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Hieroglyphics on a Wehlen & Co clock face

Can anyone identify the markings?

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Nick Clarke 314/08/2019 13:28:41
1009 forum posts
34 photos
Posted by Andy Carruthers on 14/08/2019 10:37:15:

Is it possible the annotations are a combination of proofreader marks and manufacturer code?

This site suggests the three horizontal strikes are for capitalizing: **LINK**

Yes Three strokes underneath a draft text tell the compositor or printer to capitalise on the final printed page - but why put a mark including three strokes over, not under, a letter that is painted, not printed and then enamel them onto the dial alongside the final text? - You don't see proofreader's markups in a published book so why on a clock that presumably was sold to a customer.

Just because the marks are the same shape as something else used in a completely different context does not imply they have the same meaning on a clock face, although as I have said before I am as much in the dark as anyone else and would be just as happy to be proved wrong if a definitive answer could be found.

I am intrigued!!!!

Andy Carruthers14/08/2019 13:40:15
279 forum posts
23 photos

Likewise I am intrigued - and agree it's a bit of a punt with regard to proofreader marks

As for the lasting impression, it may be the markup paint reacted with the white base and over time "developed" despite the markup being removed after lettering was applied, I'm not a chemist...

Happy to be proven wrong on all counts, simply offering some thoughts

Neil Wyatt14/08/2019 16:14:14
18404 forum posts
718 photos
78 articles

Maybe they are just decorative...

Michael Gilligan14/08/2019 22:13:50
16990 forum posts
753 photos

Sam's question has prompted some thought, and interesting discussion ... but there is surprisingly little information readily available about the technicalities of dial-making.

These two articles by John Robey, although focusing on longcase dials, provide some background about the trade:




Sam Stones15/08/2019 21:59:45
788 forum posts
308 photos

John Robey’s biographical notes are an excellent source of historic information, Michael.

I’m now exploring another direction which needs me to remove the clock's mechanism, and expose the false plate if there is one, and perhaps determine what material was used for the dial.


Michael Gilligan15/08/2019 23:56:08
16990 forum posts
753 photos

This [from Part I] might be the most relevant snippet:


Whether Ann and James Osborne were also painters, like Thomas, or if they employed other artists is not known, but as the firm expanded it is likely that there were a number of workers. These would have prepared the dial sheets by applying multiple coats of base paint, painted the decoration, applied and gilded raised gesso work, while dial writers applied hour and minute numerals and other blackwork (the 'graphics', and, on moon dials, maps were printed on the hemisphere 'humps'. With so many operations necessary to produce a finished dial, and from the large number of surviving Osborne dials, it is clear that there was the potential for a significant workforce, but how many is unknown. Despite this, if the meagre evidence from later dialmakers is a guide, there were probably not as many workers as might be imagined.


[my emboldening]



Edit: Please excuse the intrusion of that stupid smiley thing !!

Edited By Michael Gilligan on 15/08/2019 23:57:17

Sam Stones17/08/2019 00:24:22
788 forum posts
308 photos

I pondered whether to open a new thread about clock dials, but …

It had been suggested elsewhere that I investigate the clock for any other marks on the movement that could indicate who made the clock. While this is potentially heading away from identifying the ‘strange’ hieroglyphs, it opened another aspect - the dial itself.

What I was very reluctant to do was pull the clock apart and remove the dial. I ain't as steady as I used to be.

However, it turned out to be an opportunity to add a very tiny drop of clock oil to those pivots I chose to leave on a previous occasion. There was also a slight issue that the escapement wouldn’t work with the mechanism (and therefore the dial) truly vertical. Twisted a few degrees ACW and it would tick merrily. Otherwise, it would stop. The fault lay with either the crutch (and/or the fork) being out of line with the pendulum, see here ...


and here ...


With the mechanism back in place, judicious bending of the crutch arm restored most of the misalignment.

As for the dial itself, I found evidence of traditional enamelled copper methods used during its construction. A very shallow copper ‘dish’ retains the glazing powder during firing, similar to that seen in this video …


… and (presumably) provides better control of glaze thickness, especially at the edges.

On the back was the number 9664. It’s the same number stamped on the back plate of the mechanism. Perhaps of greater interest was to find Gustave written on the back. Was it his writing or simply a means of identifying that the dial was for him?


Several possibilities come to mind. What do you think?


PS - For a closer look, there are now three photo albums applicable to this thread and marked - Wehlen A, B, and C .


Edited By Sam Stones on 17/08/2019 00:26:42

Michael Gilligan17/08/2019 07:29:26
16990 forum posts
753 photos

Thanks for the 'reveal' Sam ... yes

It seems we can treat the 'painted dial' trade an interesting diversion.

... I, for one, have been barking up the wrong tree.



roy entwistle17/08/2019 08:37:38
1300 forum posts

Sam The crutch arm should not have needed bending the collet should move on the arbor but if it works leave it


Sam Stones17/08/2019 22:31:17
788 forum posts
308 photos

Thanks Roy,

Your advice is most welcome and much appreciated. I have a faint memory of a member telling me that some time ago. Was it your good self?

Can I presume that moving the 'collet' in this case is how the pellets (anchor?) would rotate on the arbor? I can only see this as requiring removal of the mechanism, and (perhaps) setting it in an upright condition on the bench or similar.

With declining patience, increasing clumsiness, and only an office desk, removing the mechanism has lost its charm.

Thanks again,



Edited By Sam Stones on 17/08/2019 22:39:09

Sam Stones03/09/2019 01:09:45
788 forum posts
308 photos

It would be helpful if I could close this thread with a clear conclusion. However, despite the many useful comments, links, and various ideas, there is still no clear resolution.

I certainly found it an interesting excursion with several entertaining distractions. It has been a clear learning curve for me. I’d never heard of rubrication, ashler walls, and until I pulled the clock apart, I hadn’t realised that the dial was enamelled. Sorry Michael.

There were questions as to whether Gustav Paul (& Co) Wehlen was one person, a father and son, or brothers. The company, listed as importers, raised other questions. Were they also clockmakers, did they just assemble the main parts, or did they just sell them? Some of the marks on the back of the dial appear to be a close (colour) match to the hieroglyphs on the front. Could this be coincidental? The same substance (paint or ink?) and flourish appear to link the letter ‘G’ of Gustav and the ‘9’ of the number 9664.

Having seen some of its development in the plastics industry, I never realised that the pad method of printing was so old. Closer images reveal certain unrepeated irregularities suggesting hand painting, guided by some addition device, ‘ … and nerves of steel … ‘.

In closing and assuming that the clock is a middle-of-the-road standard, could it pass as a French marble clock?

My thanks to all eighteen of you for your input.


Edited By Sam Stones on 03/09/2019 01:11:27

Sam Stones03/09/2019 01:18:00
788 forum posts
308 photos

Are my eyes deceiving me but is that a square arbor going into a round hole?


Michael Gilligan03/09/2019 06:47:08
16990 forum posts
753 photos
Posted by Sam Stones on 03/09/2019 01:18:00:

Are my eyes deceiving me [ ... ] ?


I think they are, Sam




Nick Thorpe03/09/2019 07:36:40
48 forum posts
6 photos

I have been interested in French marble clocks for about thirty five years and I haven't seen those markings on a dial before. Whelen was probably a wholesaler and the movement would have been made in one of three or four areas in France. The movements are of particularly high quality and a wonderful example of early mass or volume (French 'moyen' production techniques.

Seeing your thread a while back I emailed a gentleman who knows a lot about French marble and other clocks, but he hasn't replied and I fear that he is unwell.

I would suggest that you can definitely call your clock a French marble clock and it is a good example of its type.

Regards, Nick

Author 'The French Marble Clock, NAG Press, 1990

Edited By Nick Thorpe on 03/09/2019 07:37:49

Sam Stones03/09/2019 20:14:09
788 forum posts
308 photos

A bit further to the right, Michael.

It was the hole through the pallet piece which looks round. But on closer inspection, what I'm seeing could be a lead-in chamfer.


How curious too that the edges of the square have had their corner removed, yet appear sharp in the hole and beyond.

Nick, many thanks for your valued input. From now on, the clock will be treated with even more respect. I intend to lean on the local library to locate/purchase a copy of your book.

As before, many thanks to members for your interest and help.


PS Please remind me to blow the dust off before moving in for a tight shot embarrassed

Michael Gilligan03/09/2019 22:20:15
16990 forum posts
753 photos

My apologies, Sam

Presumably this is the region of interest:


[ignore the little < at bottom-right please, I'm watching the Parliamentary debate on iPlayer]


As you will, I think, see: the rouned corners continue the basic diameter of the arbor ...

I believe that the sharp cornered section is bigger because it was hammer-forged square[ish] before being finished to size. ... A fine piece of 'metal-bashing' !!

Regardless of appearance; I expect the hole for that arbor is square in section, and slightly tapered.


Sam Stones03/09/2019 22:50:34
788 forum posts
308 photos

Yes, that's it Michael.

I did wonder if the corners of the square were a continuation of the diameter. A clock/watchmaker showed me how to hammer out a pivot oiler from a tiny piece of wire was my first experience of forging at that level.

Impressive work especially if the hole is both square and tapered.

Finding too many bent (cotter?) pins around the assembly, the thought of a complete strip-down to find out, is no longer an attraction.


Maybe I will one day.


Michael Gilligan03/09/2019 23:07:50
16990 forum posts
753 photos
Posted by Sam Stones on 03/09/2019 22:50:34:

[ ... ]

Impressive work especially if the hole is both square and tapered.

[ ... ]


It probably starts life as a slightly tapered round hole, that gets corners cut into it during the fitting process:

If I can find a description of the technique [above and beyond 'in the usual manner'] I will get back to you.


Sam Stones10/08/2020 23:57:09
788 forum posts
308 photos

It is twelve months since I opened this thread, so I thought it appropriate to provide some sort of closure.

Several things have happened. In particular have been responses from specialists from both the BHI and the AHS.

Here for reference are the main photographs that I provided for their examination …


Here [in italics] are some of their responses. They are in no particular order nor have I mentioned the names of the people that were so very helpful …

‘The important thing for the clock dial is that G. P. Wehlen was a Freemason. He was initiated in 1867 to the no. 511 or 752 Zetland Lodge, meeting in Fleet Street, and initiated again in 1882 to the no.1969 Waldeck Lodge, meeting at Freemason's Hall.’

It was also suggest that… ‘the clock was either G. P. Wehlen's personal clock, or was supplied by him to one of his fellow masons.’

Further, it was suggested that … ‘the hieroglyphs are the equivalent initials from an ancient alphabet, that the members of one or other of these lodges might have had to learn as part of their masonic study or ritual’.

In the same reply was the comment that … ‘not being a mason myself, I don't know how much the rituals vary between lodges, or whether if the particular lodge no longer exists (or if the information is too closely protected) perhaps nobody would be able to confirm’.

It was suggested that … ‘from the writing on the reverse of the dial, that G. P. W. ordered it personally from a dial painter whom he knew well and generally used in his business. If he had it made to celebrate his masonic initiation, then it might date from 1867 or 1882, and possibly the type of clock can be dated to one of these years?’

Their guess suggested 1882, but they weren’t sure about marble clocks.

Further information offered was …

‘Gustav Paul Wehlen was a jeweller and clock importer. He also appears in directories as a seller of electroplate ware. He seems to have had several fairly grand London addresses concurrently.

He was born in 1838 in the Duchy of Holstein as Johann Paul Gustav Wehlen, the son of a watchmaker Friedrich Christopher Wehlen.

Married 14.10.1871 at St. George's Bloomsbury to Frances Balls, born in Colchester, daughter of William Balls, Gentleman.

Died 26.12.1890 at 20 Hyde Park Place, Bayswater, the home of his watchmaker brother George Wehlen.’

Another reply included … ‘It is our opinion that the clock was originally meant for the far eastern market and that Gustavus Paul Wehlen, who is listed in the 1881 census as a clock importer, imported the clock before putting his own name on the dial.’

And … ‘the pale marks above the name we believe are possibly Chinese characters which were subsequently overwritten by Wehlen when he imported the clock.’

Thanks to all who contributed to this thread.

There it should rest.


BHI = British Horological Institute

AHS = Antiquarian Horological Society

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