From the 17th to the 19th century

Author: May Ruiz Troncoso


We begin a series of 11 articles where we will present
outstanding examples of clocks from France
by May Ruiz Troncoso


louis_xiv_of_france-2000-Hyacinthe-Rigaud,-Louis-XIV,-1701,-Paris,-Louvre_390wThe style
of the French

French watchmaking bases its production fundamentally on the mantelpiece clock, where historical and mythological themes will play an important role in the iconographic repertoire of these works of art, with the figure increasingly taking centre stage, to the detriment of the importance of machinery.

The production of French clocks was born in Blois during the 16th century, rapidly spreading to Paris, Dijon, Lyon, etc., the main centres of this industry.

During the 17th century an enormous economic potential was experienced that would be reflected brilliantly both in technique and in art and that would leave Europe stunned with its imprint.

Thanks to the control of the Paris guilds, the watchmaking industry continued to flourish until the reign of the Sun King, who represents the fullness of the Baroque in France.

LUIS XIV, the Sun King, 1643-1715, exerts a real personal influence on the industrial arts; proof of this is the creation of the manufacture of Gobelins, where sculptors, engravers, cabinet makers, etc. work. In this way, a great stylistic unity was achieved. Image: portrait of Louis XIV by Hyacinthe Rigaud, 1701. Louvre Museum, Paris.


BOULLE Mantel Clock
Louis XIV style French watch, Executed between 1745 and 1749

RELOJ BOULLE Reloj francés estilo Luis XIV, An important 18th century French Boulle Mantel Clock. Fine quality in marquetry of tortoise shell and brass executed with the great skill of the cabinetmaker Boulle, decorated with profusion of elements in gilt ormolu bronce mounts: fleurons, the españoleta, mask, garlands of flowers and crowned by the figure of the god Cronos seated on the sphere of the world and supported in his sword, symbolizing the inexorable passage of time.

Signature: Estienne Le Noir, in Paris. Was made in the famous Le Noir workshop, almost certainly by Etienne II Le Noir (1699-1778), maitre in 1717, aged only eighteen, son of the Etienne I Le Noir (1675-1739). They are established in the Quai des Orfèvres in Paris. They both signed their work in several different ways: ‘Etienne le Noir’, ‘Estienne le Noir’ and ‘Etienne Lenoir’. They are known to have supplied clocks to the marchand-mercier, Lazare Duvaux, and Madame de Pompadour purchased several clocks containing movements made by them.
The courts of France, Spain, Naples, German and others werw among many to purchase works signed by Le Noirs. Today can be admired at the Musées du Louvre, Chateau de Versailles, Paul Getty Museum, Metropolitan Museum in New york,…

Movement: Pendulum with metal suspension. Paris machine. Anchor escapement. Eight-day duration mechanism with hour and half hour  bell striking 

Gilded bronze and embossed with floral motifs. Roman numeration in individual blue and white enamel cartouches. Blued steel hands, forged with a beautiful design created by Boulle.

66 Width x 43 Depth cms.

Museum of Clocks of Jerez.
Photo: Luz de Abril



The God Cronus
and Time
Gilded bronze sculpture at the top of the clock

Greek mythology presents Cronus, God of Time, as one of the first gods of Olympus. He is depicted as an old man with a beard. He rebelled against his father, Uranus, the god of heaven and with a sickle cut off his father’s genitals and dethroned him.
With the passing of centuries, this sickle takes the form of a scythe, a tool that in the Middle Ages was also the symbol of death because time reaps life.
Here we see it in a magnificent gilded bronze sculpture. It appears, half-naked and with a very slender body, strong, despite old age.
They also represent him with wings, as a symbol that time flies, in a thoughtful attitude, and sometimes sitting on a globe that reminds us of the universal mastery of time.



This information corresponds to one of the pages of the book in preparation that will present 101 French remarkable clocks from the 17th to the 19th century.

In blue, link to the published ones 

1. BOULLE Mantel Clock. Louis XIV style French Clock, Executed between 1745 and 1749 
2. THE CHINESE. French Clock Louis XV, 1750-1774.
French Clock Louis XVI, executed between 1850-1890
4. COURTESAN SCENE. French Clock Louis XVI, 1774-1790
5. SKELETON CLOCK. French Clock Directory, 1795-1799
6. AMAZONE. French Clock Directory, 1790-1800
7. PARIS, THE PRINCE SHEPHERD. French Empire Clock, 1790 -1800
8. PORTAL CLOCK. French Empire Clock, 1800-1810
9. JUSTINIAN. French Clock Carlos X, 1820-1830
10. LOVING COUPLE. Luis Felipe French Clock, 1840-1850
11. EROS AND PSYCHE. French Clock, II Empire, 1850-1873

For more information or to make a reservation for the limited edition, contact the author May Ruiz Troncoso, also author of the book: El Palacio del Tiempo: Museo de Relojes de Jerez”, Editorial Séneca, 2016. Facebook: Libro el palacio del Tiempo

May Ruiz Troncoso is Information Resources Management Technician, Jerez Campus Library. email: [email protected]