Oval gilt-brass and silver cased verge watch with astronomical dial and sun-rise sun-set table

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  • Handbook text

    Of all of the accomplished watchmakers in Blois in the first half of the 17th century it is probably Abraham Gribelin who stands out as the maker of the most interesting and finely decorated watches. This wonderfully ornate watch is housed in a case with cast and chased silver panels of high quality, depicting Orpheus charming the Animals on the lid and Minerva, Venus and Juno on the back. The silver band around the case is also pierced and engraved with foliate scrolls, grotesques and half-figures. Added to this impressive ensemble is a table of sunrise-sunset times for the year, appropriate for latitude 52o -53o North. Blois is on a parallel slightly greater than 48o North, making it clear that the watch was made specifically for someone living in Northern Europe, perhaps Amsterdam.

    The calendar dial shows the days of the week through an oval aperture at the bottom. A wide gilt-brass ring is engraved in concentric circles for the date, the months and the degrees and signs of the zodiac. Within this ring is a silver chapter-ring with hours I-XII and arrow-head half-hour marks. The chamfered inside edge of the chapter-ring is calibrated 1-29½ for the age of the moon and a central gilt-brass disc is engraved with an aspectarium incorporating an aperture for the moon's phase. A steel pointer registers against the gilt-brass calendar ring and a central blued-steel hand shows the time.

    The fine-quality movement is equal in quality to the case, with four baluster pillars separating the plates, a mainspring barrel with ratchet and click set-up on the back plate as well as a fusee and verge escapement. To add to the sophistication of this extremely fine watch, it strikes the hours.

    In: Thompson, David, Watches in the Ashmolean Museum, Ashmolean Handbooks (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2007)

Further reading

König, Gerhard, Die Uhr: Geschichte, Technik, Stil (Leipzig: Koehler & Amelang, 1991), ill.57-60

Thompson, David, ‘Watches in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford’, Antiquarian Horology, 25, (2000), pp.512 - 514, figs. 24-29

Thompson, David, Watches in the Ashmolean Museum, Ashmolean Handbooks (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2007)

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