Of Royal Provenance.  One of only two known regulators by Thomas Reid with his spring pallet escapement and pendulum. A fine and very rare early 19th century mahogany floorstanding regulator of one month duration, DATED 1816.  Reid and Auld, Edinburgh.  The movement repeat signed and dated.

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Lot 65
Of Royal Provenance. One of only two known regulators by Thomas Reid with his spring pallet escapement and pendulum. A fine and very rare early 19th century mahogany floorstanding regulator of one month duration, DATED 1816.
Reid and Auld, Edinburgh. The movement repeat signed and dated.

Sold for £ 47,562 (US$ 64,155) inc. premium

Fine Clocks

15 Jul 2020, 14:00 BST

London, New Bond Street

Of Royal Provenance. One of only two known regulators by Thomas Reid with his spring pallet escapement and pendulum. A fine and very rare early 19th century mahogany floorstanding regulator of one month duration, DATED 1816.
Reid and Auld, Edinburgh. The movement repeat signed and dated.
The case:
the shallow arched hood with moulded cornice over canted front angles to a concave throat moulding, the dial surround lined in brass, over a long trunk door with shaped glazed panel to reveal the arc of the pendulum against an engraved silvered beat scale, and the descent of the brass cylindrical weight, flanked by conforming canted front angles, on a panel base with applied shaped moulding on a plinth raised on block feet. The interior of the trunk door applied with various labels including a 19th century printed "Table of the Equation of Time"; a description of the clock hand written in sepia ink; an oval label of the 20th century Antique clock retailer Percy Webster; and an illustration from Britten's Encyclopedia of 1894. Further set with the engraved brass presentation plaque

"Presented to / THE LADY ALICE MONTAGU DOUGLAS SCOTT / on the occasion of her Marriage with / H.R.H. THE DUKE OF GLOUCESTER, K.G., P.C., K.T. / From the Directors & Senior Officials of the Royal Bank of Scotland / of which Bank her Father / The Seventh Duke of Buccleuch & Queensberry K.T., GVCO was Governor / 6th November 1935."

The backboard of solid mahogany one inch (25mm) in thickness sporting a shaped heavy cast iron plate occupying nearly half the length of the backboard to support both the movement and the pendulum.


The dial:
the 9.5 inch shallow arched dial signed in the upper part 'Reid & Auld, Edinburgh' in a flowing script over an Arabic minute track marked in tens, the upper half of the dial containing the Arabic seconds ring, the lower with a twice 1-12 Arabic hour ring, with original blued steel hands.


The movement:
of one month duration and heavy brass plates cast to allow the positioning of the barrel to the left hand side, united by four substantial turned pillars and secured to the cast iron seat-plate by three very heavy brass brackets, the seat-plate located on two pairs of brass angled brackets mounted to the tops of the case cheeks, the entire lower assembly using 18 screws to lock the movement in position. The movement is further secured within the case by a bridge-arrangement spanning from the heavy cast iron plate on the case back board to an extension piece set above the movement backplate. The iron horizontal seat plate and the vertical backboard plate both carry pairs of runners that would have originally located the brass-framed and glazed dust cover (cover now lacking). The brass weight suspended on a pulley of six crossings, pulling the gut line through a moving slide set on runners on the seatplate.

The wheel train:
the five wheel train with high count wheels of six crossings with pinions ranging from 24 on the second wheel to 16 on the 'scape wheel, terminating in Reid's deadbeat spring pallet escapement, all arbors with hardened steel end-plates where possible. The long crutch to Reid's own pendulum consisting of a larger diameter hollow zinc tube flanked by a pair of steel rods terminating in a typical massive bob with engraved rating nut.





174cms (5ft 8.5ins) high.

Footnotes

  • Provenance:

    Their Royal Highnesses, The Dukes of Gloucester.

    A wedding present from the Directors and Senior Officials of the Royal Bank of Scotland to Lady Alice Montagu Douglas Scott, later Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester (1901-2004). Lady Alice married Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester (1900-1974), the third son of George V, on 6th November 1935.


    The oval plaque applied to the interior of the case is that of Percy Webster, the highest profile antique clock dealer working between the wars. Webster would have been the natural choice for anyone wishing to buy the finest clocks on the market at that time. The current clock is one of only four known regulators in the world by Thomas Reid, and one of only two that retain his original spring pallet escapement and pendulum. All four were made between 1811 and 1818 and comprise:


    1811 made for Lord Gray for his private observatory at Kinfauns Castle, Perthshire, Scotland. The month duration movement has a mercury pendulum and is remarkable for the use of anti-friction rollers. Remained with the family until 1934, altered to Richie's deadbeat escapement at about this time. Advertised by Derek Roberts Antiques, Tonbridge, Kent, in 'Antiquarian Horology' Vol.19, no.2, p131. "This historically and technically very important regulator of 45 days duration was made by Reid virtually regardless of expense."


    1813 made for Calton Hill Observatory, Edinburgh. Eight day duration, mercury pendulum. Altered in the 1850s to deadbeat escapement. Used, among other things, to time the daily firing of the gun at Edinburgh Castle at 1pm, and to ensure the correct drop of the time ball of the Nelson monument on Calton Hill. See 'Antiquarian Horology', Vol. 8, no.1, pp.51-61. 'The Astronomical clocks at the Observatory, Calton Hill, Edinburgh' by Christopher Wood, F.R.A.S.

    1816 the current lot. Month duration, original escapement and pendulum. Royal ownership since 1935.

    1818 Month duration, original escapement and pendulum. Donated in the late 19th century by E. Thompson to the British Horological Institute. Restored in the late 1980s - see 'The BHI Reid and Auld Spring Pallet Regulator' by R. John Griffiths, 'Horological Journal', August 1992.


    Thomas Reid was born in Dysart, near Fife in 1746. Aged 16 he was apprenticed to his gifted clockmaking cousin James Cowan. When the latter died, Thomas returned from London to take over the business, proclaiming in the 28th November 1781 Edinburgh Evening Courant that ".... having received the instructions of the first masters in that profession, did carry on business and was employed in the execution of first-rate work there.." He ends the announcement with the promise that "..he makes no doubt of giving entire satisfaction to his employers".

    Reid's skill and confidence were soon rewarded with public commissions all over Scotland including the first clock for the spire of St. Andrews Parish Church on George Street and improvements to the clock of St Giles' Kirk. His two movements for Annan Town Hall are particularly remarkable in that he designed them so as to allow access to each of the wheels independently from one another. He is best known today for his treatise "On Clock and Watch making" written in retirement and which eventually ran to six editions. He died on 24th September 1831.

    Thomas Reid took William Auld into partnership in 1806.

    Comparative literature:
    'The BHI Reid and Auld Spring Pallet Regulator dated 1818', R. John Griffiths, 'Horological Journal', Vol.135, no.2.
    'William Hardy and his spring-pallet regulators', Charles Allix, 'Antiquarian Horology', vol.18, no.6 pp.607-629.
    Roberts, D. (2003) 'English Precision Pendulum Clocks'. Schiffer Publishing. pp.94-100.
    Smith, J. (1975) Old Scottish Clockmakers from 1453 to 1850. Redwood Burn Limited.


    A review of the innovation following the pioneering work with gravity escapements from the earlier years of the 18th century is given below:



    THOMAS REID'S SPRING PALLET REGULATORS
    by Andrew King



    With the considerable advance towards the development of the marine timekeeper in the middle years of the eighteenth century, thought was evolving with new ideas to increase the precision of pendulum regulators. The dead beat escapement refined by George Graham earlier in the century was a very simple and generally robust system, but with the more recent successful achievement of the detached spring detent escapement in what was now, by the late eighteenth century, referred to as the marine chronometer, thought was turning to applying the similar principle to escapements in pendulum regulators.

    One of the avenues pursued was the logical possibility of spring pallets which had their progenitor in the gravity escapements of Alexander Cumming (1732-1814) and Thomas Mudge (1715-1794). Cumming's escapement became well known through his publication in 1766 "The Elements of Clock and Watchwork". In his design Cumming used two separate pivoted arms, the first, a pallet to lift the gravity arm before being locked on the second arm, an independent detent. With six pivots in the assembly, Cumming's escapement required lubrication along with the pallets and detents. It was Mudge who devised a simpler system at least three years earlier, using this principle later in his first marine timekeeper in 1774. In Mudge's design, the lifting pallet has a locking nib at its extremity obviating the requirement of a separate locking detent, this reducing the number of required pivots. This is important because it is Mudge's simplified invention that influenced all future spring detent escapements right up to the highly refined spring detent regulators of Leroy & Cie in the 20th century.
    Thomas Reid readily acknowledged this but whether he was aware of Mudge's gravity escapement clocks or not he was certainly conversant with the principles Mudge applied to his marine timekeeper through the publication in 1799, " A Description with Plates of the Timekeeper invented by the late Mr Thomas Mudge".

    Early in the 19th century thought was given to the possibility of utilising the Mudge innovation to tension spring arms without any pivots. To substitute a spring for gravity may appear to be questionable because the elasticity of the steel spring will always be variable whilst gravity is a constant. In practice the equivalence of a spring becomes a viable proposition and, with the invention of the spring detent escapement in chronometers proving highly successful, spring pallets in a regulator had to be a worthwhile proposition. Among the pioneers in the field, William Hardy (d.1830), a Scotsman working in London from around 1800, produced a number of spring pallet clocks. The earliest prototype tested at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich in 1807 under the watchful eye of Neville Maskelyne (1732-1811) performed remarkably well, with a close rate of to within one second over a two month period. Hardy's escapement, like Cumming's incorporated independent locking detents. Further similar regulators by Hardy performed invariably. Whilst capable of a precision far in advance of anything previously, the clocks were very susceptible to any accumulation of foreign matter on the pallets and required frequent servicing, apparently at least at nine month intervals.

    Around the same time, Thomas Reid (1746-1831), another Scotsman but working in Edinburgh, started to work with spring pallets. Reid was a brilliant, innovative clockmaker. He invented compensating pendulums and various escapements. A rarity in the horological world, Reid wrote copiously in various publications but is best known for his "Treatise on Clock and Watchwork" first published in 1826 and in print for decades, running to six editions including a separate edition for America. In 1811 Reid was commissioned by Lord Gray of Kinfaus Castle to produce a regulator with little apparent regard to cost. This included his spring pallet escapement. It was Thomas Reid who set the overall design for all future spring pallet regulators. Following Mudge's concept of the added simplicity of combining lift and locking on the one pallet, his escapement is certainly superior to Hardy's with his extra complexity of separate locking detents in an escapement that was always to be vulnerable particularly in the requirement for such frequent servicing. With Reid's escapement a pallet lifts and tensions the integral spring with locking at the nib at the extremity of the pallet, impulse is given to the pendulum via the spring action alone, free of the escape wheel achieving the much believed desirability of detachment.

    Reid excelled himself with Lord Gray's clock by fitting anti-friction wheels throughout and the clock proved a great success. Reid supplied a similar clock but without the excess of all the anti-fiction wheels to the Royal Observatory at Calton Hill in Edinburgh in 1813. William Hardy, with the advantage of being based in London, and with his success at the Greenwich Observatory, became firmly established in the supply of these state-of-the-art regulators, thereby leaving Thomas Reid in difficulty in finding similar clients, with the result that any Reid spring pallet regulator is of great rarity.

    The spring pallet regulators were always going to be very sensitive to the energy from the wheel train. The wheel trains are of very high count with pinions of up to twenty four leaves, well exceeding the accepted ideal where anything less than a wheel of one hundred and twenty teeth driving a pinion of twelve leaves results in an inferior action. With his high wheel counts Reid took full advantage of both the subsequent rolling action followed by the far less stressful disengaging friction. The spring pallets are very delicate, long and thinned toward their roots to within the parameters of a marine chronometer to 0.1mm. The pallets are therefore very easily damaged which is probably the main reason why such a high proportion of these escapements have suffered over the years, particularly as the clocks have to be submitted to the hands of the repairing clockmaker so often. This reason surely overrides the often claimed failures to molecular stresses. Marine chronometers with their equally delicate detents run for years with frequent maintenance, but these special instruments are invariably handled by equally skilled specialists.

    All clocks by Thomas Reid are made to a very high order, even the humblest table or painted dial long case clocks. The under dial steel work finely crafted, the wheels noticeably finely cut and crossed out and, above all, Reid's pinions are always exceptional and of course this fine workmanship is taken to an exception with the regulators. There was a renaissance of the spring pallet escapement in the first half of the twentieth century using up to date technology in the spring steel pallets and driven by a gravity arm lifted by an electromagnet made by Leroy & Cie, of Paris. The escapement of these clocks fundamentally based on the work of Thomas Reid, resulted in a regulator held in the exalted company of Shortt and Riefler, regarded as the ultimate in traditional horology until atomic energy took the baton in the 1950s.
Contacts
Of Royal Provenance.  One of only two known regulators by Thomas Reid with his spring pallet escapement and pendulum. A fine and very rare early 19th century mahogany floorstanding regulator of one month duration, DATED 1816.  Reid and Auld, Edinburgh.  The movement repeat signed and dated.
Of Royal Provenance.  One of only two known regulators by Thomas Reid with his spring pallet escapement and pendulum. A fine and very rare early 19th century mahogany floorstanding regulator of one month duration, DATED 1816.  Reid and Auld, Edinburgh.  The movement repeat signed and dated.
Of Royal Provenance.  One of only two known regulators by Thomas Reid with his spring pallet escapement and pendulum. A fine and very rare early 19th century mahogany floorstanding regulator of one month duration, DATED 1816.  Reid and Auld, Edinburgh.  The movement repeat signed and dated.
Of Royal Provenance.  One of only two known regulators by Thomas Reid with his spring pallet escapement and pendulum. A fine and very rare early 19th century mahogany floorstanding regulator of one month duration, DATED 1816.  Reid and Auld, Edinburgh.  The movement repeat signed and dated.
Of Royal Provenance.  One of only two known regulators by Thomas Reid with his spring pallet escapement and pendulum. A fine and very rare early 19th century mahogany floorstanding regulator of one month duration, DATED 1816.  Reid and Auld, Edinburgh.  The movement repeat signed and dated.
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