As the clocks go back across the nation, one iconic timepiece comes forward, as the famous Fortnum & Mason clock is unveiled in all its restored resplendent glory. Piccadilly has missed this iconic landmark.
The clock has functioned faithfully since 4th November 1964, without rest. It has witnessed national celebrations, marches and hordes of Christmas shoppers. In recognition of its long and unstinting service, in recent months it has undergone a complete restoration and refurbishment. On October 30th it will finally be revealed, following a painstaking and detailed renovation that has taken five months to complete.
The clock was commissioned by Fortnum’s owner Garfield Weston, who wished to make a present of something useful, beautiful and British to Piccadilly. It was designed by Fortnum’s in-house creative genius, Berkeley Sutcliffe, whose brief was to portray the 1707 founders of the firm William Fortnum and Hugh Mason.
The clock is an outstanding example of British craftsmanship, being made by companies of horologists, bell founders and woodcarvers whose origins date back to the sixteenth century. The restoration carries on this tradition, the work being carried out by Haward Horological Limited, which is a small Ipswich based enterprise comprising Ian and Jack Haward, the son and grandson of the clock’s original horologist, Peter Haward.
The latest generations of the family have taken immense pains to ensure that the internal mechanics, hammers and tune players have been returned to their original glorious working order. They have ensured that, every hour, on the hour, the four-foot high mechanical figures of Mr Fortnum and Mr Mason will emerge from their pavilions to greet the Piccadilly public, accompanied by striking chimes and 18th century tunes. The two figures will once more bow to one another before making their stately progress to their resting places, until the next hour strikes.
The external restorations took days of deep cleaning, (we hesitate to say – for the first time since it was installed), 8 days of painting, and 7 days when over 450 pages of 23.5 carat gold leaf was applied to the clock casing and to Mr Fortnum and Mr Mason.
Finally restored to its original magnificent condition, the clock, now almost 50 years old, in timely fashion is ready to greet the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012.