Catherine Cardinal, "Museums of Horology La Chaux-de-Fonds, Le Locle", 1993, p. 48, illustrating a similar skeleton regulator by Robert Robin with Gregorian and Republican calendars.
A highly important and very rare Directoire multi-dial gilt brass and black marble skeleton table regulator of eight day duration by Robert Robin showing both Gregorian and Revolutionary calendar markings, signed on the main white enamel dial ring Robin à Paris. The main dial with Roman and Arabic numerals with a fine pair of pierced blued steel hands for the hours and minutes, a blued steel pointer for the sweep centre seconds and a pair of a pierced blued steel hands for the calendar indications, with a cut-out dial centre to reveal the original skeletonised movement. The main dial with a beaded and stiff leaf bezel set above five smaller subsidiary dials, each with a beaded and foliate bezel and a blued steel pointer, the one to the upper left showing the 30 days of the Republican calendar, the dial to the upper right showing the 31 days of the Gregorian calendar, the dial to the lower left marked with the shortened names of the twelve months of the Republican year and that to the lower right with the shortened names of the twelve months of the Gregorian year and in between the latter two a fifth dial marked with the shortened names of the seven days of the week alongside their appropriate symbols. The visible skeletonised single barrel movement for the going and calendar, with anchor escapement and a free swinging nine rod gridiron pendulum with large brass bob set at the back of the inverted Y-shaped frame. The frame supported on four turned feet resting on a rectangular octagonal black marble base on four turned feet
Paris, date circa 1796-99
Height 31 cm, width 24 cm, depth 11 cm.
This complex skeleton regulator was made by Robert Robin (1741-99), one of history's very finest clockmakers. It is also extremely rare since it is not only of miniature size but indicates both the Gregorian and the new Revolutionary time systems. These parallel time divisions corresponded with the introduction by the National Convention on 24th November 1793 of a decimal system, which was intended to replace the duo decimal Gregorian calendar. The new system stipulated that the months should be divided into 30 rather than 31 days, hence the main dial shows both 30 and 31 days of the month. Following this, days were to be divided into ten hours and hours into 100 minutes, while each month was divided into three decailles of ten days each. The beginning of the year was set at the autumn equinox, the reason for this was two-fold, firstly it coincided with the foundation of the Republic (22nd Sept) and secondly as the time when night and day were equal, it symbolised equality of all men. To this effect the lower left subsidiary dial is marked accordingly, beginning with Vendémiaire (from the Latin meaning vintage) and concluding with Fructidor (from the Latin meaning fruits). As the new time scale proved so complicated, in April 1795 it was abandoned, though as here, it also continued to be used in conjunction with the Gregorian but in 1806 it was abolished altogether.
Only a handful of the most ingenious horologists made such clocks, who in addition to Robert Robin included such eminent makers as Janvier, Berthoud and Lépine. Among the few showing both Gregorian and Republican calendars made by Robin is a very similar example with four subsidiary dials (signed on the main dial Robin Galleries du Louvre and measuring 48 cm in height), which was acquired by the Musée International d'Horlogerie, La Chaux-de-Fonds.
Robert Robin was a brilliant horologist who made significantly advances in the quest for accurate time measurement. Not only known for his technical prowess, Robin was an ambitious man of great influence who achieved almost unrivalled success with a string of titles and important official posts to his name. Appointed to no less than two monarchs, his talents and the patronage of the royal family enabled him to count among his clientele the cream of the Parisian high society. Little is known of his early life but that he was born in Chauny, north east of Paris and at the age of 23 was appointed to King Louis XV as Marchand-Horloger Privilégié du Roi. Robin resigned two years later and in 1767 was received as a maître-horloger. The most brilliant phase of his career began in 1778 when he was appointed Horloger du duc de Chartres and the Académie des Sciences approved two of his inventions. One was an astronomical clock, which was promptly acquired for Louis XVI. Robin became famed for his mantle clocks, which featured astronomical indications and compensated pendulums. He also applied the same principal to regulators; among them was an early example that was acquired by the duc d'Aumont. Equally interested in watchmaking, from 1786 he used a special type of escapement, which he also incorporated into his monumental clocks, supplying for example those at the Grand Commune at Versailles in 1782 and at the Petit Trianon in 1785.
By this date, Robin had moved premises several times and was in the unprecedented position of being appointed to both Louis XVI and to his wife, Marie-Antoinette. He had been appointed Valet de Chambre-Horloger Ordinaire du Roi in 1783 and in 1786 was installed in lodgings in the Galeries du Louvre from where he was at the King's disposal. Marie-Antoinette was so enchanted by his beautifully styled clocks that in 1786 she appointed him as her Valet de Chambre-Horloger Ordinaire du Reine. At least 23 clocks by Robin were listed in the 1793 inventory of her belongings; another ten were recorded as in the possession of Monsieur, Louis XVI's brother. Other of his influential clients included the maréchaux ducs de Duras and de Richelieu, the marquis de Sérent and the marquis de Courtanvaux.
As one of history's truly great clockmakers, works by Robin continue to be prized among the world's finest private and public collections. In addition to those mentioned above one can find his work at the Musées du Louvre, Arts Décoratifs, National des Techniques, Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers and National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris, the Wallace Collection, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Guildhall, London as well Baron Rothschild's former residence at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire. The Musée d'Horlogerie; La Chaux-de-Fonds; the Deutsches Museum, Munich and the Museum der Angewandten Kunst, Vienna all own examples of his work as do the Patrimonio Nacional, Spain; Pavlovsk and the Hermitage, at Saint Petersburg. American collections include the Frick Collection, New York, Cleveland Museum of Art, the Huntington Collection, San Marino and the Institute of Art Indianapolis.