A similar timepiece, today among the spectacular collection of European clocks and automata in the Forbidden City in Beijing, was given by the French government to the Qing emperor Guangxu in c.1885.
When another of this model was exhibited at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900, it was the subject of an article in the Revue Chronométrique by the eminent horologist Mathieu Planchon.
He explained the workings of a mechanism that, instead of a spring or a weight, uses the momentum of 18 tumbling nickel-plated balls for power. At the end of a week the balls are moved from the drawer to the base and loaded again from the top.
Clocks and ‘weather stations’ of this entertaining type were made throughout the 20th century in different sizes and of different qualities.
This example, standing 21in (54cm) high in an elaborate gilt metal four-glass case crowned by a prowling lion, is dated c.1900.
It came for sale at Dawsons (25% buyer’s premium) in Maidenhead on June 29 with a guide of £600-800 but sold at £12,000.
The auction house said it had some damage to the side and front glasses and noted that, although the balance will run with encouragement, it soon stops.