Guilmet’s Astonishing Nautical Clocks

Not much is known about the man himself, but what we do know about A.R. Guilmet almost exclusively relates to the way that his craft has withstood the test of time, and is as coveted today, if not more, as it was when it was created. The renowned horologer did not get his start with clocks, but instead, he first was concerned with other aspects of mechanics and engineering. His first invention appears in the Brevet Catalogue 1853 under the heading “ironmongery”; this design was a spring valve designed to operate a bolt to lock into a hole at the base of a show window. Throughout his early career, he invented several new pieces of technology, including an electric motor. When we take a look at Guilmet’s early interests, it is no surprise that we would find many technological advancements intertwined with his meticulous clock craftsmanship. In this blog, we will take a look at one of his special interests and how he made these pieces stand out with advanced mechanisms; the automaton nautical clocks.

In many of these nautical pieces, a figure or object can be seen moving along with the clock movement; such as the Helmsman displayed above, which rocks to and fro at the stern of the ship as he steers it (c. 1880). 

In the following clock, an oarsman, who is part of a compound pendulum, rocks to and fro and gives the illusion of rowing the boat (c.1880).

In other pieces, a separate movement is incorporated within the design to drive various automata, such as those in a battleship where the propellor rotates and the gun turrets revolve when you move the rudder. Guilmet often also employed a torsion suspension in order to create other interesting effects. 

These clocks seem to be almost too ahead of their time. We sometimes have a hard time wrapping our heads around these mechanisms ourselves! And the fact that they still flawlessly perform their intended functions over a century later is just as mind blowing. Here at Andrei Antiques, we believe that Guilmet clocks deserve all of the recognition they have garnered and more, and for this reason we will always continue to scout these wonderful pieces for our collection.