniels’ coaxial escapement at the 1999 Basel Watch and Jewellery Fair.

All Daniels own watches were made by hand under one roof and without assistance. George Daniels was the first watchmaker to achieve sufficient mastery of 32 of the 34 skills and techniques requisite in creating a watch entirely alone and by hand. This is now recognised as ‘The Daniels Method’ and every component was made from raw materials in his Isle of Man studio without the use of repetitive or automatic tools. Thus, no two watches are identical and each is accepted as a work of art, furthermore, this exacting approach meant that he only completed 27 watches during his career.

A passionate horologist throughout his career, George Daniels success allowed him to indulge his interest in the finest examples by the greatest clockmakers of their day, and his love of aesthetics combined with complexity is exemplified by this superb double-six Grande Sonnerie table clock by Joseph Knibb.

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Product Description

The scarce double six-hour Grande Sonnerie striking system is a power saving arrangement first used in continental Europe and later adopted by Joseph Knibb. The hour count wheel is cut for two runs of six-hours in the twelve hour period, resulting in a maximum of 42 blows to the hour bell as opposed to 78 blows on a twelve hour system in any twenty four hour period.

This is a superb example of Knibb’s ubiquitous Phase III pattern case, but with complex linked countwheel striking, first pioneered by him in c.1672 (see his early Phase I example from this collection, inventory no.32). While Joseph Knibb’s Phase III clocks changed little over the 1680s, closer inspection provides us with clues that this example was most likely made in the early 1680s; the dial signature Joseph Knibb London is now no longer Latinised and Knibb is using his later winged cherub head spandrels, but the backplate remains in his earlier open tulip style, signed in an arc Joseph Knibb Londini Fecit and with distinctly early crossed stems below. Knibb’s backplates had generally changed to more profuse foliage by the end of the decade, often with the central signature in a reserve on two lines. Meanwhile, this dial has a top-of-the-range skeletonised chapter ring that is extremely aesthetically pleasing, giving a feeling of lightness, but requiring skilful close-edge matting that, in this instance, is particularly fine and difficult to achieve.

With the exception of a small number of his later (post c.1680) Phase III spring clocks, the majority of Knibb’s complicated striking arrangements were ingeniously designed within the constraints of countwheel governance, often, as in this instance, to reduce the number of blows required on the bells and save power within the strike trains. Each method allowed for either longer duration and/or more complicated strike combinations on conventional clocks.

Knibb used double six-hour striking specifically on Grande Sonnerie clocks to save on power in the strike train, because the hour is struck at every quarter as well as on the hour. The first six hours are struck normally, but the strike reverts to 1 blow at VII o’clock, through to 6 blows at XII o’clock. The double-six Grande Sonnerie method requires a total of 288 blows every 12 hours: 120 blows from the quarter train and 168 blows from the hour train. As seen in the backplate illustration, the double-six Grande Sonnerie hour countwheel is divided: 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2 etc., through to 6, 6, 6, 6, but twice, to make 12 hours.

At this time, more than any other maker, Knibb’s customers would have been impressed with the combination of strike options he offered. Whereas just a short time before those customers had been confined, with a few exceptions, to inaccurate clocks going for only short periods and striking only on the hour, they could now buy clocks of longer duration and/or a choice of striking work, including Dutch, Roman and quarter striking, as well as double-six and full Grande Sonnerie clocks.

 

George Daniels CBE DSc FBHI FSA AHCI (1926-2011) was an English watchmaker who, during his lifetime, was considered and celebrated as one of the finest in the world. He built complete watches by hand, including the cases and dials, but it was his invention of the Co-Axial Escapement in 1974, which theoretically removed the need for lubrication, for which he is most celebrated, and it represented the greatest advancement in mechanical escapement design since the invention of the lever escapement by Thomas Mudge in 1754.

Daniels was born in Sunderland in 1926, his mother was unmarried when she became pregnant and fled from London, only when they then returned did his mother wed his father. In 1944, Daniels started his National Service in the army, he already had an interest in watches and did repairs for his colleagues. On leaving in 1947, he used his £50 gratuity to buy tools and started to work as a watch repairer, studying at night classes and graduating as a member of the British Horological Institute, later gaining Fellowship (FBHI).

After a decade of working privately, Daniels opened his first watch repair shop in London in 1960. He became particularly interested in the works of the notable French watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747-1823), becoming the world’s leading expert and soon started advising on his work, eventually penning The Art of Breguet in 1975. When he opened his shop, Daniels met and befriended the wealthy and influential collector, Sam Clutton, who introduced him to the upper echelons of horology and convinced him that he had a future in expensive handcrafted luxury watches. In 1969, Daniels constructed his first pocket watch for Clutton for £2,000, and when Clutton showed the piece to fellow collectors, it created enormous interest and immediate further orders, five years later, Daniels bought Clutton’s watch back for £8,000.

Throughout his making career, Daniels made signature timepieces for personally selected customers, saying I never made Twatches for people if I didn’t care for them. The watches took more than 2,500 hours to make, and his hallmark was to give them clear and clean dials, much influenced by his admiration for Breguet, with subsidiary dials interwoven with the main chapter ring. During the quartz crisis of the 1970s, George Daniels accepted a commission from the American industrialist and collector, Seth G. Atwood, who had just founded The Time Museum in Illinois. The assignment was to create a timepiece that would fundamentally improve the performance of mechanical watches. By 1974, after much experimentation, Daniels had designed and made his new type of Co-Axial Escapement; the watch was first unveiled in 1976 as the Atwood Daniels, but the escapement took until 1980 to be patented.

The extraordinary low friction design avoided the need for the escapement to be oiled, which caused problems with accuracy as it thickened and degraded over time. Using radial friction instead of sliding friction, lubricants are theoretically unnecessary, but in practice, a small amount of lubrication is used on the impulse and locking surfaces of the pallets. Daniels’ Co-Axial Escapement has since been described by some as the most important development in horology in the past 250 years. and has been used by Omega in most of their collections since 1999, with the exception of the Speedmaster Moonwatch, until the release of the calibre 3861 in 2021.

Although the horological industry was first introduced to the concept in 1976, Daniels’ escapement was met with scepticism in the then notoriously conservative Swiss watch industry. Although Patek Philippe infamously and unsuccessfully experimented with it, initially, in Daniels own words it was not made correctly to my design. Thus, it was not until the 1980s that Swatch Group chairman Nicolas Hayek adopted the concept, eventually using it in his upmarket Omega brand. The company unveiled, to great acclaim, its first automatic watch using Daniels’ coaxial escapement at the 1999 Basel Watch and Jewellery Fair.

All Daniels own watches were made by hand under one roof and without assistance. George Daniels was the first watchmaker to achieve sufficient mastery of 32 of the 34 skills and techniques requisite in creating a watch entirely alone and by hand. This is now recognised as ‘The Daniels Method’ and every component was made from raw materials in his Isle of Man studio without the use of repetitive or automatic tools. Thus, no two watches are identical and each is accepted as a work of art, furthermore, this exacting approach meant that he only completed 27 watches during his career.

A passionate horologist throughout his career, George Daniels success allowed him to indulge his interest in the finest examples by the greatest clockmakers of their day, and his love of aesthetics combined with complexity is exemplified by this superb double-six Grande Sonnerie table clock by Joseph Knibb.

Additional information

Dimensions 5827373 cm