Height

17 inches.

Case

Ebonised with concave moulded top below a tempietto with four turned columns surmounted by a moulded brass cover and five brass vase finials, The pagoda enclosing a globe with two silvered revolving chapter-rings, engraved 1-12 twice and the initials of the days of the week four times. Each side with a glazed bolection moulded door, the base on ebonised block feet.

Dial

Front: 7¾ by 10¾ inch, brass dialplate with two tiers of Roman chapters within elaborate foliate engraving, the blued-steel hour hand operated by a cam system with fly-back return between each six hours, the large silvered Arabic minute chapter with uneven numerals, the hand driven by elliptical gearing giving uneven motion, the centre applied with a circular brass plaque with foliate engraving and winged cherubs and baskets of flowers. Female head and foliate spandrels.

Right: 5 by 10¼ inch plate with lunar dial above, signed Thos. Hildeyard INVENIT, the foliate-engraved brass ring centred by a painted revolving moon sphere, outer wheatear-engraved silvered ring with foliate spandrels. Silvered lunar-calendar ring below engraved 1 – 29½ with pierced blued-steel hand, the centre engraved with a basket of flowers. Foliate-cast spandrels.

Left: 5 by 10¼ inch plate with world-time dial above with foliate spandrels and narrow silvered twice-XII silvered chapter-ring with revolving silvered disc to the centre engraved with thirty locations around the world: London, Paris, Barbary, Rome, Venice, Vienna, Stockholm, Poland, Greece, Constantinople, Black Sea, Red Sea, Isphahan, States of Yi Moguhul, China, Pekin, Philippin Islands, Japan, Meaco [sic.], Pacific Sea, North America; California, Mexico, Florida, Virginia, South America, Canarie I, Portugal, Dublin, Madrid. The world-time calendrical dial below with narrow silvered calendar ring (1-30 in Arabic) with pierced blued-steel hand, the centre engraved with a basket of flowers and with foliate cast spandrels.

Movement

The unusual 7¼ by 10¼ inch movement with four square brass pillars to each corner and a large baluster pillar to the centre, the going train with chain-driven long spring barrel and fusee, verge escapement, the motion work driving a worm wheel carried on a steel arbor to the centre of the movement meshing indirectly to a vertical arbor running above the plates to the calendar mechanism within the tempietto, the rack strike sounding on a bell vertically positioned above and between the plates, the backplate elaborately engraved with foliage and rosettes around the winding squares and with a tiger’s head at the base.

Duration

8 days.

Provenance

RA Lee, purchased 28 September 1959, by:
The Odmark Collection, and sold, Christie’s, 11 Mar, 2005, lot 446, for:
The Tom Scott Collection, inventory no.43.

Comparative Literature

Ramon Colon de Carvajal, Catalogo de Relojes del Patrimonio Nacional, Editorial Patrimonio Nacional, Madrid, 1987, pp. 21-2.

Literature

Antiquarian Horology, Dec. 1960, front cover;

Garnier & Carter, The Golden Age of English Horology, 2015, pp. 410-413.

Notes

Thomas Hildyard is one of the most enigmatic and elusive English horologists of his era, very little is known about him, but he is recorded as being born in 1690 in Rotherwas, Hereford. In Baillie’s Clocks and Watches, an Historical bibliography, he is noted as having written a horological discourse on an extraordinarily complex clock with four sides and surmounted by an engraved glass sphere. He describes himself as a Professor of Mathematics at the English College of Liége: Descriptio horologii recens inventi a R. P. Hildyard, Societatis Jesu, olim Mathesos, nunc theologiae professore in Collegio anglicano Leodii.

That astonishing clock is thought to be the Hildeyard signed astronomical example in the Spanish Royal Collection (see Catalogo de Reloges del Patrimonio Nacional), while this example was likely a precursor to the four-dial clock. In 2005, Christie’s commented, it is extraordinary to think that a professor of Mathematics was capable of making a machine that even the most accomplished clockmakers of the period would have struggled to design, let alone make. In all probability, the present clock, like the Spanish royal example, is more likely to have been made by a clockmaker working under Hildyard’s strict supervision, but it is indeed remarkable for its innovative design and complexity, the movement is both naive yet clever and the complications are both brilliant yet whimsical, while the cam-operated hand to the front dial is somewhat reminiscent of those on Richard Street’s whimsical triangulated chapter dials.

The previous owner and collector, Albert Odmark, wrote about his acquisition of the clock in 1959: This was the first time I had visited Ronald, at that time he was at the Old Court House at Hampton Court. This was a fascinating house that was home to Sir Christopher Wren for a long time (17 years) whilst he oversaw the addition to Hampton Court. Anyway, I spent a considerable amount of time looking around and examining his wonderful clocks which at that time were reputed to be the best English clocks to be found with any dealer. As I was making to leave Ronald asked me if anything took my fancy, ‘Well,’ I said, ‘there is one thing, that four-sided English clock over there,’ pointing to his desk where it sat. Ronald said that he found it the week before and just had to have it because it was such a fascinating machine, but he hadn’t been able to do any further research yet. ‘Well how much is it?’ I asked. I could see that Ronald was genuinely not over-keen to sell it without at least being able to do some research – this made it all the more interesting for me. But eventually Ronald said he would part with it for £275 and the clock was mine.