Simon Willard's Patent Timepiece. A wall clock commonly called a 'Banjo' clock. This fine example is gilded reeded frames and retains its original hand painted tablets.

Simon Willard famously patented his revolutionary timepiece design in 1802. This U.S. Patent, signed by President Thomas Jefferson, provided Simon a period of fourteen years to produce this form exclusively. Simon’s newly engineered wall hanging timepiece changed the clock market very quickly. This clock form is compact, reliable and an accurate eight-day time keeper.

This is an exceptional example was most likely made during the last years of his patent protection period. It exhibits many of the construction characteristics that one likes to find in examples made by this famous Maker. The clock case is constructed in mahogany and is fitted with gilded frames of an unusual reeded design. All of the gilding is original to this example and is in excellent condition. The eagle finial is carved from wood and is an excellent form. This finial was most likely the work of John Doggert’s shop which was located in Roxbury just a couple of doors down from Simon’s workshop. Doggert’s shop was well versed in this type of decorative work. The top of this case is fitted with a compressed finial plinth that is nicely shaped. The head of the clock case is uniformly cut-out. The glue blocking placement in the interior of the lower box is consistent to that found in other examples signed by this Maker. This is also true of the extension blocking used in securing the lower door hinges. The joinery in the corners of the frames are re-enforcedwith a spline. The throat frame is rabbited to fit onto the throat section. The frames are unusual in that they are reeded. This reeded design became very popular in tall clock case construction and was incorporated in the quarter columns found in the later Roxbury tall case clocks. Several other timepiece examples are known to us that are formatted in a similar manner. An Aaron Willard Jr. example that shares this frame formatting and is pictured in Paul Foley’s book, Willard’s Patent Time Pieces on page 51. There is also a Simon Willard lower frame pictured on page 188 in the same reference book. The presentation bracket features three flutes and nine gilded balls. Brass side arms flank the throat section of the case. These are hand filed, lightly formed and pinned to the case in three locations. The bezel is cast in brass and is fitted with glass. This opens to access painted iron dial.

The enameled dial was actually a convex form. It is hand painted and features and closed minute track that has been relined. Roman style numerals mark each hour. The hour and minute hands are made of steel. They are expertly hand filed and have been blued.

Both of the frames are fitted with paint decorated glass tablets. These egloimise tablets are hand painted with a very high level of skill. The white field suspends a number of gilt designs and or patterns. The lower tablet is signed by the Maker, ‘S. Willard’s / Patent.’ Both tablets are original to this clock.

The time only weight driven movement is an eight-day brass construction design. It it is weight driven and designed to run eight-days on a full wind. The movement construction features large rectangular shaped brass plates, step train gearing and a dead-beat escapement. The teeth in the gear train are deeply cut. The pendulum is supported from a T-bridge suspension. The movement is mounted to the back of the case with the two original through bolts.

This is very attractive Federal Massachusetts Timepiece or ‘Banjo clock’ was made circa 1810. This clock measures approximately 41 inches long.

About Simon Willard of Grafton and Roxbury, Massachusetts.

Simon Willard was born in Grafton, Massachusetts on April 3, 1753. It is in Grafton that Simon learned and began a successful career as a Clockmaker. On April 19, 1775 Simon answered the Lexington alarm along with his brothers. It is thought that by 1780 he moved from Grafton and took up residence in Roxbury. Simon was a Master Clockmaker as well as an Inventor. Some of his designs or inventions include “The Improved Timepiece” or Banjo clock, a roasting jack patent that rotated meat as it cooked in the fireplace, and an alarm clock patent. In addition, he trained many men to make clocks who intern became well known Clockmakers once their apprenticeships were served. Some of which include William Cummens, Elnathan Taber, and the brothers Levi and Able Hutchins. Some of the more notable public clocks Simon built include the clock that is in The United States Capital, the one located in the U. S. Senate, and the one located in the House of Representatives. As a result, his clock were searched out by many affluent New England citizens of his day. Simon died on August 30, 1848 at the age of 95.


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