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The rare clock collection of Sir David Salomons, exhibited at the Museum for Islamic Art, is one of the three rarest clock collections in the world. His daughter, Vera Bryce Salomons, decided to display the collection at the museum she founded in Jerusalem, in memory of her father.
Sir David Salomons (1881-1925) was a lawyer and a British public figure. As an amateur scientist and horologist, engaged in the science of time measurement, Sir David was interested in intricate clocks based on sophisticated mechanical principles. Some of these feature in the special collection that is exhibited at the museum, including items from the 18th and 19th centuries.
The 200 clocks in the collection are spectacular and sophisticated. They are extraordinary gadgets loved by princes and dukes centuries ago. The collection includes simple clocks and chiming clocks which are mechanical an aesthetic masterpieces, as well as clocks with automatic winding mechanisms (which were then an innovation). There are pendulum clocks and grandfather clocks, and scientific measuring instruments, music boxes and painted enamel boxes with miniature mechanisms.
Carrying the Brain of a Genius in Your Pocket
The jewel in the crown of the Salomons collection are 55 unique clocks made by renowned Parisian watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747-1823). “Carrying a wonderful Breguet fob watch is like carrying the brain of a gin your pocket," wrote Sir David Salomons in the original catalogue of the collection. With regard to the science of time measurement, Breguet was head and shoulders above everyone else of his generation. He was responsible for developing self-winding watches. He made them popular and redefined the concept of “exactly on time.”
Abraham-Louis Breguet, who was born in Switzerland and lived most of his life in Paris, unwittingly ended up in the watchmaking profession. He was blessed with a highly developed technical sense and amazing intelligence. He knew exactly what the consumer wanted: an extraordinary combination of spectacular design, practicality, and high reliability. These attributes made Breguet the favored (private) watchmaker of kings, princes and aristocracy across Europe. One of his most important clients was Queen Marie Antoinette, and you can see the clock that bears her name in the collection.
In addition to Breguet’s clocks the Salomons collection include artifacts made by other clock manufacturers, which should not be missed: moving picture clocks, shelf clocks and grandfather clocks, compasses, barometers and other scientific instruments, sundials and telescopes from the 17th-19th centuries, and clocks made in the 18th century, especially for the Turkish market. There is also a collection of luxury items which teach us about the toys princes and kings played with around 200 years ago: music boxes made of gold with diamonds encrusted and automatic toys operated by a tiny sophisticated mechanism. For example, the gold music box from Switzerland, with the purple painted enamel board – when you open the door a songbird pops up and sings.