Timepieces Take a Turn at the Frick Collection

Frick Collection

Courtesy of The Frick Collection

Horology, the art of making clocks and watches, has long fascinated collectors. “Precision and Splendor: Clocks and Watches at the Frick Collection,” which opened this week at the New York museum, perpetuates the allure, exhibiting some of the world’s finest examples of craftsmanship and delicate engineering. On view through February 2014 in the Frick’s glass-enclosed portico gallery, the exhibition is a rare opportunity to enjoy the beauty, breadth and depth of the museum’s horological holdings. “Clocks and watches are exciting works of art,” says curator Charlotte Vignon. “Although they functioned as objects, the cases housing the mechanisms offered artisans almost unlimited opportunity to explore forms, ornaments and designs.”

Twenty-five of the timepieces featured belong to the Frick and range in date from the Renaissance to the early 19th century; five outstanding examples of 18th-century French clocks join them, on loan from Horace Wood Brock, a renowned American decorative-arts collector.

Vignon, a Sorbonne-trained decorative-arts specialist, immersed herself in the collection’s history in preparation for her first exhibit of mechanical timepieces. The groundbreaking designs of famed clockmakers Robert Robin and Abraham-Louis Breguet, for instance, evolved the accuracy and reliability of time measurement and contributed to the advancement of scientific revolution. “One of my favorites is the work of David Weber, a young clockmaker in Augsburg in the mid 17th century,” says Vignon. “Its complex mechanism includes seven dials that provide astronomical, calendrical and horary information.”

Almost all of the timepieces in the showcase still work—including two clocks that will chime on the hour—providing further evidence of the achievements of these gifted craftsmen. Through February 4, 2014; 1 East 70th St.; frick.org.