RESTAURATION
La pendule astronomique d’Albert Billeter
LIEU
Musée d'art et d'histoire,
Esplanade Léopold-Robert 1, 2000 Neuchâtel

à Neuchâtel :
la pendule astronomique d'albert billeter (1840)

Les sept cadrans, le guichet de la phase de lune et le cartouche de la signature. Sur le pourtour les secondes
Détail du pendule à mercure
Cadrature de l'horloge
La roue des 24 heures
Détail du cadran du zodiaque

Artifact:

Long-case clock with time and astronomical complications signed Albert Billeter 1840. Probably produced in La Chaux-de-Fonds, the time mechanism includes a pin pallet escapement and a balance, keeping time to the nearest second with mercury temperature-compensation. The cabinet is made from wood and glass.

The astronomical indications are displayed via a base plate made from brass which supports small dials with enamel cartouches. The displays are as follows:

  • Mean time
  • Legal time
  • Equation of time
  • Complete date (date, day, month and year)
  • Signs of the zodiac
  • Central seconds, marked by enamelled discs around the circumference
  • Lunar cycle

An enamelled cartouche at 6 o'clock gives the name of the clock's manufacturer "Verfertigt von Albert Billeter" .

The winding system was modified at a later date to run on electricity and the chime and the perpetual calendar's return system are missing.

  • Overall dimensions: height 219 cm, width 69 cm, depth 43 cm.

This object is part of the collection at the Musée d'art et d'histoire in Neuchâtel and is listed under number AA 5004. 

Aim of the restoration project:

This large clock by Billeter is currently on display in the room dedicated to Jaquet-Droz automata. We do not know how long it has been since it was in working condition, but it shows signs of wear such as rubbing, small cracks, tarnish, oxidation of the metals, etc. which undermine the beauty and importance of this object.

The aim of the restoration project is therefore twofold:

  • To return this clock to a condition which would enable it to be displayed, returning its brilliance, repairing the breakages and replacing missing components. For this reason, it may need to be displayed at a distance from visitors at future exhibitions.
  • To determine whether it is possible and sufficient to render this piece operational once more. Of course, just like the automata, the movement that drives this type of clock is its very soul (and therefore key to visitors' understanding of it). Therefore, provided that it can be done as part of the conservation of the piece, it would be desirable for this piece to be made operational.

We should mention that the Jaquet-Droz automata room will soon undergo significant work to update and convert it. In these surroundings, the Billeter clock needs to be understood as a highly complex object created in our region, just like the automata produced a few years before.

 

Intervention on the mechanisms:

  • Disassembly, recording and taking of photographs
  • Cleaning and repairing of components (geartrain, under-dial work and display system)
  • Repair of the motor
  • Reassembly         
  • Study of the mechanisms (calculations/diagrams/analysis, reconstruction of the perpetual calendar system)                                                                   
  • Report on the work                                                   
  • Sub-contracting (rewinding of the motor and retouching of the enamel dials)             

Note:

The missing chime mechanism will not be reconstructed.

 Approximately 582 hours

Other interventions:

  • Alteration of the display conditions and security of the work

Intervention by an art restorer:

  • Restoration of the cabinet by an independent craftsman.