A favourite of clock collectors, the Military Timepiece or Rolling Ball Clock was invented by Sir William Congreve and presented to the
Prince of Wales in 1808.
The original Congreve Timepiece, or the ‘Rolling Ball Clock’ as it came to be colloquially known, is a particular favourite of clock connoisseurs the world over. Invented by Sir William Congreve, the clock in question was presented to George, Prince of Wales, in 1808 and is currently on display in the Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace.
Congreve was a prolific inventor who had made his name in 1805, while based at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich, by inventing the very first solid fuel military rockets which would go on to see action in the Napoleonic Wars. In fact, Congreve’s solidly robust and easily portable ‘timing machine’ is also believed to have originally been designed for military purposes in being used to time the trajectory of artillery rocket batteries on the battlefield.
The alternative soubriquet ‘Rolling Ball’, meanwhile, is derived from the means by which the ball travels along the grooves of the inclined platform, regulating the movement by tripping the escapement at the end of each cycle and reversing the slope. Although of limited accuracy, a system of great fascination to clock enthusiasts.
The 8-day fusee movement is hand made from solid brass, 24-carat gold or rhodium-plated and protected by a crystal glass canopy. While the base, with its key drawer, is available either in glowing solid mahogany, embellished with fine curl veneers and a hand rubbed wax finish to achieve a rich antique patina, or else chic and contemporary carbon fibre with a lacquered high gloss piano finish.
Whichever elegant configuration you choose, however, this horological masterpiece truly recalls the age when the hands of a clock were every bit as important in establishing Britannia’s military might as the prodigious force of her arms.