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Splendid Rack Clock with Date

Prunkvolle Sägeuhr mit Datumsanzeige


Vienna, last quarter of the 18th century

carved and gilt lime wood, partly open work
verge escapement, short front pendulum, indication of date
36½ in

Rack clocks form part of the group of “gravitational clocks“ – timepieces that are powered by gravity. In the case of rack clocks, this is done by means of a rack. The movement case, which is weighted with lead, is pushed up the rack by hand (a key is not required), whereupon it slowly slides back down with the help of gravity. In the process, the teeth in the rack intercept the gears in the clockwork. A short pendulum in front of the dial functions as an oscillator. In German, “Sägeuhren” (lit. “saw clocks”) take their name from the rack that is reminiscent of a saw.

The present rack clock was manufactured in Vienna in the last quarter of the 18th century and boasts a particularly magnificent case made of leaf-gilded limewood. The partial openwork carving is in the formal language of the Joseph II style – an Austrian current of late Baroque classicism under Emperor Joseph II. Laurel garlands, ribbons, acanthus foliage, floral decoration, friezes and pearl rods make up the opulent ornamental design. The enamel dial with Roman hour numerals and Arabic minute numerals also features a date display – an unusual display for rack clocks.

At the time, rack clocks not only astonished the public, but even today they still trigger surprised admiration thanks to their unusual drive mechanism. The magnificent timepiece, in the style of the late Baroque Viennese Imperial Court, is a particularly fine example of this fascinating clock genre.

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