Japanese clocks


Circa 1750

The weight-driven movement has steel wheels constructed between bars and consists of going and striking trains, as well as an alarm. The going train has a vertical verge escapement and foliot. The time keeping of the clock is controlled by moving the weights on the foliot in or out. The steel movement is situated between a patinated brass bottom and top plate. The striking train is controlled by a countwheel and indicates the hours on a bell from 9 times decreasing to 4 times.

The brass front of the clock is beautifully engraved. The circular brass dial has a black lacquered chapter ring with Japanese hour markers, each with a sign of the zodiac. The time is indicated by a pierced brass hand with a floral pattern. The rim has holes for setting the alarm. This is done by inserting a metal pin into the hole at the desired alarm time.

The brass clock case has doors with brass hooks and hinges on both sides. It is surmounted by the bell. The foliot with brass-coated weights oscillates under the bell. The case, on which the movement rests, is beautifully carved in various dragon motifs, painted and inlaid with floral and leaf motifs. The wooden hood with elegant openwork sound holes and glazed window frames through which the movement is visible, is placed on a wooden base with an extra openwork level. The weights hang in the carved wooden frame.

Duration: one day

Height: 109 cm.
Width: 33.5 cm.
Depth: 33.5 cm.

– R. Yamaguchi, The clocks of Japan (L61)
– N.H.N. Mody, Japanese clocks (E17)
– Tardy 3-part, La Pendule Française, pp.757-768.

Japanese timekeeping
Japanese timekeeping differs greatly from Western timekeeping. Clocks were introduced to Japan through Jesuit missionaries in the 16th century. One of the most important features of the Japanese clock is that it has a mechanism for indicating unequal temporal hours. The European clock tells the hours at the same intervals, but in Japanese traditional timekeeping practice a day had six day units from sunrise to sunset and six night units from sunset to sunrise. Subsequently, the Japanese clock was designed to adapt to this practice. Instead of taking an hour as a fixed value, in Japan the length of an hour, called toki, differs according to the length of the day and night. The day and night are both divided into 6 toki, which are counted from sunrise to sunset and from sunset to sunrise. In summer the days are longer than the nights and therefore a toki lasts longer during the day than at night. In winter this works the other way around. For this reason, there are Japanese clocks with sliding chapters, so that the length of the toki can be changed. There are also clocks where the chapter ring is fixed and the hand moves. The timekeeping of the clock can be changed by moving the weights of the foliot, so that the clock runs slower or faster. This mainly occurs in the older types. The numerals on the clock run from 9 to 4. In Japan the number 9 was sacred. Each toki, 12 in total, also had its own zodiac sign that sometimes was also depicted on the chapter ring.



Read more Contact us