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Charles Gretton Book Project

November 20, 2009

The Gretton Project

A book about Charles Gretton by Warner Meinen and Dennis Radage

Project Update – November 2009

The Gretton book project continues, maybe not with quite as much vigor as during 2008, but progress remains positive. A visit to the UK was made in May 2009 and several new clocks and watches were photographed. We cannot ignore the current economic climate. Purse strings have tightened and we are all feeling the effects of the current market, restrictions on travel and the need to manage expenses prevail while cost seemingly appear to escalate.

The May 2009 visit was however a success, since we were able to photograph additional Gretton clocks, mostly held by private collectors, but some were with dealers. Thank you again to all.

The layout of the book has been structured, and text is being created for some sections while specifications and descriptions are being tabulated for each clock and watch that will be featured in the book. An appendix will contain a catalogue of all known Gretton timepieces along with a brief description and a photo where we have one.

Our greatest asset of course is the vast number of photographs that we have taken and compiled of Gretton’s clocks and watches, and of course the components and details of these same pieces. Our current Gretton library contains close to 10,500 images, all being of Gretton’s work. This has to be one of the largest collections of photographs of any maker’s work, particularly one from the 17th century.

Our list of known clocks and watches currently stands at 113 pieces. Of these we do know the whereabouts of 57, although of the 113 pieces, we have images of 92 of them, some however being scans from books and catalogues. We have very many photographs of 43 of the clocks and watches, those that we have been fortunate enough to examine in person.

We know that some Gretton clocks and watches were specifically made for export; some in our collection are engraved in Spanish for example. We are also aware that current collectors from the USA, Asia and the Middle East have recently purchased Gretton clocks from auctions or dealers, based on the contacts that we have received.
Gretton was a renowned maker who lived and worked in London and was a contemporary of other great makers such as Fromanteel, Tompion, Knibb, Gould, Quare, Graham and even Harrison who produced his first clock in 1714, we believe that Gretton continued working into the late 1720’s.

Gretton started his apprentiship in 1662, just four years after the introduction of the pendulum. He would have lived through the 1665 plaque and experienced the Great Fire of 1666. He became free in 1672, just as London was being rebuilt.

Gretton clocks and watches are highly prized by collectors. They are held in major museums such as the British Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum and the Ashmolian Museum in Oxford. No less than five Gretton clocks were in the Wetherfield collection, all illustrated in the book on the Wetherfield Collection by Bruton. We have not located any of these clocks, but it is our opinion that due to their quality and significance, they likely remain today in private collections. These owners have so far not identified themselves, but there is always hope!

Our last letter dated January 2009, published in the March 2009 issue of Antiquarian Horology, tabulated those clocks and watches that had been identified at that time. A quick review will show that most of the clocks sold at auction have not been located. If therefore you acquired one of these clocks, or know the whereabouts of a Gretton clock, we would be delighted to hear from you.

Our next visit to the UK is scheduled for May 2010. At that time I plan to get better images from museums and of course the permission to use these images in our book. There are several private collectors still to meet and research to conduct at the Clockmakers Company library and at other locations.

There are many questions still unanswered regarding Gretton’s life, hopefully we can uncover more details of his family and how he lived. Since we do not reside in the UK, each day there is precious indeed. We are always open to ideas and tips so as to make our visit more productive and rewarding.

For interest we have included three examples of Gretton’s work, a quarter repeating table clock movement, a quarter striking longcase movement and a watch movement with balance spring. These examples demonstrate the craftsmanship that came out of Gretton’s workshop. Our book naturally, will show many more examples of what this 17th century clockmaker was capable of.

We appreciate the continued support of the private collectors, auction houses, museums and dealers, thank you.


Dennis Radage

Note new contact details:

Dennis Radage:
Tel: +1-604-921-1666
Laila & Dennis Radage: grettonproject@shaw.ca

Warner Meinen:
Tel: +31 (0593) 332860
Warner Meinen: grettonproject@hetnet.nl


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