The ebony-veneered case, attributed to Jasper Braem (see page 32 of the catalogue), is surmounted by a typical foliate-clasped thistle-bud handle in solid silver with leaf baseplates, mounted above the pierced and chased silver repoussé basket top, which is decorated to all sides with intricate flowers, scrolls and foliage, with internal iron-strap support to allow carrying. Flanking, and at each corner, are four pierced silver acanthus leaf finials, above the subsequently archetypal top mouldings which are of Tompion’s own ogee/ovolo pattern in solid ebony. The front door has a silver foliate scroll sound fret to the top rail and silver bellflower escutcheons to the side rails; the case sides have rectangular apertures inset with silver leaf and scroll frets, matching the basket. The inset glazed rear door displaying and giving access to the engraved rear control-plate, with half-round ebony lap mouldings to the edge. The whole of the wooden case body lifts up, revealing the movement mounted on a solid brass base-plate with four veneered silver block feet. The base-plate is fixed to the case section with four screws and re-instated lever-bolts to the ‘secret’ locking system.
The 7½ inch square brass dial is covered in silk and applied with a silver chapter ring with Roman hours and delicate fleur-de-lys half-hour markers, the Arabic minutes numbered every 5 and set outside their division ring. The corners applied with four cast and finely chased silver winged-cherub spandrels. The centre has an exquisite central silver roundel, pierced and engraved with foliage and signed Thomas Tompion London. The winding holes with silver collars and a silver framed mock pendulum aperture below XII. The solid silver hands are well pierced and beautifully sculpted, the minute hand has an inset blued-steel tip to contrast with the silver chapter ring.
The unique, substantial and complex multi-plate movement has seven latched baluster pillars to the main plates, with further latched subsidiary plates, the pendulum suspended between the plain back plate and engraved rear control-plate. With twin gut fusees and spring barrels, going for 8-days, the strike is positioned on the right and the going train to the left – the first and only one of the series to be arranged in this format. The grande sonnerie strike train is set within subsidiary plates, the quarters chiming on three small bells, with the hours on the larger bell. The fire-gilded rear control-plate is engraved with a complex double wheatear border, interrupted at the bottom centre by a lambrequin cartouche, typically signed Tho=Tompion Londini Fecit. The inner section is engraved with tulips, a vase and entwining foliage within the large silvered pendulum-regulation ring, with blued-steel arrow hand. The central regulation arrow-hand is squared onto the arbor of a pinion gearing with a straight vertical toothed bar, mounted on the reverse of the control-plate to raise or lower the pendulum. The control-plate’s quadrants set with spade-hands, of which the lower pair lock the pendulum during carriage, and the upper-right controls the manner of striking, whereas the upper-left is to maintain the plate’s symmetry.
Apparently commissioned in 1677, and made for Charles II;
Private collection UK, until purchased by John Hawkins for:
Packer Collection, Australia, until purchased by Tony Woodburn for:
Private collection Germany;
Private collection Channel Islands.
Dawson, Drover & Parkes, Early English Clocks, 1982, p.347-352 & 446, pl. 498-502 and col. pl. 23 & 24, p.444-445 (2nd Ed. Front cover);
Evans, Thomas Tompion at the Dial and Three Crowns, 2006, listed p.70.
Evans, Carter & Wright, Thomas Tompion 300 years, 2013, p.378-381 and listed p.597.
Height 14 inches; width 10½ inches; depth 7¼ inches
The first contemporary reference to this clock can seemingly be found in Robert Hooke’s diary entry for Sunday 24th June 1677, when Hooke noted: ‘Tompion here instructed him about the Kings striking clock about bells and about the striking by the help of a spring instead of a pendulum, as also the ground and use of the fly and of the swash teeth.’
Kerry Francis Bullmore Packer AC (1937-2005) was one of Australia’s most powerful media proprietors of the 20th century, owning a controlling interest in the Nine TV Network and Australian Consolidated Press. Outside Australia, Kerry Packer was best known for founding World Series Cricket, and at the time of his death, he was one of the most influential men in Australia, as well as the richest.
Horological Innovations and Firsts
The Silver Tompion is regarded as the first English table clock recorded to employ a rack for governing the strike, and therefore the first truly repeating clock. This is particularly significant as, within ten to fifteen years, the use of a rack system was employed by almost all other clockmakers in London, and by c.1700 the countwheel strike on spring clocks was virtually redundant.
This is the first clock by Tompion to employ his pre-eminent and lauded two-train Grande Sonnerie strike system; all the following clocks show Tompion’s on-going developments from this system, including eventually the shift to three-trains, see page 224, but each derives from this clock. The two-train Grande Sonnerie clocks in tentative date order are:
The Silver Tompion, c.1677, ebony with silver mounts ordered by Charles II.
The Sussex Tompion, c.1678/9, ebony with gilt-brass mounts, by the 19th Century with the Duke of Sussex (John C Taylor collection, inv. no.27).
The Castlemaine Tompion, c.1679/80, gilt metal case, silver-mounted, movement removed by Vulliamy in 19th Century (Case: The Duke of Grafton; Movement: Royal Society of Engineers).
The Tulip Tompion, no.18, c.1681/2, ebony with gilt-brass mounts (private collection USA).
Tompion no.98, c.1687, ebony with gilt mounts but without lift-off case (private collection UK).
This is the only domestic clock by Tompion to employ a contrasting silk cloth to highlight and clarify the dial. Interestingly, the other two clocks known with velvet covered dials were the highly important scientific regulators, possibly being made in Tompion’s workshop when this clock was started, for the ‘new observatory’ at Greenwich.
This is the first clock completed by Tompion to employ a ‘lift-off’ case, subsequently used for his complex clocks, to maximise the size of the movements without having to increase the size of their cases. As well as later clocks in this series, the lift-off case was used for the sub-miniatures, nos. 21 & 23, the Mostyn year clock, no.222 sub-miniature, William III’s dual-control clock and the Gifford Tompion.
This is also the first table clock in which Tompion spring-suspended the pendulum, allowing for remote regulation from the rear, while the first deployment of a mock pendulum allowed it to be re-started, when being wound from the front. Tompion did not re-adopt this on his standard clocks until he introduced his Phase 2 dials in c.1690, when other makers then followed suit.
This is the first clock made by Tompion which he mounted in silver. There are seven others; all are spring clocks and have a definite, or surmised, royal provenance and are listed here in tentative date order:
The Silver Tompion, c.1677, 2-train Grande Sonnerie.
The Castlemaine Tompion, c.1679/80, 2-train Grande Sonnerie.
The Mostyn Tompion, c.1691/3, year going.
Tompion no.222, c.1693, sub-miniature.
King William III’s dual control, c.1693, travelling clock.
Tompion no.369, c.1702, mid-size clock.
The Gifford Tompion, c.1703, travelling clock.
The Barnard Tompion, no.460, c.1707, miniature.
The Silver Tompion, circa 1677
An historically and horologically important Charles II silver-mounted ebony two-train Grande Sonnerie striking and trip-repeating ‘royal’ table clock by Thomas Tompion, London
The case attributed to Jasper Braem, while Tompion’s co‑tenant at Water Lane, London