Marie Antoinette sure had a thing for timepieces. Abraham-Louis Breguet began making her one in 1782 but the Queen didn’t see the watch completed because, well, she was beheaded. The watch was so complicated that even Breguet passed away before it was done in 1827, a full 45 years after the project was started!
Perhaps less well known is the clock built for Marie Antoinette that resides in Delaware at the Nemours Mansion Gardens. The clock, which was finished in 1785, is a musical timepiece that makes sound through a pipe organ and dulcimer. Apparently, the Queen liked operas because the clock plays tunes by 18th century German composer Willibald Ritter Gluck.
The clock was built for the Queen by a case maker named Roentgen, and Kinzing, a horologist specializing in complicated mechanisms for furniture and astronomical clocks with chimes or pendulums. The two collaborated on many projects with much success, resulting in Roentgen receiving a title and Kinzing becoming Clockmaker to the Queen.
New Yorkers will have a chance to view this clock in person at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as part of an exhibit called Extravagant Inventions: the Princely Furniture of the Roentgens. The exhibit focuses on works from Abraham Roentgen and his son David’s cabinetmaking company during the period of the 1740’s to the early 1800’s.
If you’re in New York, don’t miss this opportunity to see Marie Antoinette’s clock in person. The exhibit runs from Oct. 29 through Jan. 27.