Dorrin K Mace, Horologost

Dorrin K Mace, Horologost
The Clock Man in a pensive moment

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Clocks for night owls, an Italian specialty

The late 17th century saw the emergence of "night" clocks. They were developed in Rome by the brothers Matteo, Pietro Tommaso and Giuseppe Campani, for Pope Alexander VII. They gradually replaced "lantern" clocks, a field in which Camerini of Turin, among others, excelled around 1650-60. Richly decorated masterpieces, these "night" clocks were veritable small Baroque altars often fitted with silent escapements, hence their name "Orologi della Morte" or "Clocks of Death". It was possible to tell the time by them in the dark by placing a candle inside the clock. The light shone through an openwork disc representing the hours and fractions thereof which rotated instead of hands, to indicate the time. A system was even invented of projecting the time onto a wall. Besides the "night" clocks created by the Campani brothers, we can cite those of Giovan Pietro Callin of Genoa and of Ludovico Manelli of Bologna.
The late 18th and early 19th centuries saw trade flourish between Geneva and Italy. Houses such as Bautte & Cie, Vacheron Constantin or the Wyss brothers thrived commercially there, as did Breguet of Paris.
The Napoleonic wars, followed by the arrival of Bonaparte and the Emperor's relatives as the heads of Italy's states - forming the Cisalpine Republic in 1797, subsequently the Republic of Italy in 1801 and the Kingdom of Italy in 1805 - contributed greatly to the business success of the watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet and his son. Divided up after the treaties of 1815, dominated by Austria which claimed Lombardy and Venetia, Italy acceded painfully to its formation as a state (1859-1870). Thanks in part to Count Camillo Benso of Cavour (1810-1861). Cavour was the plenipotentiary minister of Vittorio Emanuele II, King of Piedmont-Sardinia (1820-1878), who was made King of Italy in 1861. His son Umberto I (1844-1900) succeeded him in 1878. Europe thus saw the rebirth of a prosperous nation.

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