From the beginning of man's existence, life has been governed by the passage of time. Through the study of astronomy, early civilisations of the Middle East and Egypt created a system whereby the year was divided into days, months and seasons. The earliest clocks relied on shadows cast by the sun, such as obelisks from ancient Egypt and sundials from ancient Greece. It is believed that Stone circles, such as Stonehenge, were also built to predict seasonal and annual events.
The hourglass became a preferred method of measuring time and was used alongside magnetic compasses to aid navigation at sea. As making methods improved the hourglasses became regarded as a dependable and reasonably accurate time measuring device at a time when the rhythm of life was largely determined by the seasons and daylight.
A growing interest in science following the Renaissance stimulated demand for clocks in Tudors England. During this period, English clock making was enriched by many skilled clockmakers and craftsmen seeking refuge from religious persecution in continental Europe. Typically these makers were highly skilled being trained in the traditions of locksmiths. Henry VIII presented Anne Boleyn with an richly ornamented weight driven clock on their wedding day in 1532.
Resentment over the numbers of foreign clockmakers settling in London prompted a group of English makers to petition the King in 1622. In 1631, King Charles I granted a Royal Charter to set up the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers to supervise and maintain the high levels of craftsmanship of London clockmakers.View more
The Dutch scientist Christian Huygens applied the principle of a pendulum, thought to have first been discovered by Galileo, to a clock mechanism. The constant rate or swing of the pendulum dramatically improved accuracy and in 1658 the famous London maker, Ahasuerus Fromanteel introduced his first pendulum clock with a verge escapement.
William Clement developed an anchor escapement making possible greater accuracy and clocks of 8 day, a month or year duration on a single winding. The narrow swing and length of the second beat pendulum lead to the development of the first longcase floor clocks for wealthy clients. The finest cabinet makers of the day were employed to create the cabinets to protect the precious movements.
Thomas Tompion makes the first precision regulators with a dead-beat escapement based on a design by the astronomer Richard Townley for the Greenwich Observatory. The escapement eliminated the energy loss due to the recoil action of anchor escapements and could achieve an accuracy of less than 10 seconds a day. This escapement gained widespread use over following centuries in quality pendulum clocks.
Religious conflict in France lead to the removal of Protestant rights when Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes. Calvinist, known as Huguenots, sought refuge in England. Typically highly skilled artisans, their arrival in Britain stimulated great interest and demand for clocks with highly decorative finishes such as gilded dials and fine veneered cabinets with elaborate marquetry.
The trading activities of the English East India Company in the far east stimulated great interest in lacquered furniture from China and Japan. A technique of artwork called Chinoiserie was developed by English craftspeople to bring the exotic sophistication of the Far East into British homes.
Learn more about Chinoiserie artwork
The development of fusee movements with verge escapement and bob pendulum allowed for the development of bracket or table clocks. Fashionable styles such as the basket top, break arch and bell top remain popular to this day.
Learn more about Comitti’s Georgian period bracket clocks.
George Graham developed the first temperature compensated pendulum leading the way to making more accurate regulator timekeepers demanded by scientists and astronomers.
Learn more about Comitti’s temperature compensated pendulums.
In the early 18th century or Queen Anne period walnut from Europe was used for finest quality clock cabinets. However this all changed when timbers such as mahogany were transported half way across the world from South America and the West Indies. The rich warm colour and quality of this wood offered the greatest opportunity for fine cabinet makers to master there craft.View more
English clockmaker, John Harrison, developed the first fusee mechanism with maintaining power to achieve a more constant force from a movement mainspring to improve accuracy.
John Harrison successfully made the world's first marine clock with an accuracy of plus or minus one second per week. This extraordinary achievement allowed marine navigators to establish their longitude position on the high seas for the first time. An achievement that helped to establish the supremacy of the Royal Navy, the key to building the British Empire.View more
Great damage was done to the industry when William Pitt imposed a tax on clocks to help fund the Napoleonic wars. Innkeepers and coffee houses introduced large "Act of Parliament" or Tavern clocks to attract customers who had disposed of their timepieces to avoid the tax. Within a year the tax was removed but the industry never fully recovered.
In the Victorian Age Great Britain emerges as the first industrial society. Clocks are an essential tool at the heart of the Industrial Age and the British Empire. Accurate timekeepers are critical to running the new railways and factories, accurate navigation on the high seas, exploration, scientific research and for domestic use.
Sir William Congreve patented his rolling ball clock; a military timepiece useful for measuring the flight and distance travelled by artillery used during the Napoleonic Wars.
Learn more about Comitti's congreve clock
From the late 18th Century onwards, hand painted dials became very fashionable for domestic grandfather clocks. Named Japanning, the technique was employed to paint local scenes, moon phases and automata such as rocking ships.View more
Domestic demand generated by the Industrial Age could not be satisfied by English clockmakers. The industry adopts mass production techniques and large numbers of clocks are imported from overseas. The high standards enforced by the Clockmakers Company Guild maintained London as the leading centre for precision timekeeping.
The Great Exhibition in London stimulated a fashion for elaborate skeleton clocks and carriage clocks that revealed the art of clock making. Famous makers such as James McCabe, Edward Dent and Charles Frodsham, fascinated the British public with creations of sophisticated clocks with automata, moon phases, calendars and elaborate chime and strike mechanisms.
Learn more about Comitti’s great wheel skeleton clock the Mayfair.
E J Dent is commissioned by Sir Benjamin Hall to manufacture the turret clock for the New Palace of Westminster following the fire in 1834. A new gravity escapement pioneered by Edward Denison is adopted that keeps the pendulum free from the external influences such as wind pressure, rain and ice on the hands. The Great Bell, named "Big Ben" after the Commissioner, was installed in 1859 completing what remains the most accurate clock of this type in the world.
Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) replaced local time by the Railways in 1858 and throughout Great Britain in 1880. In 1884, 25 countries accepted Greenwich, England, as the prime meridian and the basis for the world's time zones. This milestone in history enhanced London's status as the centre of international trade.
Comitti published a broadsheet showing registered patents and a comprehensive collection of mercury and aneroid weather instruments. Barometers for marine use, Admirals Fitzroy's instruments designed for recording data across the Britain for coastal and national forecasting, Fortin barometers for scientific research, Pocket Aneroid for altitude measurement, the companies Improved Torricelli Barometer, sophisticated Royal Polytechnic Barometers recording Barographs and mantel barometers including timepiece movements.
Learn more about BarometersView more
The Barker family takes control of the company after George Barker married Luigi Comitti's daughter and becomes a Director in 1903. He is appointed chairman and steers the company through the difficulties of WW1.
A catalogue is published showing a comprehensive collection of barometers including the patented "Discuss" Barograph, a wide selection of specialist clinical thermometers such as the patented Rapido Seteesi and for the first time a collection of timepiece mantel clocks.View more
George's son, Ronald James Barker, becomes a Director of the company following his service as a tank commander in WW2 in the North African Campaign.
Comitti builds on its reputation as the worlds oldest maker of barometers and related instruments. The companies early mercury and aneroid barometers become sought after as valuable antiques and a specialist department is set up for the restoration and repair of these instruments. The company continues to manufacture a wide range of period and contemporary instruments.View more
After the retirement of RJ Barker, his sons become Directors of the company. The company broadens its activities drawing on its heritage and superb craft skills to manufacturing increasing numbers of classic English clocks.
Comitti is recognised as the UK's leading maker of classic English clocks and barometers. The new collections included longcase, wall and table clocks as well as specialist commemorative timepieces. The company is presented with the UK Jewellery Awards as a Luxury Objects finalist.View more
Globalisation of trading activities and the impact of the new digital age prompts a strategic change in the company's business model. Aspirational quality and design become the key to competing with low cost makers from around the world. Comitti launches its new program with the strapline The Art of the British Clockmaker.
A special version of the Royal Greenwich Regulator is presented to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11 on the occasion of Her Diamond Jubilee and is.....View more
Comitti launches the Meridian Co-Axial Table Clock. A world first and unique contribution to the story of the British Clockmaker at Baselworld in Switzerland
Read more about the Meridian