"Clock maker to the King" significance and benefits

Discussion in 'General Clock Discussions' started by rstl99, Feb 7, 2019.

  1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  1. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Oct 31, 2015
    906
    120
    43
    Male
    Retired and free (with dog again!)
    Ontario, Canada
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    In England, France, and other countries with monarchs, many clock makers labeled their clock dials or movements with the phrase "clock maker to the king" or queen, or prince... Some didn't label their timepieces in this way, yet are recognized in horological history as having had an official attribution of this sort.

    I am wondering what were the general (or specific) rules (and procedures) for a clock maker being conferred this title, and for maintaining the title. Because of my interests, I am more familiar with French clock makers (horlogers), of which there were several "horloger du roi" (clock maker to the king) at the same time (over a dozen at times), in the 17th and 18th centuries (and probably before). In some cases, it seems the title was conferred because the clock maker had distinguished himself by producing a timepiece of some significant merit, or new design that impressed the king. In other cases, the title seemed to confer an official role at court, and lodging; for example: maintaining and winding the king's clocks, with a salary associated.

    Some families seem to have been able to hand down the title to descendants through generations (the Martinot family of horlogers in Paris, for example, from 1572 to 1729 according to Chamberlain.

    Obviously, being able to advertise this title on one's timepiece or business sign over the workshop/store would confer some competitive advantage over other clock makers who couldn't make that claim. I assume there were checks and balances to prohibit clock makers from misleadingly customers by illegally conferring themselves the title.

    Anyway, it's not very clear, and very little explicit information seems to be available, on exactly HOW a clock maker became honored with that title of "clock maker to the King", and what they needed to do to maintain that title during the many years of their practice.

    Any information or insights would be very appreciated, as well as information sources I could research for more details on this subject.

    Thank you
    --Robert
     
  2. Willie X

    Willie X Registered User

    Feb 9, 2008
    11,708
    600
    113
    Well, I've heard that if the king makes a mistake reading the dial, you can get your head lopped off! Willie X
     
  3. DeanT

    DeanT Registered User

    Mar 22, 2009
    959
    81
    28
    Male
    Australia
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    'There is a about a page about "Horloger de Roi" in the book Pendule Religieuses by Reiner Plomp. It's a great book and well worth the money especially if you have an interest in 17thC French pendulum clocks.

    I will summarise the key points for you later today if you don't have the book?

    Cheers
    Dean
     
  4. zedric

    zedric Registered User

    Aug 8, 2012
    890
    97
    28
    From memory there is also a short section in Winthrop Eady's book on French Clocks (I don't have a copy of this book to hand), and there is also a page and a half in Carriage Clocks by Charles Allix. Also from memory, there are conflicting opinions about how the title "Horloger du Roi" was given - even conflicts between the several sources Allix relied on. So I don't think it is all that clear, but would be interested to see what is in Plomp's book, as that is the most recent one.
     
  5. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Oct 31, 2015
    906
    120
    43
    Male
    Retired and free (with dog again!)
    Ontario, Canada
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    Hi Dean, I don't presently own that book so if you could find the time to flesh out the key points for us that would be most welcome!!
    Maybe together, we can all shed a bit more light on this interesting subject.
    Thank you and best regards
    --Robert
     
  6. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

    Jul 26, 2015
    8,958
    423
    83
    Male
    retired and on my second career
    Dorset
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    Not just clocks, but instruments too. I think this refers to the Prince of Wales.

    waywiser
     
  7. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Oct 31, 2015
    906
    120
    43
    Male
    Retired and free (with dog again!)
    Ontario, Canada
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    Thank you Zedric, unfortunately I don't own either of those books either.
    Good to know the subject has been covered to some degree by a few authors, because online information on this subject does not appear to readily exist, especially when it comes to watch-making.
    Cheers.
    --Robert
     
  8. DeanT

    DeanT Registered User

    Mar 22, 2009
    959
    81
    28
    Male
    Australia
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    There's a lot of information in Plomp's book with several pages relating to Royal appointments so its impossible to write everything here but will try and summarise the key points.

    • Horloger du Roi were not subject to the rules of the clockmakers guild.
    • Horlogers de Sa Majeste were in service for a quarter of the year to maintain the clocks in the kings apartment and stop them at the hour of his death.
    • Horlogers de Sa Majeste had the right to propose who they wanted to pass the title to.
    • The official positions continued after a King's death as the throne could never be empty although after the Queen's death all functions automatically came to an end
    • Not restricted only to King or Queen but could be granted by other members of the Royal family with the prestige proportional.
    • Titles were not honorary but sold for a considerable amounts of money! 6,000 to 15,000 livres. Care was taken to ensure functions were undertaken by capable craftsmen.
    • Apart from the title holder mentioned already, ouvriers libres were also not bound by the rules of the guild and the most important group were permitted to use the workshops in the Louvre.
    • These clockmakers were free to sell their products unhindered by the Jure's and were allowed two apprentices who had to be recognized as masters in Paris after 5 years.
    • The privileged clockmakers were allowed to call themselves Horloger du Roi.
    • Page 13 has a list of Royal appointments from 17thC
    • Page 15 and 16 gives examples of clockmakers and details of the clocks including the cost made for the Royal family.
    Its one of my favourite books and worth buying if you are interested in early French pendulum clocks which is an area rarely discussed and undervalued!!!!!

    Cheers
    Dean
     
  9. jmclaugh

    jmclaugh Registered User

    Jun 1, 2006
    4,186
    68
    48
    Devon
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    It is worth bearing in mind that until the revolution French kings of the 17th and 18th centuries were to a very large degree a law unto themselves and each one didn't necessarily, or have to, follow how it was done under the previous monarch so the system could change from one reign to another. After the revolution the title Horloger du Roi was not one you wanted to have and many clocks which had it on the dial were either defaced or redone to remove it and the title was never again what it once was.

    The information in Allix's book comes from three sources, the main one being Francois Beliard who was himself a H. du Roi in 1767. Beliard said that at that time there were 8 legitimate Horlogers du Roi and three types, four were par charge, two were par brevet and two were recu en survivance, one of them Pierre Le Roy didn't use his title while at least a dozen Paris makers were unlawfully using the title. The difference in the three types isn't clear but it seems par charge followed the court everywhere and paid for the privilege, their duties appear to have been supplying clocks/watches and keeping them in running order. Par brevet held the title by direct royal appointment on merit for their actual work as clock and watch suppliers to the king and were paid, they served for 3 months at a time. Recu en survivance was a trained successor of a par brevet, Beliard himself was one of these. Another term mentioned by other authors, including Edey, is Horlgoers suivant la Cour but it isn't clear as to whether this was another term for Horloger du Roi par charge or a different office altogether.
     
  10. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Oct 31, 2015
    906
    120
    43
    Male
    Retired and free (with dog again!)
    Ontario, Canada
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    Dean, thank you very much for taking the time to write out those notes from Plomp's book, which I find very interesting and will be very useful in my research and study on this subject. Although I don't presently have an interest in early French pendulum clocks, that book sounds like a worthy acquisition indeed.
    Best regards,
    --Robert
     
  11. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Oct 31, 2015
    906
    120
    43
    Male
    Retired and free (with dog again!)
    Ontario, Canada
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    Hi Johathan,
    You offer very useful insights, and thank you for extracting the information from Beliard from Allix' book. Very interesting to see those different categories explained, it certainly helps to demistify the label of "horloger du roi" for me. Thanks to your suggestion, I just downloaded the PDF of Beliard's book "Réflexions sur l'horlogerie en général, et sur les horlogers du roi en particulier" from Gallica (french national library), and will be reading it with great interest, as I'm sure it will offer additional information to those quoted by Allix. I'll try to come back here at some point and share additional tidbits I may extract from Beliard's book.
    Again, thanks to all for great information and insights on this subject!
    Best regards,
    --Robert
     
  12. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Oct 31, 2015
    906
    120
    43
    Male
    Retired and free (with dog again!)
    Ontario, Canada
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    Just read Beliard's booklet (a quick 20 pages). More of a little manifesto from him (written in 1767) on the declining nature of French/Parisian watchmaking practices and quality. In large part due (according to him, but it's historically accurate) to massive importation from Geneva/Switzerland of watches of lower quality (often engraved fraudulently with names of famous Parisian makers to fool buyers), often sold by merchants who are not watchmakers, and don't have qualified workers to maintain them.

    He also rants about countless inventions of useless escapements and other features (phases of moon, etc.) which according to him do nothing to improve the quality of the watch and timekeeping, quite the contrary. Finally, he laments the fact that many of the clocks and watches supplied to the Court are not made by horlogers du roi. So he questions the usefulness of the title (often purchased! - as Dean quoted from Plomp) if it doesn't confer this benefit, of making timepieces for Court. Beliard says that he worked 20 years for the venerated Julien Le Roy, and several years for the son of the master (Pierre) so he knows what he is talking about when he discusses escapements and useless inventions.

    Poor Beliard sounds like a frustrated and not very optimistic man, regarding the present and future of watch and clock making in Paris. But he did provide those useful numbers about "horlogers du roi" at the time of his "manifesto", as was well summarized by Jonathan above.

    --Robert
     
  13. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Oct 31, 2015
    906
    120
    43
    Male
    Retired and free (with dog again!)
    Ontario, Canada
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    Here's how Beliard ends his 20 page booklet (my translation, with the help of Mr. Google):

    "What results from the lack of use that is made of horlogers du Roi? That they are forced to constantly bother the Ministers, and to implore Her Majesty's Graces to get pensions or bonuses, that can allow them to honorably support an expensive position, which obliges them (by dress code) to appear as becoming officers approaching the person of the King, and who cannot make a humiliating contrast with the rest of the Chamber. These requests are always distressing for an artist who, driven by a noble sentiment, would not want to owe anything but to his talent, and to occasions that could be provided for him to showcase it. This is the only honest way to support himself without being dependent on the State; something that is always painful for a zealous Citizen and a good servant of the King."

    I cannot help but thinking of Antide Janvier, who had to live in abject poverty for the last decades of his life, after producing such superlative astronomical clocks, supported only by a meager pension associated with a title of horloger du roi given to him almost by pity, by Louis XVIII. I suppose Beliard probably anticipated this kind of situation, 60 years before Janvier's old age. But that is another story...

    --Robert
     
  14. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Oct 31, 2015
    906
    120
    43
    Male
    Retired and free (with dog again!)
    Ontario, Canada
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    A bit of research informs me that "horlogers suivant la Cour" just means that the horloger(s) (like other servants and tradesmen associated with the King) would accompany the Court of the King when he traveled with his considerable retinue (to summer residences, to visit other monarchs, go to war?, etc.). So that someone would be there to wind and set the King's timepieces, and do any required repair during the journeys and sojourns in places other than his usual palace. Makes sense?
     
  15. DeanT

    DeanT Registered User

    Mar 22, 2009
    959
    81
    28
    Male
    Australia
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    This is the exact quote from Plomp.
    Further appointments concerned the title "Marchand Horloger Privilegie du Roi suivant la Cour et Conceils da Sa Majeste", usually shortened to Horloger du Roi suivant la Cour, Horloger Privilegie du Roi or, incorrectly, Horloger du Roi. The holders of this title might be compared with Royal Warrant holders.


    Obviously, the Royal court did an enormous amount to establish French clockmaking in the 1660's to 1680's. Shame Louis XIV crippled the industry when he revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685 and many of the skilled clockmakers left to seek refuge elsewhere...…

    Cheers
     
  16. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Oct 31, 2015
    906
    120
    43
    Male
    Retired and free (with dog again!)
    Ontario, Canada
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    #16 rstl99, Feb 9, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2019
    Indeed, almost seems short-sighted on behalf of Louis XIV, but the whole protestant-catholic issue is no doubt a very complex one, and the Court probably felt "enough was enough" with religious tensions and conflicts, and it was time to force the Hughenots/Calvinists/Protestants to either leave the country, or relinquish their religion in favour of Catholicism. That's exactly what the watchmaker (André-Charles Caron) I am researching for an article did: from a protestant family, he relocated to Paris at 22, renounced his protestant faith, adopted the catholic one, applied to Order of Council to be accepted as a watchmaker, married a catholic girl, got his watchmaker papers, opened up shop, all in about 2 years. Talk about having a plan and executing it!
    A few years later he was apparently made "horloger du roi" though documentary evidence about that is not something I've been able to find. Interestingly, a few years later he also presented to the Academy of Sciences an invention for facilitating river traffic using "bateaux-moulins" (mill-boats, with a water driven wheel), to pull barges and other boats against the current using long ropes. An example of how horlogers of that period (1720's in this case) could occasionally do things we would associate more with mechanical engineering today. His famous son, the future Beaumarchais, also became "horloger du roi" briefly, after inventing a new watch escapement and becoming a darling at court, making novel watches for king and mistress (among others).
    --Robert
     
  17. zedric

    zedric Registered User

    Aug 8, 2012
    890
    97
    28
    I found a reference recently to horlogers in the court of the king of France in 1749, in a book covering much of the retinue in the court at that time. It seems that at that time there were four clock makers to the king, and they served in the kings bedchamber so had significant access to the king. What I hadn’t appreciated before (Although looking above this was mentioned by Dean) was that they rotated on a three-month basis, stating Jan-Mar

    the book is called L ́ Etat de la France and can be found from the following link:
    L ́ Etat de la France
     
  18. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Oct 31, 2015
    906
    120
    43
    Male
    Retired and free (with dog again!)
    Ontario, Canada
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    Thanks Zedric for posting this. Very interesting and it adds a bit more to the knowledge base of these French horlogers du roi. I think the 4 horlogers indicated in the section you pointed to is part of the picture. As someone posted earlier in this post, a similar document from 1767 lists 8 horlogers du roi.

    And in 1749, I know there was at least one other horloger du roi (than the 4 listed in the document you provided the link for): André-Charles Caron, about whom I wrote a two part article published in the NAWCC bulletin this year.
    Not all horlogers du roi served the king in his bedchamber, as the 4 in the document you indicated, taking 3 month stints. Some, like Caron, were responsible for providing and maintaining the various clocks in the royal "garde meuble" (essentially, the collection of all furniture and objects in the various royal palaces).

    You can find this information on pages CXVII-CXIX of this book, available in google books:

    Livre-journal de Lazare Duvaux, marchand-bijoutier ordinaire du ..., Volume 1
    By Lazare Duvaux, Louis Courajod
     

Share This Page