In history Friday, June 8th 2012
A seventeenth-century masterpiece, this exquisitely engraved pocket watch displays calendar and astronomical functions.
Watch 004, silver pocket-watch made by Georg Bayr, Friedberg (near Augsburg), before 1674 at the Schmuck und Uhrenmuseum Pforzheim. Watch Ø 60 mm, depth 36 mm, balance 23.20 mm, spring with four turns (Fig. in Leiter: Die Uhr, p. 159)
The movement of this watch has a verge escapement with chain and fusee, which was initially made of catgut. It is regulated by changing the spring preload with a square shaft via the fusee. The movement was still produced before the invention of the balance spring, i.e. before 1674. The fusee and the regulating device were installed later. The work has been executed with great precision. It can therefore be assumed that it was done by Bayr himself. The movement plate is signed “Georg Bayr inn Fridtberg”. The balance cock is an example of exquisitely fine craftsmanship of a kind that was usually made by women in Friedberg. The silver face shows the hours in Roman numerals at the base and the date on top. The hand is a darting, crowned snake. On the right side, the moon phase and the age of the moon can be seen, the latter displayed in red. The left side shows the days of the week, which are indicated by their names, together with the astrological symbols of the planets that are allocated to these days (Sunday/Sun, Monday/Moon, Tuesday/Mars, Wednesday/Mercury, Thursday/Jupiter, Friday/Venus, Saturday/Saturn). A small, round dust cover, decorated with concentric circles, rests over the rectangular winding shaft at the back of the smooth, silver case. It shows the case maker's signature “ACK” on the inside. The opulent flower decoration between the dial’s individual display elements is an engraving masterpiece. The balance cock is decorated with lavish, symmetrically arranged acanthus leaves.
The Latin term “acanthus” refers to the plant family of bear’s breeches. The strongly serrated and decorative leaves of two acanthus species in the Mediterranean were already used as floral ornaments in ancient times. Corinthian capitals, for example, were based on acanthus leaves from the fourth century BC. Since then, acanthus leaves have re-appeared in nearly all style periods – even in variations that have never existed in nature. This common and widespread plant ornament was seen as symbol of life and immortality in the Mediterranean region. From 1670 to 1680, the acanthus leaf ornaments spread from Italy to Germany and replaced the previously dominant, bloated auricular or cartilage style that sometimes resembled intestines. ■
Source: Taschenuhren Sammlung Philipp Weber Pforzheim, Pforzheim 1997, p. 52
Text: Uta Volz, Alfred Leiter
The ancient art of time measurement
The art of time measurement is one of the great advances of humankind. This centuries-old heritage is rightfully conserved in numerous, though often little-known, museums. So as to bring these riches to life, HH Magazine presents some of the most exceptional pieces, chosen for their technical significance, historical importance, or for their beauty. This regular feature trains the spotlight on a timepiece which has been chosen and described by the curator of the horological collection of one of the approximately two hundred public or private museums which conserve clocks and watches in their collections.