A French brass striking and alarm Capucine travel clock, Ballif à Toulouse, circa 1800
In opposite to the more luxury ‘pendules d’officier’ clocks with their cases of gilt bronze or exotic woods, there were travel clocks made with less expensive cases. This group of clocks we call ‘Capucine’, like the monks of the Capucine order. There are two explanations for the use of this term. The first being that the bell which usually surmounts these clocks bore a resemblance to the hoods of the cowls of the Capucine monks. The second explanation, which seems more logical to me, seeks to compare the austere way of living of this order to the more austere execution of these clocks. These pendules ‘à la Capucine’ look a lot like lantern clocks and just as this type of clock they seems to fit easily into any interior.
The 10-cm enamel dial has Roman numerals and is signed in red Ballif à Toulouse. The beautiful hands are made of blued steel and the alarm disc is made of brass. Around the dial is a thin bezel which is typical for earlier Capucines. Above the dial is sector with a small hand for fast/slow.
The movement is driven by two spring barrels and has a duration of eight days. It is regulated by anchor escapement in combination with a silk suspended pendulum with slow/fast hand on the dial above XII. The clock strikes the full hours and half hours by means of rack striking. At the full hours, the clock repeats the strikes after a minute or so. This ‘Morbier striking’ is useful because when a clock starts striking, one often realizes this too late to start counting. But being alerted by the first time the clock struck, one can start counting when it strikes for the second time. Most Morbier or Comtoise clocks have this type of striking also. By tripping a lever on the side of the case, the clock will repeat the number of past hour. This repeating function was very useful in a time when just turning on the light wasn’t possible. By having the last hour repeated one ‘heard’ what time it was. The clock also has a alarm mechanism that is activated by pull winding
The brass case is surmounted by a bell with a handle on top of an urn finial. On the corners there four other urn finials. There are doors to the sides and back giving access to the movement. The whole is placed on four turned toupee feet.