Unlocking Our Collections: Benjamin Gray and Justin Vulliamy Regulator Clock

The Society’s Regulator Clock was made in around 1770 by Benjamin Gray and Justin Vulliamy – their names can be seen inscribed on the clock face.

Benjamin Gray had been clock-maker to King George II. Justin Vulliamy came to England from Switzerland in around 1730, and began working for Gray. He soon married Gray’s daughter and so both his father-in-law’s business and his Royal Warrant passed to Vulliamy.

Regulator clocks of this kind were not made for formal use, and were both expensive and delicate. Designed to achieve a high level of accuracy, they were used for astronomical observations and for regulating other time pieces. The Society’s clock is equipped with both minute and second hands. Hours were displayed by a revolving dial, visible through a slot in the face of the clock (seen above the ‘30’ on the Society’s clock face). The clock had been designed to accurately keep time over an eight day period.

The Society’s example is beautifully made. The case is oak with a walnut veneer and features a glass insert, allowing the motion of the pendulum to be seen. The pendulum is so broad that additional recesses on either side of the body of the case were added in order to accommodate its swing.

The clock was presented to the Society by B.L. Vulliamy, the grandson of Justin Vulliamy, in 1848. He was to be the last of the family to hold the Royal Clockmakers Warrant.


Conservation

Conservation of the clock was completed in 2017 by horological expert Malcolm Archer. The conservation was supported through the Preservation of Industrial and Scientific Material (PRISM) Fund, Arts Council England.

Watch a short (approx 4 minutes) video by Malcolm Archer explaining what he did to conserve the clock.


Research

The conservation period allowed for a greater degree of research into the historical significance of the clock to be undertaken, and for scholars to compare the clock to the few other examples of similar clocks in the country. Fellows of the Society Roger Smith and Jonathan Betts worked closely with Malcolm Archer during conservation to complete this research. You can watch a lecture from Smith and Betts below (approx 1 hour).


Dissemination

The Society also invited horological students to a special study day (5 May) to learn about the conservation project, historical significance and new research performed on the regulator clock as well as a second clock in the Society's collection (a unique falling-ball clock). Those in attendance included students from West Dean College and Birmingham City University.

 Clocks Study Day


Mechanism

We also have a previous lecture (approx 20 min) on the mechanism of the regulator clock given to the Fellows of the Society by conservator Malcolm Archer in 2013 (before the 2017 conservation was carried out).