A very good French Industrial Series naval-themed novelty desk barometer, possibly by Guilmet, Paris, c1880.
Novelty desk barometer of gilt, nickled and blued bronze construction, 3½” printed enamel dial calibrated in inches of mercury with a range from 24 to 31 and the upper portion annotated with meteorological terms "Stormy," "Much Rain," "Change," "Fair," "Set Fair," "Very Dry," the lower marked "Aneroid Barometer." Blued-steel pointer with gilt brass telltale, bevelled glass and gilt bronze bezel. The unusual French single 1½” capsule driven movement, on a round steel chassis, with primary lever bearing directly upon the capsule via a fine contact, the arbor concentrically mounted upon a raised sub-chassis above. Contained within nickel plated stepped bronze drum having swing open rear to afford calibration and supporting a ship’s wheel, crossed cannon with blued finish, the whole supported upon a well detailed anchor and raised upon a slate and gilt brass plinth.
This piece has great presence reflected in its execution and fine detail. The juxtaposition of cannon, anchor and ship’s wheel are convincing, providing a pleasing aesthetic balance. The movement is extremely unusual: though variations of it have been previously noted, often associated with Redier, this particular variant is notable in many respects and clearly designed to obviate the short comings or circumvent copyright of the established Vidi pattern and derivatives.
It is hard to be precise about a date of manufacture of this antique aneroid barometer: it is certainly French, and our inclination is that it dates from around 1880, though it may be earlier. Aspects of its construction would corroborate this. As to manufacturer, this has to be a matter of conjecture. Guilmet is often cited as the originator of these items though this piece bears no direct traces to his works. The dial and barometer movement do strongly point to Redier, and it certainly would not have been unusual for a clock maker to buy in dials and movements from a specialist manufacturer of these items - this might explain the anonymity of both dial and movement. Redier-made and retailed items were almost always monogrammed.
In any event, original examples of this pattern may be considered rare; later this pattern was much copied. Overall some of the original finishes remain, there are losses notably to the wheel spokes and anchor, the cannon are blued, simulating steel or iron, and their detail and colour are very good. The barometer works well, the range suggesting export to a tropical environment.
The particular choice of finishes, nickel, gilt and blue, coupled with the undoubted quality of construction, set this apart as a very desirable piece. Very much for the collector and connoisseur alike.