Early Clocks

In the fifteenth century progress in metallurgy made possible the production of springs, which ultimately led to the development of portable clocks powered by a coiled spring rather than a weight. The origins of the spring-driven clock are almost as obscure as those of the weight-driven clock. Evidence suggests that the idea came from Italy. In the early 1400s, Filippo Brunelleschi and others designed spring-driven devices that made the invention of the portable timekeeper possible. One of the devices was the fusee, a cone-shaped spindle that equalizes the diminishing force of a coiled spring as it unwinds. Increasingly ornate and always expensive, these early clocks were regarded as objects of curiosity, owned by a few wealthy individuals. One of the earliest spring-driven clocks to have survived is a table clock most likely made in Aix-en-Provence about 1530 by Pierre de Fobis. Its complex movement is set into a typical sixteenth-century French clock case, inspired by classical architecture and ornaments rediscovered during the Renaissance. By the 1560s spring-driven clocks were produced throughout France, Flanders, and Germany as exemplified by works in this case.

Early Clocks (click image for details)

Veyt Schaufel (master 1554−d. 1586 or after)
Gilt-Brass Table Clock with Astronomical and Calendrical Dials
Munich, 1554
12 3/8 x 7 3/8 x 5 3/16 in. (31.4 x 18.8 x 13.2 cm)
Bequest of Winthrop Kellogg Edey, 1999
Accession number: 1999.5.130 

Pierre de Fobis (1506−1575)
Gilt-Brass Table Clock
Case Probably Aix-en-Provence, c. 1530
5 x 2 3/16 in. (12.8 x 5.6 cm)
Bequest of Winthrop Kellogg Edey, 1999
Accession number: 1999.5.129 

Hans Koch (active 1554−1599)
Gilt-Brass Tower Table Clock
Munich, c. 1575
cast brass, engraved and gilded on cast bronze
9 3/4 x 7 1/8 x 7 1/8 in. (24.8 x 18.1 x 18.1 cm)
Bequest of Winthrop Kellogg Edey, 1999
Accession number: 1999.5.134