Never mind this skull & crossbones automaton clock is nearly 400 years old, just look what it can do! Way scarier than any special effects from Pirates of the Caribbean.
During the first minute, the skull's expression seems to smile, the second minute it seems to laugh, the next appears to scream and finally, the jaws snap shut, as if the skull were trying to bite something. At the same time, one of the snakes slowly sinks back down into one of the eye sockets, while the other slowly comes out of the other eye, before retracting suddenly, as the first snake again springs out from its eye-socket. And to view the time, just open up the skull cap! It sold recently for $135,000.
Designed & built in 1610 by Nicolaus Schmidt der Junger (Augsburg, Germany) as a skull set on two crossed shinbones and mounted on a gilt brass tripod, the hinged skull cap (restored) disclosing the dial. Later hexagonal ebony molded base. D. Silver champlevé enameled dial with floral decoration. Gilt brass single hand. M. Hinged oval gilt brass full plate with urn pillars, fusee with chain, verge escapement, plain steel two-arm balance without spring, gilt brass pierced and engraved irregular cock secured by a screw, with matching click for the ratchet wheel set-up. The movements of the automaton jaw and the snakes in the eyes are controlled by two six-spoke cams driven by the fusee and revolving twenty times an hour, so that the jaws take three minutes to open and then close suddenly while the snakes alternately pop out of, then return back into, each eye socket, twice a minute. Height 14 cm, including the base. Back plate signed.
You can see the open-skull dial of the clock in the background Via Antiquorum Movement: fusee with chain, verge escapement, plain steel two-arm balance without spring Provenance: Previously in the collection of Charles Georgi, one of the commissioners in charge of the Musée Rétrospectif de la classe 96 (horlogerie) at the 1900 Paris Universal Exhibition, this watch was exhibited there in a showcase dedicated to this famous collection. According to Mathieu Planchon, the author of the catalogue, in addition to his collection of early watches and table clocks, Charles Georgi at one time owned on of the best “Cabinets de Curiosité”, upon which the organizers drew heavily, to fill most of the gaps in the various classes of the Musée Rétrospectif.
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