Accuracy, Precision, and Timekeeping...

Whilst the ubiquity of accurate timepieces is something that we all take for granted, the clocks and watches that our forefathers relied on weren’t always nearly as accurate as the phones we keep in our pockets...


From the invention of the first pendulum driven clock by Christiaan Huygens in 1656, accurate timekeeping has been a primary concern, with the Dutch inventor noting the potential loss of time brought about by subtle changes in a mechanism. Throughout the proceeding centuries, such changes did in effect lead to discrepancies of seconds or minutes, with different clocks displaying different readings dependant on their atmospheric or human settings, thus resulting in the marginal surpluses or deficits of time common throughout the age.  




Although such inconsistencies were of relatively little consequence, a continued striving towards greater degrees of accuracy during the 18th century lead to the development of a far superior timepiece, one known as the regulator clock. Continued improvements such as the replacement of the 'anchor' escapement with a 'deadbeat' mechanism, as well as the far superior time compensating mercury pendulum, allowed for a more precise rendering of the time, and, whereas previous clocks could often lose up to 5 minutes per week, regulators kept this to a maximum of 10 seconds per month.  Slowly, regulators began to replace their predecessors, though the expensive nature of these high-quality timepieces often meant they were reserved for only the most illustrious institutions, used as a standard of accuracy you could literally set your watch to. 


We at McTear’s are no strangers to some of the choicest timepieces to come to auction, and are delighted to be offering one such regulator in our upcoming Clocks, Musical & Scientific Instruments Auction (Lot 1115, November 20).  This early 19th century example, produced by the esteemed Gaydon of Brentford, is an elegant combination of both the accuracy, precision, and timekeeping characteristic of regulator clocks, and the classical grandeur to expected of a late Regency timepiece. The silvered face, boasting seconds, minutes and hours dials, hints at the technological superiority of this specific clock, whilst the arched case is finished in a figured mahogany and glazed so as to showcase the swings of a pendulum weighted with a bob containing mercury.

Priced at an attractive £400-600, this is not a clock to be missed...


So be sure to arrive sharp for our sale on November 20, as it is one you don't want to be late for.



Click here to view the full auction catalogue. >>

James Bruce



Featuring timepieces of all types – from the grandest grandfather clock to the most elegant enamel clock – and instruments including sextants, military and medical pieces, as well as musical instruments and cameras. Dedicated auctions of clocks & instruments are held every twelve weeks.









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