The beautiful miniature phase I case is surmounted by a gilt-brass foliate-tied handle above the cushion domed top, which has pierced sound cut-outs overlaid with silk and applied with small chased, gilt-brass, foliate scroll and garland mounts. The front door has a small foliate scroll gilt-brass sound fret to the top rail and bellflower escutcheons to the side rails, the lower rail with a small matching bellflower mount. The front door sill is stamp numbered 47. The sides have glazed apertures between the typical ogee/ovolo main mouldings and it rests on ebonised bun feet.
The 4 7/8 inch square gilt-brass dial has four latched dial feet and is signed Tho: Tompion Londini Fecit along the lower edge. The centre has very fine matting with the winding square by VIII. The corners are mounted with finely chased gilt-brass cross-winged cherub spandrels, only found on Tompion’s miniature clocks. The dial plate is applied with a typical early silvered chapter ring; with small Arabic minutes outside their divisions, the double figures with a centre line between, the Roman hours are divided by sword hilt half-hour marks, The well pierced, blued steel hands, each have Tompion’s stepped collar to the back.
The extraordinary timepiece movement has heavy brass plates with six delicate latched baluster pillars. Single gut fusee and spring barrel, verge escapement, the knife-edge mounted in the winged, cross-hatched backcock with a brass rod pendulum and calibrated bob, punch numbered 1 to 4. The silent pull-quarter repeat system is cocked via Tompion’s early Z-bar repeat lever, the top cranked, and operating from either side. The hours are struck on the larger bell mounted above and the quarters on the smaller bell just below. The extended backplate has a line engraved outer with the finest tulip engraving within scrolling foliage, the signature is repeated within a rectangular reserve Tho = Tompion Londini Fecit.
Capt. Hugh Vivian, purchased from Percy Webster, 17 Queen Street, Mayfair on March 10th 1938 (receipt existing).
R.W. Symonds, Thomas Tompion, His life and work, 1969, pp.148, 192 & 280 figs. 116 & 171.
The Vivian Tompion No.47 circa 1684
A very rare miniature phase I ebony timepiece with Tompion’s all-or-nothing silent pull quarter repeat.
Pictured here with No.42, a contemporary standard sized timepiece, The Vivian Tompion, No.47 is, in all parts, an aesthetic and mechanical gem. One of only two recorded phase 1 miniatures, it is testimony to Tompion’s extraordinary ability to reduce scale while maintaining proportion, style and complication; the exemplary silent pull-quarter repeating movement is uncompromised and housed in a beautiful miniature case with gorgeous fire-gilded mounts.
As discussed in Thomas Tompion 300 Years on page 151, Tompion began his numbering in a slightly random fashion, using both small and large punches. He undoubtedly started his number system for accounting reasons and, so long as the clocks were marked, the positioning was initially not standardised. Various patterns can be seen in the early clock list and one of these appears to be that his recorded table clocks between 47 and 61 are all stamped on the case sills only, rather than their movements, the only exception being 56, which is stamped on both the case sill and the movement.
The Vivian Tompion, No.47 is extensively pictured in Symonds 1951 book, Thomas Tompion, his life and work, but the number is not mentioned. Before such things were being studied in such depth, the numbers were often ignored by the auction rooms and missed by both dealers and academics. The stamping of No. 47 is relatively shallow (see image opposite) and difficult to read unless lit correctly; when purchased in 1938, the number on the door sill was not recorded and presumably not seen, it took several decades and a special visit to see the clock on exhibition for it to be discovered.
In total, there are 12 recorded miniature ebony table clocks by Thomas Tompion (see Garnier & Carter, The Golden Age of English Clockmaking, 2015, p.144 to 149), 10 of these are of the later phase 2 type (3 of those are incomplete) and just 2 are early phase 1 timepieces; this example, No.47, and No.51.