Saturday, 1 December 2018

Court and Trusted

A very distinctive item featured in the Bonhams Fine Clocks sale at Bond Street, London, 12 December 2018, selling for £2,000, including premium.

As Lot 96, Bonhams described it as: A very interesting early 19th Century ‘Patent Time Repeater’; a device which allows any pocket watch to sound an alarm and repeat the hours and quarters.

It is certainly an intriguing concept and a fascinating-looking object:

Courtesy of Bonham’s
The instructions read:

On going to Bed  - For the alarum part, move the small index in the figured slide, to the time you wish to rise, and pull the button which is on the outside (of) the box to wind it up, then lay the Watch in its place.

Move the figured slide right or left, till the brass Index points to the same Hour and Quarter on the slide, as is shewn by the Watch: When you want to know the Time, turn the hand wheel to the left as far as it will go; loose it, and it will strike the Hour and Quarter required.

The maker was Isaac Court of Henley-in-Arden, Warwickshire.  His dates are 1747-1805.  His father, of Solihull, with the same name, was also a clockmaker.

I have been able to find only one extant Isaac Court watch, #4428, a silver verge with London 1804 hallmarks, and case makers initials, T B, (possibly Thomas Bligh, Great Sutton Street, Clerkenwell.):

Courtesy of eBay

(The watch featured in the Bonhams catalogue photograph is not by Court – it is a late eighteenth century verge by Wildman, London, #3363.)

I was puzzled by the assertion that the device was patented, there being no sign of such a grant to Court in Charles Aked’s ‘Complete List of English Horological Patents up to 1853.’

However, by further reference to ‘The Repertory of Patent Inventions . . . Volume 7, 1797,’ I realised that the patent was Charles Trusted’s, of 24 November 1796.  Numbered, 2148, this was summarised:

Charles Trusted of Oversley, in the county of Warwick, Gentleman; for a machine called a time-repeater, to be applied to common watches, for the purpose of striking the hours and quarters.

As with Court, there’s little to be found in horological literature about Charles Trusted, though Hans Nygen, of Vallingby, Sweden, had a letter published in the September 1961 issue of Antiquarian Horology concerning his clock which featured the Trusted patent mechanism.  Mention was also made about Court’s watch application, including that an example of which was held at The Science Museum, London.*  Indeed, the current on-line catalogue of the Bonhams sale also alludes to this and includes a photograph of it on display.

Coming across the Bonhams lot, I was reminded of the George Sanderson calendar watch key about which I wrote here. I especially like these old horological excursions of invention away from the mainstream, seeming to me to be like precursors of the concept of the digital apps that proliferate today.

* This example remains on display within The Clockmakers' Museum Collection, on the second floor of The Science Museum.  It is in a case marked XX and has the museum reference number 645. (With thanks to Anna Rolls, Curator of The Clockmakers' Museum.)

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