Time on Tuesday – Mechanical Galleon

During the Sixteenth Century, there was a great fascination with automated machines. This particular machine was created by Hans Schlottheim of Augsburg and was included in the inventory of the Kunstkammer of the Elector of Saxony in Dresden in about 1585.


The galleon was constructed of copper and steel and made to parade along a grand table to announce a banquet. The actual clock portion of the piece shows the time on a dial at the bottom of the main mast.

DSC00684The detail is exquisite. Miniature sailors use hammers to strike the hours and quarters on bells in the crows nests. A small regal organ and a drum skin stretched over the base of the hull produce musical notes.

DSC00683The Electors of the Holy Roman Empire, led by heralds, pass before their Emperor seated on his deck throne beneath the main mast. As a grand finale, the galleon fires cannons to produce a wonder of noise and smoke. The piece is now a part of the British Museum’s Clocks and Watches Collection. This amazingly elaborate piece has a very steampunk feel – it’s easy to make the leap from a clockwork mechanism that performs these multiple sequence of events to a working automaton capable of performing a variety of tasks.

Share your thoughts...