Current issue of Antiquarian Horology


Volume 42, Issue 3 September 2021

The front cover shows Béthune’s double lever pendulum escapement, in a clock dated c. 1725/30. This particular escapement is the subject of the article by Daniel Cousin in this issue.

This issue contains the following articles and notes:

‘Salomon Coster, the clockmaker of Christiaan Huygens. The production and development of the first pendulum clocks in the period 1657 – September 1658’
by Ben Hordijk and Rob Memel (pages 323-344 )

Summary: Ever since in 1888 the first volume of Oeuvres Complètes was published, much has been written about Christiaan Huygens’s invention on Christmas Day 25 December 1656 of the application of a pendulum to a clock movement and the further developments of the early pendulum clock. By copying information, taking assumptions for granted as true evidence and through misinterpretation, the story of the pendulum clock threatens to get out of proportion. To put the history and the involvement of the protagonists back into perspective, renewed independent research was needed, based on original documents in the archives and libraries. This article covers the most important developments up to and including Huygens’s publication of Horologium on 6 September 1658.

‘Watch-glasses in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries’
by Anthony Turner (pages 345-348)
Summary: Two short texts from non-horological sources offer insights into how watch-glasses were produced in Early Modern Europe. They are here transcribed and translated with contextual commentary.

‘The ‘Chevalier de Béthune’ escapement’
by Daniel Cousin, translated by Anthony Turner, revised by Jonathan Betts and Anthony Turner (pages 349-364)
Summary: This article discusses Béthune’s double lever pendulum escapement. Both pallet arms of this recoil escapement have separate pivots with a frictional link between them. Movements with this escapement are rare and are found mainly in French clocks. Chevalier de Béthune, credited with this escapement in Thiout’s Traité de l’Horlogerie Méchanique et Pratique (Paris 1741), is most likely to have been Marie-Henri de Béthune (c. 1680–1744), who made his career in the Navy and was named a Chevalier of the Order of St Louis in 1728. As is explained, the escapement, although apparently novel, was not entirely without precedents. The article describes and illustrates several Normandy clocks with Béthune’s escapement, as well as one made in Guernsey which implies French influence.

‘Joseph Dodds and Robert Leslie – a mystery solved and an interesting discovery made’
by Jonathan Betts and Dale Sardeson (pages 365-377)
Summary: The Harris Collection at Belmont contains an unusual, ebonised balloon clock with moon-phase indication on top signed on the movement Joseph Dodds London, but ‘L. Dodds, London, BY THE KINGS PATENT’ on the white-painted dial. As no patents are recorded in the name of Dodds (either J or L), the clock’s signatures remained a mystery until a two-part article by Rich Newman in the NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin provided the solution. Dodds went into an unofficial partnership with American watchmaker Robert Leslie who shared his patents with Dodds. There the story would have ended, but for the discovery of a watch movement signed by Dodds in the collection of the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum in Bournemouth, prompting a closer look at the Dodds and Leslie business, a few of its known products and the watch patents themselves. (Read this article here)

‘Unravelling the history of George Savage’
by Andrew Blagg (pages 378-383)
Summary: George Savage had an impressive horological reputation in Victorian times. Now, credits attributed to him have become confused by conflicting dates which have drawn this reputation into question. The intention of this article is to settle this confusion as far as possible and allow future detailed examination of these credits.

‘Introduction of the Indian Standard Time. A historical survey’,
by Debasish Das (pages 384-395)
Summary: In ancient India time was measured in units called ghaṭīs by means of the sinking-bowl type of water clock. In the late fourteenth century, Firoze Shah Tugluq adopted this water clock and the time units, as did Mughal rulers from Babur onwards. This custom was also emulated by the East India Company at its factories in the seventeenth century. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the British Crown assumed direct control of the subcontinent, and began to replace the water clocks progressively by mechanical clocks. However, every locality followed its local time. In 1905 this plethora of local times was abandoned in favour of standard time 5½ hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). The present paper traces the change from the traditional Indian ghaṭīs to the European hours and later from local times to the Indian Standard Time on the basis of hitherto largely unpublished original documents.

‘The itinerant pawnbroker’ by Chris McKay (pages396-397)

‘Unfreezing Time #7’ by Patricia Fara (pages398-399) (Read the whole series of articles here)

‘The export of clocks and watches to China by East India Company captains in the early nineteenth century’
by Simon C. Davidson (pages 400-402)
Summary: This paper gives examples of the substantial investments made by East India Company captains in clocks and watches as part of their allowed private trade to sell to Canton Hong merchants catering to a market need for horological items then not produced in China.

The issue totals 144 pages and is illustrated mainly in colour, and is completed by the regular sections Horological News, Book reviews, AHS News, Notes from the Librarian, Letters to the Editor and Further Reading.