top of page

English Bracket Clock


Accession #: 1935.23.1
Date: c. 1770–1820
Owner: PMA
Artist: Francis Perigal (manufacturer of works)
Materials: Wood (oak, diffuse-porous tropical hardwood, and coniferous secondary woods; ebonized diffuse-porous hardwood veneers and mouldings); copper alloy and ferrous metal works; gilt copper alloy mounts; enamel dial; watercolor on ivory portrait
Dimensions: 9 ½ x 4 x 5 7/16” (24.1 x 10.2 x 13.8 cm)

The case of this clock is made from oak and diffuse-porous tropical hardwood (estimated to be mahogany or mahogany lookalike) secondary woods, with applied mouldings and veneer both made from an ebonized diffuse-porous hardwood (estimated to be pear or another fruitwood).


The case has applied ormolu mounts, ormolu bracket feet, an ormolu-framed miniature portrait on ivory, and a hinged ormolu bezel framing a convex glass. The clock has an enamel dial with Roman numerals and copper alloy minute and hour hands. The combined copper alloy and ferrous metal works are mounted within the case on copper alloy brackets. The works are engraved on the rear with scrolls and foliate forms and are inscribed with the maker’s name.

Balloon clocks first appeared in England as early as 1760 and are thought to be based on French Designs. Although they are prized today, they were not very popular or common when they were first made, possibly because their rounded shape was difficult and expensive to make. Balloon clocks were made from a variety of materials, with ebonized fruitwood (often referred to as pearwood, although anatomical identification is not definitive in distinguishing woods of this group) being the least expensive to produce.


They were often fitted with ormolu mounts, and they also were often topped with a cupola-like wooden structure with metal flame or acorn finial. Balloon clocks fitted with ivory miniature portraits seem to be very rare, and I have not been able to locate another example.


There were as many as three generations of clockmakers named Francis Perigal, the name engraved on the back plate of this clock. This family of makers operated in London between 1741 and 1810, and they did not differentiate their names with suffixes or numerals, so it is often difficult to know with certainty which Francis Perigal made a given clock. It is therefore difficult to date this object based on the maker's name alone. 

The clock case is in poor condition with a large break to the balloon top which resulted from a fall in storage in 2013. There is also an old repair at the same site which may represent an alteration to the original design. The midsection has become detached from the base, and a piece of ormolu bead moulding as well as several wood fragments have become detached from the case.

This treatment is ongoing with completion anticipated mid-August, 2021.

View examination report and treatment proposal HERE

bottom of page