Oeil de Boeuf Clock
6" x 17" x 16"
This modest and elegant timepiece, which dates from the Napoleon III (r. 1852–1870) period, was made in France by the clockmaker Arera, as indicated by the inscription on the dial. Arera’s shop was located on the rue de la Barillerie in Paris, which ran across l’île de la Cité – familiar to many today as the location of historical landmarks such as the cathedral Notre Dame de Paris and the gothic chapel Sainte-Chapelle. While the rue de la Barillerie no longer exists, it can be seen on old city maps. The design of the work, known as oeil de boeuf – or “eye of the cow” in English – refers to the viewer only being able to see the dial. The shape of the case around the dial may vary: it can be circular, square, or oval with either straight edges or curvilinear ones. Here, we see an example of the oeil de boeuf clock in a two-tiered octagonal case made of tin. The dial itself, emphasized by a gold-coloured band, features beautifully painted roman numerals and Breguet style hands, distinctive for their thin arms which end with a moon-like tip. Abraham-Louis Breguet (1743–1823) was a Swiss watch and clock maker working in Paris, who was known to have designed clocks for Napoleon I (1769–1821). The design of these dial hands was particularly popular in the 18th and 19th centuries and are known to have adorned both Breguet clocks and clocks by other makers.
At this time in Paris, the 1855 Exposition Universelle opened on May 15, between the banks of the Seine and the Champs-Élysées. Following London’s famous Great Exhibition of 1851, the Exposition Universelle covered 40 acres, with 34 countries participating. By the time it closed on November 15, over 5 million visitors had visited the Palais de L’industrie, and seen what the world had to offer.