John De Lafons

This complicated watch was once in the James Gibbs collection (Mr. Gibbs was a past President of the NAWCC) and first photographed for the NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin in 1961 (Number 90, page 602). It came to me from a collector located in Wichita, Kansas in 2004 & David Cooper and I wrote about it in 2005. Clock-watches, watches that ring the time without manual intervention, are scarce. This example has grande sonnerie striking that rings the quarters and the hours on a bell every fifteen minutes (petite sonnerie striking rings the quarters every 15 minutes but does not repeat the hours).

The wonderful dial and fancy case designs gives evidence that it was made, or perhaps modified shortly after manufacture, for export to the Ottoman Empire (Turkish market).

John De Lafons Pocket Watch

Clock Watch

De Lafons was of some notoriety having been awarded the substantial sum of 30 Guineas in prize money in 1802 from the Society of Arts for a constant-force escapement to aid navigation at sea.

Very large (73 mm), triple-signed watch with grande sonnerie striking, silent/strike regulation, calendar and center sweep seconds. Gilt-brass verge and fusee movement of good quality signed John De Lafons London No. 1112 in outward facing script. Pierced and engraved foliate balance table with integrated urn at the base and sold foot. Diamond balance end stone. Silver Tompion regulator also with Turkish numbers. The origin of the Ă©bauche is Swiss but it was likely finished by Lafons in London. Gilt-brass dust cap also signed John De Lafons London 1112.

John De Lafons Watch
De Lafons Watch

Gilt, engraved, and chased cases are unmarked. Separate winding holes for the time and chime trains. Both cases are pierced to allow the ringing of the time to be clearly heard. The bezel is set with alternate red and white paste stones. Inner case has a 7-knuckle hinge, outer case a 3-knuckle hinge.

The dial is signed DE LAFONS ROYL EXCHANGE. It has three dials for the time, day of the month, and strike/silent control. There is an outer seconds index with a sweep seconds hand in the form of a snake that is set with small white and red stones to match the colorful bezel. Beetle and poker hour and minute hands. the other two hands are replacements.

Clock Watch Article

Clock Watch Article

John De Lafons Pocket Watch

Read about this clock-watch made for the Turkish market by John De Lafons, a prominent maker who was awarded a prize for his work on longitude & timekeeping at sea (W&C Bulletin, 2005).

Additional References and recommended reading:

  • Brian Loomes, Watchmakers and Clockmakers of the World, N.A.G. Press, 2006

  • Philip Priestley, British Watchcase Gold & Silver Marks 1670 to 1970, National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors, 2018