An unquestionable horological rarity, this regal gilt bronze mystery clock is the work of Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin (1805-1871), inventor, scientist, mechanical and horological genius and magician-extraordinaire. Houdin inspired successive generations of clockmakers, inventors and magicians, most notably Harry Houdini who derived his name from Robert-Houdin.
This single-handed, glass dial clock revolves without any apparent connection to the movement, which is ingeniously contained inside the decorative bronze base. Houdin’s first recorded glass-dialed mystery clock was displayed in London in 1838, where it received much acclaim as a horological wonder, sparking an enthusiastic debate over its modus operandi. The mystery is created by having two glass dials, one with the numerals and a second onto which the hour is attached. A brass-toothed wheel fixed to the edge of this and concealed by the bezel is driven by bezel gears running up through one of the supports.
Robert-Houdin expressed an interest in mechanical toys at a very early age, creating his own working toys before reaching his 8th birthday. His interest in conjuring and magic happened by accident when he was mistakenly given a book on magic instead of a book on horology...it proved to be a turning point in his career. Over the course of his career, Houdin utilized his knowledge of conjuring and magic, and, combined with his incredible talent to construct mechanical toys, created more than 100 wonderful automaton works. His numerous inventions, automaton masterpieces, mystery clocks and mechanisms earned him bronze, silver and gold medals from universal exhibitions throughout his lifetime.
But, it was his talents as a magician-extraordinaire that made him a household name. His upscale performances were enjoyed by Queen Victoria, Napoleon III, King Louis-Phillipe and other dignitaries from the upper echelons of European society. He is even credited with thwarting a revolt in Algiers when he was sent by the French government to discredit a burgeoning religious sect.
Houdin's clocks are featured and discussed in numerous horological texts, including Mystery, Novelty and Fantasy Clocks by Derek Roberts, page 222, and Tardy's French Clocks the World Over, Part III, page 138.
7 1/2" wide x 4 7/8" deep x 16" high