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Enamel Dials

We have been in the antique clock business for over 40 years. It is true to say enamel dial antique clocks are rare. You can see them occasionally on bracket clocks in the 18th century. Searching for examples is hard. It is like finding a needle in a haystack however finding a true enamel dial on a grandfather clock.

True Enamel or Painted Dials

If you undertook a search for enamel dial grandfather clock you will find lots of listings. Dealers loosely apply the term to a standard white painted dial. These clocks with white painted dials started manufacture in Birmingham with Wilson and Osborne from around C1772. It was true to say the Clockmakers Company in the early days frowned on achievements outside London. Clock makers tried and most times failed to make alternatives. One alternative was a true enamel dial. True enamel dials such as the superb example pictured here was made from a mixture of glass, tin oxide, borax, peat ashes and salt.

Hard to fire large pieces of enamel

A complex mix of substances was then melted and turned into moulds to harden. This mixture was then ground to a powder and mixed with water. The enamel was then mixed with lavender oil to make it adhere to the copper dial plate. This mixture was applied to the dial and then the dial was fired at high temperatures in a clay oven. The temperature was carefully monitored and then the dial was cooled very slowly to prevent any cracking.

Time Consuming Process

I hope you agree a process that was very time consuming and complex. To get this to work on a large dial it was very hard. That is why in this case you will see the arch is fired separately. I am sure the risks of cracking with a 12 inch piece of square enamel was a large enough risk. The lovely painted work and decoration you will see on this dial is the result of further firings. Rose Vermillion being one of the hardest colours to apply.


This is an outstanding and very rare clock with a true enamel dial. It has been mentioned the maker of these rare enamel dials was the brother of the famous clockmaker James Tregent. He was called Anthony Tregent. For further information please view the book Theelke, Anthony; Faces of Mystery. This is a lovely flame mahogany veneered grandfather clock with strike silent feature to the arch. The movement is of ‘8-day’ duration and strikes the hours on a single bell. Superb London quality case and typical high quality movement features.

Daniel Clements

Pendulum of Mayfair Ltd

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European Clocks

I have been on a sort of busman’s holiday around the world looking at antique clocks. It is amazing how this country has literally pulled the world together or connected it through our history. I examined the close ties with Australia and antique clocks in my last blog. I have also written about the cloc kmakers that headed to USA for a new life. In both countries this meant the setting up production of a new industry in clockmaking. This will be one of my last blogs concerning clocks from around the world. I will look at antique clocks that were made for a particular market. Two countries spring to mind instantly.

Turkish and Portugese Market For Clocks

In the 18th century antique clocks manufactured in London were being sent to countries like Turkey and to another one of our close allies, Portugal. It is our connection with Portugal I will consider here. We have just restored a fantastic London mahogany grandfather clock. This is pictured above that has spent its entire life in Lisbon, I believe, until we purchased it at the end of last year. The superb example is pictured above.

Spencer and Perkins Lisbon Clock

You will see the clock is made by the great clockmakers Spencer and Perkins in London.Built around C1770. It has a strike/silent to the arch saying Repite and Surdo, clearly in Portuguese. This clock was exhibited in Lisbon in 1986 to commemorate the Battle of Aljubarrota in 1385. It was then 600 years since this historic battle. Right so what exactly is our connection with Portugal. The Anglo-Portugese Treaty of 1373 was signed between King Edward III of England and King Ferdinand and Queen Eleanor of Portugal. This is I believe the oldest treaty in the world. It was a treaty established between two great seafaring nations, a treaty of, “perpetual friendships, unions [and] alliances”.

Close Bonds With Portugal

This little heard of treaty has been reinforced throughout history, including in 1386 in this Battle of Aljubarrota. Here the English sent 100 longbowmen, veterans from the Hundred Years wars to honour this alliance in 1373. There were about 6,500 men on the Portuguese and English side against a force from the Crown of Castile, Kingdom of France and Arogonese allies and Italian allies of over 31,000 men. The Portuguese with the help of the English managed to win against overwhelming odds. In 1386, the closeness of the relations between Portugal and England resulted in a permanent military alliance, with the Treaty of Windsor, the eldest still active in existence. This treaty came into play again in 1643,1654,1660,1661,1703,1815,1899. It was also recognized in the Treaties of Arbitration in 1904 and 1914. This Treaty was also used during the Second World War and was also cited during the 1982 Falklands War.

Rise of Clockmaking

During the rise of the clockmaking in the UK in the 18th century under King George II and III we were at war with or on opposite sides with France many times. Supply of wine after French ports were blockaded became a problem. Our alliances with Portugal made British merchants look further afield. Port was invented as in order to stabilize the wines during their long journey at sea. Merchants added a bucket or two or brandy to the barrels before sending them off.  Britain and Portugal signed the Methuen Treaty providing for, among other things, bolts of cloth from England for pipes of wine from Portugal. This paved the way for the enormous expansion of port trade in the 18th and 19th-centuries.

Port Trade

King George III was rather partial it was believed to this drink, and he helped his allies from Portugal during many occasions. It was believed fine antiques and clocks and other items were sent after various disastrous earth quakes in Portugal. The 1755 Lisbon earthquake was one of the most deadly earthquakes in history.

Lisbon Earthquakes

The pictures above show one such clock that was manufactured in London. This was sent out to Lisbon, Portugal in the 18th century. It has spent, I believe,  all but the last few months overseas. It has a very unusual packing block behind the movement that looks original to the case. This appears to be the way the movement was bolted down for shipment in the 18th century. A really rare feature which you can see below. There is also an 18th century brass plate on the back of the movement that attaches to this block.

It is a fantastic antique clock and it can be viewed on our website, please contact me for any further information.

Daniel R Clements

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Antique Tavern Clocks


Antique tavern clocks have been studied widely and many books have been written. I wish to correct the commonly held view that these clocks started life only as early as C.1720. You may know these antique clocks by another name, they are sometimes called ‘ Act of Parliament’ clocks.

Act of Parliament Clocks

They were later commonly called this as a result of the tax imposed on clocks and watches in July 1797. With the government being short of funds as a result of many years of war, extra ways to increase tax were thought out. The Act imposed a duty of 5 shillings on every clock, 10 shillings of every gold watch and 2s.6d on every silver or other watch. Assessors were sent round to take account of how many clocks you owned above a certain value.

Public Houses Exempt from the Clock Tax

There were certain exemptions to the Act, these included public houses. Alot of these tavern clocks as the name says were housed in public houses. They were exempt from this very unpopular tax. It led to a decline in the clock trade and luckily was repealed after only 9 months of it being in force.

Lacquer and Chinoiserie Decoration

These tavern clocks were usually decorated in lacquer work. They had wooden dials that were made up from usually three sections. They also usually had simple single 5 wheel train movements. The extra wheel in the train generally makes them go for longer than a standard longcase clock, even though they actually have a shorter drop. They usually had brass hands so the time could easily be read against the black painted dial. The earliest dials known were wooden and shaped like a shield. Then later circular dials were introduced and tear drop shapes to the cabinets.

When did they start?

Many books on the subject commonly state the earliest examples of these clocks are from C1720. We have owned for over 10 years, a clock of this form that is pre 1700 in date. It is an amazing tavern clock, it is the only antique clock of this type I have ever seen with an original brass dial, instead of the usual wood form. The antique clock maker is from a family which emigrated to London from Augsburg in Germany. Bushman is a fantastic clock maker and by all accounts the finest clockmaker to come out of Germany! He is mentioned as being on a par with the great Thomas Tompion in some quarters.


Augsburg Influence

If I took a picture of the clock minus the hood it looks like a very early Augsburg table clock. I can see where the idea for the manufacture started. I believe this clock to be one of the first, if not the first,  tavern clock. John Bushman is provable in London between 1661 until just after 1692 ( date of death unknown). We do know he came from the Augsburg area, but you can see the influence from the design of the cabinet work on this clock. Bushman was admitted to the Clockmaker’s Company in 1662. You can see the huge pull of this Guild which I have talked about previously. The best clockmakers from all over Europe came to London. Everyone wanted to come to London and work in the 17th and 18th centuries. It truly was the centre for clock making in the world at the time.

Many people will ask if this clock has 5 wheel train, how does it have a second hand, a sweep centre seconds hand in this case. The movement has a one to one reversing wheel to enable for it to do this. You can see the amazing engraving to the unusual dial and superb unrestored lacquer work to the case. A very rare collectors clock, for more information please contact me direct.