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Clocks and Watches > Regulator clocks

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Breguet mean-time regulator clock, 1815 - 1820
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Object statement
Regulator clock, Breguet mean-time regulator clock, metal / wood / paper, made by Breguet and Sons, Paris, France, 1818, used at the Parramatta and Sydney Observatory's, Parramatta and Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
In 1818 Lieutenant-General Thomas Brisbane a keen amateur astronomer purchased this regulator clock from the Paris clockmaker Breguet. It appears that Breguet had originally made the clock for the French Commission of Longitude but sold it to Brisbane for use in his observatory at Largs in Scotland. This clock cost Brisbane the not inconsiderable sum of 2,500 francs and the fact Brisbane chose to buy French rather British, even in the nationalistic climate of the early nineteenth century gives us some idea of how well regarded Breguet was when it came to precision clocks. .

The clock itself is a precision pendulum clock for showing mean time and has a mercurial compensation pendulum, Graham escapement and a second indicator in the upper part of the arched plate.

In 1821 this regulator clock arrived in Australia with Thomas Brisbane, now appointed Governor of Australia, and was used at Australia's first permanent observatory at Parramatta, New South Wales. It arrived along with the three other clocks and one of these, H9889 made by Hardy, is still in the collection. These clocks were initially looked after by James Robertson, a keeper of clocks and instruments who was brought out along with two astronomers, Carl Rumker and James Dunlop, at Brisbane's own expense. This clock and the one made by Hardy were used to keep time at the Parramatta observatory.

When Brisbane returned home in 1825 the instruments were purchased by the New South Wales Government and by 1827 were being used by Carl Rumker Australia's first Government Astronomer. In 1829 Rumker left for England to purchase new instruments but after an acrimonious dispute with Brisbane in England he was dismissed from his position. In May 1831 he was replaced by James Dunlop who upon his return to Australia found the Observatory and it s equipment in a bad state of repair. In 1846 the Lords of the Treasury requested Sir George Gipps, the then Governor, provide further information on the state of the observatory. As a result a commission, under Captain P.P. King, was set up to report on the Observatory and as a result Dunlop's tenure was ended and the observatory closed in 1847.

The instrument was then put into storage and remained so until the new Sydney Observatory was built above the Rocks. The opening of the new observatory in 1858 saw many of the original Brisbane instruments taken out of storage for use. This clock was one of the few instruments which the new Government Astronomer Rev. W. Scott felt was good enough to use in the new observatory.

This clock along kept the time in Australia for around 70 years until it was replaced in 1912 and remains of national significance due to its pioneering role in Australian science and its association with Australia's earliest astronomers. It is also of international significant for its association with early nineteenth century astronomical instruments as well as being associated with one of the pre-eminent clockmakers of the nineteenth century.

References
Lomb, N., 'The Instruments from the Parramatta Observatory', in Historical Records of Australian Science, Volume 15, 2004
Masters, I., Raymond, W, Report on the State of the Instrumental Equipment at the Sydney Observatory, Sydney Observatory manuscript, unpublished, 1909
Pike, D., Australian Dictionary of Biography, Melbourne University Press, London and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1966
Scott, W., Astronomical Observations made at the Sydney Observatory in the Year 1860, Thomas Richard, Government Printer, Sydney, 1861
Turner, A.J., 'Documents Illustrative of the History of English Horology, II: the Cost of William Hardy's Regulator Clock for Greenwich Observatory, 1811', in Antiquarian Horology, Number Six, Volume 11, Winter 1979

Geoff Barker, August, 2007
Clocks are essential tools for astronomical measurement and their precision defines the accuracy with which the time of a transit can be recorded. In their construction the astronomical clock differs from others mainly in the care with which the parts are produced. For this reason many people regard these clocks as occupying a pre-eminent position in the art of clock making.

There are two main kinds of astronomical clock a common feature of which is their separate hour, minute and second hands. One measures the true mean solar time and the second measures sidereal time which has no direct connection with solar time and instead keeps pace with the apparent movement of the stars and indicates the position of the stars in the sky.

The tilt of the earth on its axis means the earth's orbit is not exactly circular and as a result solar days vary in length throughout the year. To avoid this complication astronomers calculate the time of days by the passage of stars. To do this they measure the time between two successive transits of a star across the meridian. This is known as sidereal time.

Astronomical clocks were made to beat exact seconds of time which depended on the length of the pendulum. The exact length of a pendulum which calculates true seconds was formulated by Huygens at an amount approximating to 39 inches. However this length is slightly different at different parts of the globe and the pendulums themselves can expand or contract depending on the temperature. To overcome this compensated pendulums such as the one invented by the clockmaker Graham contained mercury which expanded and contracted to keep the clock beating exact time.

In 1675 the first Astronomer Royal at the Greenwich Observatory, John Flamsteed, commissioned Thomas Tompion to build two clocks. These were wound once a year and had 13 foot pendulums and are thought to be the first year movements ever made. The pursuit of greater accuracy led to many improvements in astronomical clocks and in some cases, such as Clement's anchor escapement, their innovations were incorporated into other timekeeping devices.

In the early nineteenth century there was a great increase demand for astronomical clocks among private and government institutions in Britain. The maker of this clock Abraham Louis Bréguet was born in 1747 and died in 1823. He founded his watch and clock making company in Paris in 1775 and sold many of his works to European Royalty and the leading scientists of the age. He is acknowledged as one of the primary inventors of many of the technical innovations which lead to the development of modern clock and watches and for over two centuries the business has continued to maintain the reputation he established.

William Hardy, along with Robert Pennington and John Roger Arnold, was one of best known and respected makers of astronomical clocks in this period. His major innovations included the detached clock escapement and a clock balance.

References
Howse, D., Greenwich Time; the discovery of the longitude, Oxford University Press, 1980
Lloyd, H.A., 'Timekeeping Mechanisms and Clocks for Scientific Purposes', in the catalogue of the British Clockmakers Heritage Exhibition, Science Museum, London, 1952
Peck, W., A Popular Handbook and Atlas of Astronomy, Gall and Inglis, London, 1890
Wood, C., 'Robert Molyneux's Astronomical Clocks and Chronometers', in Antiquarian Horology, Number 4, Volume 9, September 1975
Wood, C., 'What's Wrong with Hardy's Escapement?', in Antiquarian Horology, Number 8, Volume 9, September 1976
This Breguet longcase regulator clock arrived in Australia with Governor Brisbane in late 1821 and was used at Australia's first permanent observatory at Parramatta, New South Wales. Brisbane, a keen amateur astronomer, bought this clock in 1818 for 2,500 francs and it, along with the three others he brought to Australia, must be amongst the earliest regulators to arrive in on these shores.

The instrument was put into storage after the Parramatta observatory was closed down in 1847 and remained so until the new Sydney Observatory was built above the Rocks. The opening of the new observatory in 1858 saw many of the original Brisbane instruments taken out of storage for use. This clock was one of the few instruments which the new Government Astronomer Rev. W. Scott felt was good enough to use in the new observatory.

Sometime around 1928 the base of the Hardy clock [H9889] was removed and placed on the base of the Breguet clock [H9890].

In 1987 the local Sydney Company 'Clocks of Distinction' did restoration work on the Clock. Under the supervision of Mr. Carl Parker original clock components, including brass pulleys, steel plates, brass weight and escape wheel, were removed [these are now stored in the museum as separate parts along with the case]. 'Clocks of Distinction' also felt the case of the clock was not original and as a result the mechanism was rehoused in a Perspex case. The original case was replaced at an earlier date as it was probably destroyed by white ants sometime after its arrival at the Parramatta Observatory. A certificate of authenticity was also purchased from the original maker in France by 'Clocks of Distinction' at this time giving the precise date of purchase from the company.

References
Powerhouse Museum, H9890 Blue File Object Record
Scott, W., Astronomical Observations made at the The Sydney Observatory in the Year 1860, Thomas Richard, Government Printer, Sydney, 1861
Antiquorum Catalogue, The Longitude at the Eve of the Third Millennium, Antiquorum, Geneva, 1999

 This text content licensed under CC BY-NC.

Description
Regulator clock, Breguet mean-time regulator clock, metal / wood / paper, made by Breguet and Sons, Paris, France, 1818, used at the Parramatta and Sydney Observatories, Parramatta and Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

A longcase astronomical regulator clock. The clock has a double weight driven gear train with a double adjustable escapement, which is directly connected to the pendulum. Also includes perspex case made for exhibition. The clocks mechanism fits into a wooden long case consisting of a rectangular wooden box with a hinged door at the front. At the top of the door is a square window in a hinged wooden frame. There is a keyhole in the wooden frame. At the bottom of the door is an oval glass window. The clock case sits on a removable square wooden base that is open at the back and bottom. Additional components associated with the clock include a winder key, clock weights and pulleys and a certificate

Observatory stock number 28.

Made: Breguet & Son; France; 1815 - 1820


Used: Parramatta Observatory;

Used: Sydney Observatory;
H9890
Production date
1815 - 1820
Height
2080 mm
Width
530 mm
Depth
530 mm

 This text content licensed under CC BY-SA.
This object belongs to:
Sydney Observatory Collection
Subjects
+ Horology
+ Sydney Observatory
+ Parramatta Observatory
+ Astronomy
+ Astronomical equipment
+ Australian astronomy
+ Australian History
Currently on public display
+ By the Light of the Southern Stars Exhibition, Sydney Observatory
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{{cite web |url=http://from.ph/258776 |title=Breguet mean-time regulator clock |author=Powerhouse Museum |accessdate=24 November 2014 |publisher=Powerhouse Museum, Australia}}


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