ROBERT ROBIN (1742-1809), FRENCH
Surprisingly little is known about the early life of Robert Robin, one of the leading French horologists. The first record of his career dates from 1767, the year in which he became a master clockmaker. He [hen set up his own workshop in the Faubourg St.Honore, Paris. Robin was appointed court clockmaker during the later part of Louis XV's reign but was more fully employed by Louis XVT and then by the Republic. In 1785 Robin acquired lodgings in the Galéries du Louvre (where he continued to live until his death}, from here he was at the King's disposal. He became Louis XVl's favourite clockmaker. creating some fine clocks for the royal palaces including a skeleton clock and a fine geographical mantel clock for the Louvre. He also constructed a mantel clock for Marie Antoinette as well as a superb turret clock for the Palm's de Trianon; another mantel clock was made for the Palais de Fontainebleau. Like many of the great French clockmakers, Robin also supplied the aristocracy, particularly before the rise of the French Revolution. Though (he Revolution affected many industries, it did not seriously undermine clock manufacture; and while many court craftsmen were dismissed by the new Republican government, some of them such as Robin were actively encouraged, Robin made a decimal clock as a gift to the National Convention, 1793 and in 1798 convened a 'Louis XIV clock into a 'Clock of Liberty'.
During the Eighteenth Century clock cases assumed increasing importance, Robin, like Julien Le Roy (1686-1759) produced some highly decorative clocks, which combined aesthetic grace with mechanical excellence. Many of Robin's most decorative time pieces were in the Louis XVI style, of which his boudoir clock, 1780 is a fine example (illustrated, F.B. Britten, Old Clocks and Watches and their Maters, 1911, fig. 539). In keeping with the style, it has a while polished marble case, with gilt handles and ornamental mountings, in particular two entwined birds above the face. Robin also introduced more apparent classical motifs, notably gill bronze putti (sometimes adorning Lepaute clocks) and a classical urn surrounding one of his clocks in the Wallace Collection, London. The clock face remains simple with typical Breguet hands, pierced at the tips with a 'moon'. Symbolism also played a part: one of his clocks in a gilt bronze case, c.1780 (Waddesdon Manor, England) is decorated with emblems of the continents. While his calendar clock (pan of the Hamilton Collection, sold in 1882) has a chased ormolu case with allegorical figures of Sculpture and Architecture. Toward the end of his oeuvre Robin devised a stylised decoration to a number of his gilded table regulators; these were presented in a simple and classical case, with little decoration except gilt swags below the dial.
Robin was not only a line exponent of the decorative clock but was also a superb technician, whose innovations were significant to the development of horology. He frequently presented his ideas to the Académie Royale des Sciences and published several scientific papers. Robin time pieces can be found in many notable collections. In addition to those already mentioned there are some fine long case clocks by him in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The Guildhall, London owns one of his watches, while a decimal watch of 1794 is housed at the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers, Paris.
Copyright by Richard Redding Antiques Ltd.