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Basel Historical Museum

Objects in the collection

Basel Historical Museum has a collection comprising over 250,000 objects. A selection of these is presented here.

The scientists, scholars and collectors of the 16th century and thereafter kept Wunderkammer full of spectacular objects and works of art. Among the treasures presented are some that originally belonged to the world-famous Amerbach Cabinet.

Discover further Swiss museum collections at Museums Online.

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Chosen Exhibits

Skeleton pocket watch

Geneva, ca. 1820 – Bordier à Genève, active in 19th century – Movement with verge escapement and quarter repeater with ding-dong chimes; hour and minute hands – Inv. 1982.1093.

This watch in a red gold case has a glass window in the lid showing the movement with …

Pocket watch with outer case

George Charle, London, ca. 1800 – Gilt bronze, brass – case: gold, embossed and pierced – dial: enamel – hands: blued steel; spring with chain and fusee – height 6 cm, width 4 cm, thickness 2.3 cm – diameter of outer case 4.7 cm – Inv. 1919.203.

The signature, "Charle in London", is engraved in italic script on the back plate. Its …

Night and day clock

Georg David Polykarp Hahn, Kornwestheim, 1776 – Case: iron – front and chapter ring: brass – dial: enamel, with black numbers – hands: perforated brass – height 37.8 cm, width 28.9 cm, depth 16 cm – diameter of chapter ring 21 cm, dial I7 cm – Inv. 1982.1207.

David Georg Polykarp Hahn (1747-1814), younger brother of Philipp Matthäus, was a …

Portrait of Philipp Matthäus Hahn

Johann Philipp Weisbrod, Komwestheim 1773 – Pencil drawing, 12.6 x 11.5 cm – Inv. 1913.94.1.

This small pencil drawing is the only known portrait of Philipp Matthäus Hahn (1739-1790), …

Equatorial sundial

Philipp Matthäus Hahn, Echterdingen (Baden W6rttemberg), 1782 – Wood, brass, iron – height with base 38 cm, length of axis 21 cm, diameter of enamel dial 4 cm – brass box 73.2 x 74.5 cm – Inv. 1960.23.

Philipp Matthäus Hahn (1739-1790) invented this particular type of table sundial in 1763. …


Unsigned, Germany(?), 1572 – Brass, gilt, engraved; height 5.6 cm, width 9 cm, depth 9.2 cm – folding gnomon height 4.5 cm, width 9 cm, depth 9.2 cm – compass diameter 1.8 cm – Inv. 1982.564.

The base plate is scalloped on the sides and rests on four feet. It has ornamental …

Armillary sphere (geocentric)

Unsigned, Italy(?), 18th century – Brass, partially engraved, wood – height 33 cm, diameter of meridian 17 cm, sphere 14.5 cm, earth 3cm – Inv. 1982.661.

A horizon ring is attached to a stand with three arms on a square base. Within it a movable …

Pendant or pocket watch with outer case

Hans Mettler, Basle, ca. 1640 – Case and dial silver, rim of gold – mechanism: gilt bronze and brass – hands: blued steel – outer case: black sharkskin with silver pique ornament – watch: diameter 4.1 cm, thickness 1.8 cm – outer case: diameter 4.9 cm – Inv. 1954.38.

The exact dates of Hans Mettler's life are unknown. He came from Riehen bei Basel and was …

Double quadrant

Unsigned, 1552 – Silver, parcel gilt, engraved with inscriptions, numbers and lines – height 4.6 cm, diameter 6.1 cm – Inv. 1905.367.

Within the quadrant, with a gilded scale of twice 90°, is a shadow square, also gilt. The …

Table clock

Jeremias Metzker, Augsburg, 1570 – Case: fire gilt bronze – applied silver figures – hands blued steel and gilt brass – wooden base, going train and striking train modern additions – height (without base) 29.5 cm, width 19.4 cm, depth 12.9 cm – Inv. 1982.1190.

Jeremias Metzker (1530-1592) was active in Augsburg, where he was granted the right to …

Quadruple hour glass of the bell ringer of St. Thomas, Leipzig

Leipzig(?), 17th century – Spruce frame with pasted engravings, four glasses – overall height 69 cm, width 23 cm, depth 10.5 cm – Inv. 1880.190.

According to the inscription, CHRISTIANUS HEINING THORM: ZU ST. THOM. IN LEIPZIG., this is …

Pendant oval watch

Isaac Forfait I, Sedan, ca. 1600 – Bronze, gilt – casing: silver, parcel gilt, engraved, pierced – lid: cut rock crystal – spring with gut line on fusee – hands: blued steel – height 6.4 cm, width 3.4 cm, thickness 2.6 cm – Inv. 1982.1061.

Isaac Forfait I lived from 1586 to 1648. His signature, "Isaac Forfait / Sedan", is …

Cartel clock

Movement: Jean Philippe Gosselin – casing: Dumont; Paris, mid 18th century – Half hour striking train (bell); case: bronze, fire gilt, chased and punched – putto: painted porcelain; hands: gilt brass – height 52.5 cm, width 31.5 cm, depth 12.5 cm – enamel dial diameter 13 cm – Inv. 1982.1182.

Jean Philippe Cosselin became a master in 1717 in Paris; he died in 1776. One of the …

Astrolabium planisphericum

Italy (?), after 1582 – Brass, engraved – diameter 16.4 cm, thickness 0.6 cm – Inv. 1892.28.

The principle of this versatile instrument of medieval astronomy is the projection of the …


Thomas Mudge, London, 1755 – Mechanism: polished brass – dial: silver plated and engraved – hands: blued steel – winding time: ten days – height 15.2 cm, width 15.2 cm, depth 10.4 cm – Inv. 1960.20.

This earliest known clock with a 'constant force escapement' was made by the London …

Pocket watch with automaton in shape of a lyre

Mechanism: Piguet & Capt(?), Geneva, ca. 1800 – Gold enamel inset with pearls – hands: blued steel – height 7.2 cm, width 3.3 cm, thickness 1.3 cm – Inv. 1982.1007.

The arms of the lyre terminate in the heads of two eagles. Small inlaid pearls on the …

Organ clock

Pierre Jaquet Droz, La Chaux de Fonds, ca. 1760 – Hour and quarter hour striking train with three bells without repetition – organ with 13 metal pipes and eight tunes – wood casing with Boulle marquetry, stained horn and tortoiseshell inlaid on brass – mounts: bronze, fire gilt, chased and punched – hands: brass, gilt, perforated – height 103 cm, width 54 cm, depth 27 cm – diameter of white enamel dial 30 cm – Inv. 1951.14.

Pocket watch

Casing: Huaud brothers, Geneva, ca. 1720 – movement and enamel dial: Abraham Colomby, Geneva, ca. 1740 – Enamelled gold, hands silver – diameter 3.15 cm, thickness 2 cm – Inv. 1983.1053.

The case of this smallest known watch by the Huaud brothers bears a delicately painted …

Box sundial in the form of a pendant

Christoph Schissler the Elder, Augsburg, 1580 – three parts (lid, plate, base); bronze, gilt – diameter 4.4 cm, height 1.2 cm – compass: diameter 1.5 cm – Inv. 1982.522.

Christoph Schissler (Augsburg ca. 1530-1608) was one of the outstanding instrument makers …

Automaton clock (seated monkey)

Carol Schmidt, Augsburg, 1st quarter 17th century – Hour striking train – figure: bronze, fire gilt – base: wood painted black, glass and iron – mechanism: brass and iron – plates gilt – spring with gut line on a fusee – bell: bronze – dial: silver, enamelled on the inside – hands: blued steel – height 32 cm, width 78 cm, depth 15.8 cm – Inv. 1982.1197.

Carol Schmidt, born probably in 1586 in Augsburg, became a master in 1614 and died in …

Astronomical coach clock with outer case

Jean Le Senne, Paris, ca. 1650 – Alarum and hour striking train – case: silver, cast, pierced, engraved – dials: parcel gilt – cover with inserted glass – hands: blued steel – outer case: copper, beaten, covered with shagreen leather – mechanism: brass and iron plates gilded – spring with gut line and fusee – diameter 12.6 cm – with outer case 13.7 cm – thickness (with glass) 6.3 cm – Inv. 1982.1161.

The engraved signature in italic script on the back plate reads, "A Paris Jean le Senne". …

Table clock

Samuel Berckmann, Augsburg, ca. 1670 – Hour chime and alarum – decagonal casing of bronze, fire gilt – spring with chain and fusee – hands of blued steel – height 12 cm, diameter 14 cm – enamel chapter ring, diameter 9.5 cm, width 2 1 cm – alarum disc, gilt, diameter 5.2 cm – Inv. 1983.1154.

Samuel Berckmann, born in Reichenstein in Silesia, was granted the right to practise as a …

Weight driven wall clock

Unsigned, France(?), mid 15th century – Foliot iron – height (front) 29 cm, depth 13.5 cm, diameter of chapter ring 12.5 cm – Inv. 1983.1162.

This early example of a clock of frame construction was used as a watchman's clock and …

Horse shoe magnet in six layers

Johann Dietrich, Basle, 1755; Iron – height of four outer layers 14.5 cm, width 10.5 cm, depth of two outer layers 0.95 cm – of two inner layers 15.9 cm, width 10.5 cm, depth 9.5 cm – sleeves of brass, partially engraved

The invention of the horse shoe magnet should perhaps be credited to the Basle citizen …

Astronomical table clock by Niklaus d'Annone

Basel, late 17th century – Case: copper, gold-plated with silver inlay; hands: blued steel – H 66 cm, W 30.3 cm, D 26.3 cm – Inv. 1889.70.

This late example of a tower-shaped clock is the costliest of all the clocks to have been …

Tulip watch

Geneva, ca. 1640 – Jean-Baptiste Duboule (1615–1694) Movement with verge escapement, gut on fusee winding mechanism; hour hand – Inv. 1983.1078.

The tulip-shaped watch case consists of three petals made of finely cut rock crystal with a …

Silver watch with engraved openwork case

Geneva, ca. 1650 – Jean Rousseau II (1606–1684) Inv. 1983.1007.

This watch is fitted with an automatic striking mechanism and alarm. The bottom plate is …

Gold pocket watch with exquisite enamel painting

Geneva and Turkey, ca. 1700 – Jean-Pierre Huaud (1655–1723) “Huaud le puisné fecit” (case) Movement with verge escapement, gut on fusee winding mechanism, gilded plates; hour hand – Inv. 1982.1023.

As evidence of the close relations that existed between Geneva and Turkey around 1700, this …

Rock crystal watch

Geneva, ca. 1660 – François Chenevière (1639–1702) Movement with verge escapement, gut on fusee winding mechanism, enamelled copper dial; hour hand – Inv. 1983.1020.

A movement of great finesse and a case made of rock crystal make this little watch in the …

Enameled gold watch with outer case made of leather with gold piqué

Geneva, ca. 1690 – Isaac Perrot (ca. 1644–1693) (movement) (bottom plate signed) “GD” (case) Movement with verge escapement, chain on fusee winding mechanism; hour hand – Inv. 1983.1043.

The enamel painting on the back of the case shows a scene from Classical mythology: Venus …


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