Two private clock collectors have collaborated to stage an exhibition of early English clocks at Bonhams next month.
The exhibition will also feature third party loans, including contributions from the Science Museum, the Clockmakers’ Company and the Collection of the 5th Lord Harris from Belmont House, amongst others.
However, given that the majority of clocks are privately owned, the specimens on display are very rarely in the public eye.
What makes the exhibition sound particularly exciting is that many of the clocks are being displayed together, almost certainly for the first time.
A substantial number of the clocks were either Royal commissions or part of historic private collections within both stately and luxury homes of the period.
One of the discoveries as the exhibition was being put together is that conventional wisdom is that the wooden cases that contain the early clocks came from developments in cabinetmaking. In fact, it seems to be the other way around, as uncovered by the show’s curator, Richard Garnier.
“In researching the exhibition – that displays the early development of the pendulum clock – I’ve discovered that, in England, clock case design and materials pre-dated cabinetmaking of the period. Clocks were the pinnacle of English fashion and featured expensive woods such as ebony and kingwood, leading the way in cabinet making. It seems that the common wisdom – that clock cases followed developments in the furniture trade – is wrong. It was in fact furniture that seems to have been influenced by clocks, as these new mechanical timepieces were the ultimate in designer technology and became leaders in the development of cabinetmaking.”
The exhibition — which also includes watches and documents – explores five themes that analyse the story of clockmaking. Subject matter ranges from initial imprecise timekeeping through to the highly accurate timepieces of great mechanical complication, along with crown patronage and the luxury market. It also includes time-keeping pieces made for the newly emergent middle classes, showing the diffusion of aspirational goods to the middle classes during the post-Restoration economic boom.
With over 100 longcase and table clocks on display, this rare chance to see some unique clocks will be at Bonhams on New Bond Street from Monday 3rd Sept to Friday 14th Sept, 9am to 5:30pm.