The Pinnacle of French Clockmaking

The Pinnacle of French Clockmaking

A group of French Empire clocks from the collection of Bath-based entrepreneur, Jeremy Knight, will appear in our upcoming Fine Interiors sale on 13 & 14 September.

25 August 2022

Jeremy has built his collection of fine gilt-bronze Empire-period mantel clocks since the early 2000s, owning over two hundred of the rarest models on the market. Knight’s passion for Empire clocks developed from a strong interest in the history of the Napoleonic period and, in turn, an appreciation of the quality of workmanship that these clocks demonstrate. This has now been translated into a book on the subject, detailing fifty of his most significant acquisitions.


An Empire ormolu and bronze and marble mantel clock, c.1810, in the manner of Pierre-Philippe Thomire
Estimate: £8,000-12,000


The French Empire style was an evolution of the Neoclassical movement of the 18th century, which took inspiration from the classical art and culture of Ancient Greece and Rome, and to a lesser extent, Egypt. It was adopted by Napoleon as a symbol of his ‘New Empire’ of magnificence for France at the start of the 19th century. The designs and subject matter were grand, symbolic of power and order, and featured the gods, heroes and muses of classical civilizations and mythology.


An Empire ormolu clock, c.1810
Estimate: £3,000-5,000


Napoleon became Emperor of the French in 1804 and remained in power through turbulent times until 1814/5. However, the Empire style began to form much earlier from around 1790, continuing after the Battle of Waterloo and through the Bourbon Restoration until 1830.

The Empire style in the decorative arts did appear later, but the earliest thirty years are considered the finest when the style was most congruent. This is also due in part to the era coinciding with a peak in the other technical crafts needed to make these clocks, including bronze manufacturing, gilding, and sculpting, along with the work of clockmakers who produced extremely fine movements during this period.


A rare Empire ormolu mantel clock, c.1800-1830
Estimate: £4,000-6,000


It is for these reasons that Jeremy first became interested in Empire clocks, and from it, a deep appreciation of these clocks' quality of workmanship and the meaning behind the motifs they demonstrate, perhaps becoming more than a little obsessed with collecting the rarest and finest models. Two hundred clocks later, Jeremy would like to now hand over some of his collection to the next generation of enthusiasts.


An Empire ormolu mantel clock, c.1810
Estimate: £4,000-6,000


Viewing of the sale will take place at our Stansted Auction Rooms from Friday 9 September until Monday 12 September. The live auction will be conducted on Tuesday 13 and Wednesday 14 September, with in-room and online bidding available.





For more information about the sale, please contact: | @swordersfineinteriors





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