The Fromanteel family introduced pendulum clocks to England in 1658 and made exceptional clocks and watches from workshops located in both England and the Netherlands for two generations.
This watch features the earliest all-legible English silver hallmarks known, and a fabulous tortoise shell (more accurately hawksbill turtle shell) outer case that is a work of art.
Earliest English Silver Hallmarks
The study and publication of English case makers and hallmarks to more accurately date, authenticate, and document the history of a watch was the late Philip Priestley’s gift to generations of collectors. Unfortunately, he passed before seeing this watch. We would certainly have had fun and interesting conversations together because this watch contains the earliest known complete and legible English silver hallmarks known (note that earlier hallmarks are known for gold cases).
Gilt-brass verge and fusee movement signed FROMANTEEL with inward facing block letters. Three arm ribbed steel balance with 2 ½ turns for the balance spring. Intricate foliate balance table and foot. Silver Tompion regulator. Mainspring setup is between the pillar plate and the spring barrel.
Four divided tulip pillars and divided decorative fusee stop-work foot. Serial number 22 stamped on the top plate beneath the balance table, on the mainspring barrel cover, and on both the silver inner case and outer tortoise case. Serial numbers on outer decorative cases that give evidence to originality are exceedingly rare.
Silver champleve dial signed Fromanteel in cartouche with leaves, scrolls and ribbons. Arabic and roman numbers with hour, half-hours, quarter-hours, half-quarters, and minute indications. Split bezel. Cases have 7-knuckle hinges.
Full Britannia silver hallmarks; London assay date mark for 1697, makers’ mark “BE” (Urian Berrington), and matching movement number 22 stamped on the outside of the inner case. Outer tortoise shell with silver pique work around the circumference and bezel, and silver inlay depicting dolphins, birds and putti in a manner associated with Huguenot work. The forced immigration of Huguenot craftsmen (French Protestants) from Catholic France to Protestant friendly countries including England and the Netherlands took place throughout much of the 17th century. Number 22 stamped near the pendent recess. 51 mm.
Additional References and recommended reading:
Keith Bates, Early Clock and Watchmakers of the Blacksmiths' Company, Pendulum Publications, 2018
Jeremy Evans, Jonathan Carter, Ben Wright, Thomas Tompion 300 Years, A Celebration of the Life and Work of Thomas Tompion, Water Lane Publishing, 2013
Richard Garnier, Leo Hollis, Innovation & Collaboration, The early development of the pendulum clock in London, Fromanteel Ltd., 2018
Brian Loomes, Clockmakers of Britain, 1286-1700, Mayfield Books, 2014
Richard Newman, A Well-Traveled Fromanteel Watch, NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin, No. 450 (March/April, 2021), pp. 99-106
Philip Priestley, British Watchcase Gold & Silver Marks 1670 to 1970, National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors, 2018