le morbier
Comtoise   Compilation 
| 1700 | 1750 |   | 1790 | 1830 | 1850 | 1900 |
  view 'Dating comtoise clocks table'
Back to www.comtoise.org    Thanks to: Ton Bollen 'Comtoise clocks', ISBN 90 2284253 3.  Compiled by Fred Kats.


Comtoise clock.      (More about the Comté region)

A form of provincial, weight-driven clock originally made in the vicinity of Morbier in the Franche*-Comté region  of France (Contée in the old spelling), near the Swiss frontier, from the late 17th century to the beginning of the 20th. They are sometimes called Morez clocks or Morbier clocks, from place names in the area.
They represented the first move towards the popularising of clocks in France, and in the 19th century they were to be found far and wide across the country, virtually ousting other local clock making traditions. They were often marked with the name and town of the vendor rather than those of the maker.

*Free state, free of fiscal liabilities.

Apart from Morbier, the Jura had several clock-making centres in Morez, Foncine le Bas, Chapelle aux Bois, Belle Fontaine, Fort du Plâne (Plasne) Poligny and St. Ilay. On the Langres Plateau the best-known centres were the city of Langres and the adjacent Neuilly l'Archevèque. In the region of the Haut-Saône, Luxeuil, Lure Yussy and Vesoul have become well known. The village of Pont Farcy (district of Calvados) and St. Nicolas d'Aliermont (district of Seine Maritime) were well-known. M.P. Lansalot, born in the Jura founded a big Comtoise industry, that employed over 300 people in Navarenx (district of Pyrenées-Atlantique). Production of 'mini' Comtoise clocks occured also in Spain.

Comtoise clocks were built on iron-strip frames in the manner of Gothic clocks. 'The clock making industry in the Morbier area had started with the Mayet family of ironworkers, who successfully repaired (actually replaced) the clock at the Capucine convent in St Claude.
In classic form the clocks had inverted verge escapements (),  later ones having anchor escapements (), and hour and half-hour vertical rack striking.
In common with many country clocks, they also re-struck the hour after a space of two minutes. The pendulum, after ca 1800 swinging between the movement and the dial, beat seconds or longer operated with a cranked crutch. They also had a folding rod. ()

Comtoise clocks might hang from a bracket, but were originally destinated to have a full long case (), often made from pine, with tapering or violin-shaped sides, frequently painted and grained in country fashion.
Early dials were of pewter or brass with black-filled numerals and a single hand. Later, the hours might be shown on enamel cartouches (), and by ca. 1760 dials were completely enamelled or by the late 19th century even of printed paper, and there was sometimes a third hand indicating the date.
A pierced brass pediment surmounted early dials, showing a 'coq' (rooster) with the royal arms, or with motifs suitable to current political enthusiasms. Later pediments frontons employed a wide variety of stamped brass devices, one of the most common incorporating a pair of cornucopias, classical anthemion ornaments, a basket of flowers and a sunburst. ()  In the 19th century a fashion for over-large pendulums and bobs of stamped and painted brass or sheet iron developed ().

After the Treaty of Frankfurt in 1871 German clocks were allowed into France without tax, which weakened the trade in the Franche-Comté despite diversification of output. The decline of these traditional clocks was completed by the First World War, after which the industry in the Morez-Morbier-Foncine area was reorganised for more modern productions.
By the end of the 20th century only a few French manufacturers continued to make comtoise clocks (Seramm, Odo, Gaignon). Reproductions were also made in Germany and Hungary.

  Dating comtoise clocks table
1685 1
  1. A Comtoise ca. 1685. The clock is pure wrought iron and entirely made of iron. In the four corners of the top plate four nuts are visible, with which the clock has been screwed up. Probably the clock has been fitted with a painted dial-plate, the pewter chapter ring dates from a later period. This particular Comtoise is up to now, the only example originating from the 17th century. Moreover it has been fitted with a anchor escapement
  2. Frontview of picture 1. The anchor-wheel and part of the anchor are visible in the left top corner of the clock. The conducting of the zaag takes place via a free space in the top plate.
1720 4
  4. A Mayet-clock ca. 1720. The I with the star before the name Mayet is found on several clocks of B. Mayet. It is not clear whether this I with the star indicates first quality or mastership in the clockmakers' guild. It's more likely, however, that B. Mayet is the eldest son of Ignace Mayet from Morbier and that in this way he wanted to claim the rigths of the family tradition and property. This is contradictory to the common right of inheritance in the Jura, whereby the youngest descendant would inherit the properties of the family. One of the Mayets' clearly signed his clocks with "Mayet cadet" (Mayet junior).
  Tombstone of Pierre Claude Mayet  ( † 1727 )  in the church of Morbier.

1720 5
  5. A one-handed Comtoise of the Mayet-type from the Jura, manufactured by P.A. Brocard. Apart from two exquisite and flawless clocks, nothing further is known about the Brocard family. The movement has been built skillfully and finished to such a degree that this clock can be considered as the top of the Mayet-period ca. 1720
1730 6
  6. Maximin Cattin. A Comtoise with two hands from the Jura with quarter-stroke on 3 bells. The clocks from the Cattins and Brocard workshops belong to the top of the Jura clock production.
7 6a. On the shutters (Key-hole-bolts) of the Mayet-type clocks often transitoriness-related proverbs can be found like:


  7. Comtoise weights. Top. A stone and forged weight made outside the Jura for Comtoises. The forged weight is one of the original weights of the clock in picture 1. The next two weights are from the Mayet-period. Bottom. The first two weights are examples of the approximately 30 different forms applied between 1730 and 1800. Within the third weight the caster has sought a solution to avoid the cast-in hook. The last one is a leaden weight from the Mayet period
8a 8. Three leaden pear shaped pendulum bobs from the Mayet-period. The left one was found with a clock, made by the Cattin family, the middle one with a Mayet and the right one with a Badoz
8c 8c Forged weights for an alarm-clock and winding-keys from the Mayet-period
1730 9
  9.  A Comtoise of the Mayet-period equipped with the Chevalier de Bethune escapement. On the top-left of the post one can see screws to adjust the two axes, that are connecten to the pallets. Although originating from the Jura, the striking train features a pivoting rack. The clock has a very logical construction which is furthermore emphasized by the perfect finish. And yet this clockmakers/artist has found the time to shape the hour rack guide as a bird's tail.  ca.1730.
1730 10
  10. Remarkable in this clock by Abel Thovvarez is the day indication between the shutters. It is a Comtoise of the Mayet-type, of which the brass dial plate has evidently been replaced by an enamelled plate by Abel Thovvarez himself, witness the Abel T. ca.1730
1730 11
  11. A beautiful piece of clockmaker's craftsmanship from the Haut-Saône. ca.1730. Striking is the fact that the striking train has been placed on the left, while the going train is on the right. Only in this set-up the double rack construction occurs, which is here operated by two skillfully forged levers. The hook that has been fitted above the bell, serves to strengthen the pendulum suspension housing. The pewter chapter ring is an addition of a later date. On the grounds of the type of shutter it is almost certain, that this is a Haut-Saône clock from the workshops of the Francois family in Luxueil.
1730 12
  12. A small Haut-Saône clock with a painted iron dial. Both the appearance and the construction do significantly differ from the customary standard that was created in the Jura in this period. ca. 1730
  13. This clock (side view of picture 12) makes an attractive exception to the general rule, that the Haut-Saône and the Langres Plateau have brought forth inferior clockmakers´ products than the Jura. It is a clock that can easily bear comparison with the highlights from the Mayet period in the Jura.
  14. A see-through of the clock from the Haut-Saône of picture 12. The skeleton of this clock has been entirely forged, which is a deviation of the generally applied system in this area to secure the top plate with nuts. The going train has been fitted on the right, the striking train on the left. Typical for this area is the pivoting rack, resulting in a construction of the direct half-hour stroke and the repetition on demand.
1740 15
  15. A Haut-Saône Comtoise built as a 'Dutch Schippertje',  () .  The escape wheel has been placed on top of the top plate and the pendulum swings at the left side of the movement. The pendulum has a thread-suspension and rather little play in the crutch. Some of the typical characteristics for the Haut-Saône are clearly recognizable, namely the positioning of the hour wheel at the back of the movement between the posts, and the pins on the main wheel to strike the hours. This is the single known example of a Comtoise probably used on inland waterway vessels.  ca. 1740.
1740 16
  16. Front view of a verge escapement Comtoise from the Haut-Saône. The movement is totally up to standards however it lacks the typical delicate craftsmanship of clocks from the Jura. One of the characteristics of these clocks, the opposite numbering of the posts, right front, right back, left back, left front, can be seen on the front posts. It is rather contradictory, that in the trade this clock is referred to as the Lyon clock. The applied verge escapement is very rare for the Haut-Saône.  ca.1740
  17. Back side of the clock of picture 16. The suspension of the pendulum has not been done with a slingerhuis, but the pendulum has been 'thread suspended' to a pin welded to the bell strap. The big wheel between the going train and the striking-parts is the hour wheel. The pinnacles and the feet serve as nuts to fix the 'bird cage' skeleton construction of the movement.
  23. Ici Reposent. Silent witnesses on these and other tombstones at the cemetery of Fort du Plâne. The Midol family is one of the families, that have produced clocks outside the Franche Comté. Shortly after ca. 1730 they have founded a workshop in Beaune to built their very characteristic clocks.
1730 24
  24. It is unknown, when the Midol family left the Jura and started a clock workshop. The movement of his dated specimen bears testimony to a sound craftsmanship and ingenuity, that surpasses many specimens from the Jura till this point in time.
1745 25
  25. A 'Cartouche clock' from the workshop of Jean Baptiste Mayet ca. 1745. The first Cartouche clocks do strongly remind us of the first type of Comtoise clocks with a brass chapter ring. Focussed to deliver a new product, the Mayets have achieved a goal, that, for the second time brought forth a highlight in Comtoise production
1745 26
  26. Cartouche Comtoise ca.1745 manufactured by Pierre Somon Joyfroy in the village of Fort du Plasne, Jura. The front plate to which the cartouche plate has been mounted, was made of brass. Although this clock is one-handed, the minutes indication on the rim of the dial suggests that this type of dial was used both for one-handed clocks and two-handed clocks. Because of the application of the three frets and the pinnacles on top of the clock, this rich specimen strongly reminds us of a lantern-clock
1755 27
  27. Jean Baptiste Martinet is one of the clockmakers from the Jura of whom clocks like this one from ca.1755 are known, that do not occur in the Mayet period. What catches the eye, is the cast centre piece of the cartouche dial showing remnants of royalist symbols deleted during the French revolution.
  29. An exceptional striking train in a Cartouche-Comtoise. Dimensions 32 cm wide, 60 cm tall. These large size Comtoises were, and still are, in use as church, public or castle clocks. The applied striking mechanism looks very Southern, more specific Spanish.
1750 30
  30. The first type of Comtoise with an enamel dial from Morez. The  fret-sawn fronton (pediment) strongly reminds of the Mayet-type ca.1740. The enamel dial has really been 'baked', full of knobs and thick of material. This type is a long way from the exquisite skill of the enamellers after 1760. "Who would buy such a 'mis-baked' thing". It is one of the reasons why the first Comtoise version with enamel dial from Morez is extremely rare.

(about the enameller
Antoine-Nicolas Martinière )
  Shapes of Enamel and Ceramic dials.
1755 31
  31.  A 'month going' Comtoise. The winding holes have not been placed in the dial but underneath it. The winding-holes can be shut off with shutters ca.1755
1750 28
  28. Bronze casted ornaments since ca. 1740 influenced by french lantern clocks.

± 1755. The first type of top ornament, in which the coq looks over its shoulder ca. 1755.

± 1755. One of the four models, specially designed for Comtoises.

1760 32
  32. Comtoise ca. 1760. This movement doesn't deviate from the usual construction in the Jura, but the cast fronton  indicates a southern origin, notably the workshop of one of the Mayets, that left the Jura and settled in Toulouse as an independent workshop. After 1750 this Mayet signs with Mayet Cadet (=junior). Whether the clocks were actually manufactured in Toulouse or were merely assembled there, remains unknown.
  Rare clock with rotating moon ca 1760. Signed: F. Farjaire a St. Etienne.
1762 18
  18. Claude Francois 1762. One of the few facts that are known about the Francois family of clockmakers is that they worked in Luxeuil, Haut-Saône. This clock, fitted with a ceramic dial plate doesn't differ from the type, that was produced in the Jura in this period.
1765 19
  19.  A typical Haut-Saône clock. Rather primitive both in construction and in execution. It is a verge escapement which is very rare for this region. The ceramic dial, the pewter fronton and the pinnacles give this clock its own character, distinguishing itself from the clocks from the Jura and thereby claiming its own place.
1770 34
  34.  A 'coq clock', like a it ought to be. Here fitted with a date indication ca.1770.

Gallus = cock (French 'coq'), Gaul (Gallic rooster) Caesar called, what was later France, Gallia (Gaul), most likely because the rebellious Celts used a cock as symbol in their escutcheon.

More on the cock as a French symbol.

  35. The movement of a 'coq clock' of picture 34. Behind the hands, two of the three wheels of the date mechanism can be seen. The pin on the wheel on post no ...  picks up the thirty-one-teeth date wheel once every twenty-four hours, moving the date hand a day further.
32 35a. Another fine 'coq clock'.
  20. A large-sized Comtoise from the Haut-Saône. The Francois family is one of the few families of clockmakers, that were active in this region. This clock was made for a church or monastery, due to the mitre, the crozier and the monogram in the middle of the fret. Below the monogram, two swans.
1770 22
  22. Backside of a Comtoise 'coq', that was built as a wall clock. The iron strip on the top plate serves to fix the pendulum. At the same time it acts as the hook for hanging the clock either on the wall or on the interior of a case. Two points (spikes) press into the wall or the wood, preventing the clock from slipping. Haut-Saône 1770.
1780 21
  21.  The movement of a Haut-Saône Comtoise with a quarter stroke on two weights. The quarters are counted on an extended snail fixed on the cannon wheel. The clock indicates the days of the week, the phases of the moon, and even the months of the year. Depending on the height, at which the clock is hung up, it runs three to five months ca. 1780.
1787 36
  36. 'coq clock' with centre seconds hand. 1787.
  37. 'Chavin 1787' written and baked into the counter-enamel of the dial of the 'coq clock' with centre seconds hand. (picture 36).
  38. The movement of the Comtoise with seconds indication of picture 36. It is a pin wheel escapement with a central placed pinwheel of which the axe has been extended through the centers of the minute pipe and hour wheel. 18th Century Comtoises with a centre seconds hand can be considered as an extreme curiosity.
1795 33
  33. A cast bronze fronton with Phrygian cap (liberty cap). ± 1795.

More on the Phrygian cap.

1795 33
  33a A fine 'coq' clock. The cast fronton with 'clasped hands'  ca. 1795.  

More on 'clasped hands'.

1795 39
  39. The movement of a clock with concave centre dial. The pin wheel has been cross-placed between the mounting posts. Ca 1795.
  Comtoise. Signed Les Freres Fumey  A St Jn de Losne. ± 1795. The phrygian cap and 30 day month are typical revolutionary features. 


  Comtoise. Signed Les frères Fumey in St Jn. de Losne. The Phrygian cap and '30-days month' points unmistakably to a "Revolutionary" date.

Calandrier decimale republicain.
Emblems and Symbols of the French Republic.

1800 40
  40. Constitution. The call for a constitution became stronger and stronger. "Equality" flanked on both sides by lions, standing on pieces of ordnances. On the right barrel a Phrygian cap. Around the dial two resting figures, that do not seem to be impressed with the revolutionary ideas ca. 1800.
1810 41
  41. The date of 1810 on this Comtoise is interesting. The clasped hands of the Revolution have still been applied. The clock has both a date and moon phase-indication. The Rey family is, by origin, a clock makers family from Lyon, that is already known in the beginning of the 17th century Comtoises. Rey à Toulouse occurs on 19th century Comtoises.
8b 8b Keys and alarm weights, 1800-1900.
1805 43
  43. A Comtoise, that should have indicated both the Gregorian and the Republican year. It remains doubtful whether the clock was intended to give both times. The train is entirely missing and has never been installed. It looks more like a prematurely broken off experiment. Nevertheless this example is a unique clock, too. ca.1805
1810 42
  42. Rare enamel front ornaments  ± 1810.
1815 44
  44. Egalité-Liberté. Equality-Freedom. A Comtoise totally shaped according to the new political order. In addition to the hours of sixty minutes, the decimal divisions can be seen. Nevertheless a unique clock.

Calandrier revolutionaire.
1814 45
  45. The cast front piece on this Chavin 1814 does show some contradictions. The Chavin family was a famous clockmakers´ family in France, that moved with the fashion in a very style-aware way. Would this be a case of using a famous name for sales purposes? That is, in 1814!
1815 46
  46. A Comtoise that apart from the hours and minutes indicates, the days of the week, the days of the month and the days of the year. ca. 1815. Below the crowned eagle we find the portraits of Josephine and Napoleon. This unique specimen has a quarter stroke on three bells.


1820 47
  47.  A beautiful example of a Comtoise from the Empire period ca. 1820. A stiff, austere clock, crowned with an eagle and its fledglings. The movement from this period are qualitatively excellent, which can not be said of many Comtoises manufactured between 1780 and 1800.
  48. A top ornament (fronton, pediment) chased in iron, of a Comtoise with Napoleon's portrait in the medallion. The whole was colourful painted.
  49. Verge escapement with musical train. The musical train is driven by a separate weight and plays a tune every hour. This musical train has been set up for three tunes ca. 1835.
  50. Four enameled dials from 4 different periods. On top a dial signed "Mayet cadet à Toulouse" The type of front ornament (pediment) of picture 32 is usually accompanied by this signature. On the right the first type enamelled dial, produced in Le Locle, Switzerland. To the left the most common type of "Coq" dial of a verge escapement from ca. 1840. The street of the red hat n° 11. The Bailly family is one of the greatest families of clockmakers in France. For more than three centuries we come across members of this family all over France.
  51. After 1830 the clockmakers in the Jura sought ways to simplify the movement of the clock. One of these experiments is shown here. Instead of the usual two front posts a wide plate has been mounted, that also serves to fix the saw and levers
  52.  One of the most sympathetic types of Comtoises. A verge escapement in full splendour. Although the stamp-work is rather flat, the whole gives a very charming impression, not in the least because of the decoration on the dial.
  53.  Verge escapement of the first type with stamped fronton (feuille). Relatively flat stamped these clocks still remind us of the last types with a cast front ornament. Another clock from the Mayet workshop, although later. By this time (1840) it is exceptional that the manufacturers of the clocks sell with their own names on the dials. A typical clockwork from this period.

Later pediments frontons employed a wide variety of stamped brass devices, one of the most common incorporating a pair of cornucopias, classical anthemion ornaments, a basket of flowers and a sunburst.

  A typical (often missing) alarm arrangement
  A typical period movement explained.
  54. With the rise of the anchor escapement in the Jura the production is totally mechanized. Both the movements and the appearance of the Comtoises are influenced in a negative way and the Comtoise turns into an industrial product. A Comtoise, equipped with a gong, meant for a lyre pendulum.
  54a. Clockmaker (farmer, horloger-paysan) on his way to deliver his clocks on a sort of carrying device. These devices were also used in the Jura for carrying milk-cans. Fold- and wire-pendulums made efficient transport possible, they were used till about the middle of the 19th century. Transportation risks illustrate the need to equip the movements with protective side doors and back plates despite the fact that in the end they were used in cases. These cases, mostly made by local cabinet makers, were not always sufficiently 'dust proof'.

More about 'farmer clockmakers' 1)
  55. Two varying types of lyre pendulums. To the left an enlarged lyre has been fitted and on the right the lyre has been replaced by brass strips.
  56.  A flower pendulum Comtoise with both a days of the month indication and an indication for the phases of the moon ca.1860
  57. A Comtoise clock ca. 1865. The stamped fronton was in most cases stamped in a square; later it was made to measure by cutting off the corners and thus made to fit in a case.
  54b. Rokssel-London ca 1870. This clock was exported to Australia and housed in a local 'red cedar' case. It confirms worldwide distribution of comtoise clocks. The name on the dial is most likely invented for export promotional reasons, since it sounds very similar to the famous London/Liverpool chronometer maker Robert Roskell.
  54c. Another example confirming widely distribution of Comtoise clocks. As usual with the vendor's name on the dial. It was found in Erfoud, South Marocco.
  On the left a flower pendulum ca.1865, belonging to the clock on picture 57. On the right a flower pendulum with an automaton ca. 1880
  64. Another fine example of a Comtoise flower pendulum
  A genuine 19th century interior with comtoise clock. (Musee des maisons Comtoises.)

Comtoise clocks might hang from a bracket, but were originally destinated to have a full long case, often made from pine, with tapering or violin-shaped sides, frequently painted and grained in country fashion.

  60. A so-called Comtoise year clock. Depending on how high it hangs on the wall (=the fall) it runs for 6 to 7 months. It's a pin wheel escapement with a six wheel going train, ca. 1870.
  61. Maxi and mini together. Miniature comtoise clocks have their striking train, if any, placed behind the going train. Most of these late miniature Comtoises (ca.1880) have been manufactured in Spain. On very few occasions, the stamped name of a workshop in Morez, Jean Saverin occurs. The height of the front plate of the large Comtoise is 60 cm, that of the mini Comtoise only 20 cm.
1908 62
  62/63. Prix-courant d´Horlogerie 1908. The whole range !
  These (late) spring driven 'oeil de boeuf' clocks are also called 'Morez clocks'.