Mystery clock

André Guilmet, Johannes WirthCirca 1880

Musée des arts et métiers

Musée des arts et métiers
Paris, France

Appearing in the mid-18th century, ‘mystery clocks’ were designed to indicate the time but also to fascinate and surprise. Making full use of ornamental sculpture, their makers devised ingenious subterfuges to conceal their workings. Like the one on display in the Musée des Arts et Métiers, awarded a prize at the 1889 Universal Exposition, mystery clocks were often mechanical masterpieces in their own right. A gilt bronze statuette is holding what appears to be a pendulum. Yet despite its apparent immobility, the clock is indeed working. The mechanism is discreetly driven by the imperceptible rotation of the statue’s base.

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  • Title: Mystery clock
  • Creator: André Guilmet, Johannes Wirth
  • Date: Circa 1880
  • Date Created: Circa 1880
  • Provenance: Musée des arts et métiers
  • Contributor: Author: Lionel Dufaux. English translation: David Wharry
  • Inventory number: Inv. 18664
  • Credits: © Musée des arts et métiers-Cnam/Pascal Faligot