A British horological expert has confirmed that a 430-year-old timepiece given as a gift to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, is in mint condition, almost completely original and worth a fortune.
In a news conference on May 17, David Thompson, curator of the Horological Collections at the British Museum, said the clock was extremely valuable because there was no other like it in the world.
Thompson, 62, was asked to come to Japan to examine a clock presented to Ieyasu (1542-1616) in 1611 by the Spanish king. He examined the interior of the timepiece from May 16.
Thompson said there were signs of three small repairs over the years, including replacement of the spring. However, those repairs were all made before the clock was presented to Ieyasu, leading Thompson to conclude that 99 percent of the parts were from the time the clock was manufactured.
Because there are almost no signs of any repairs or reconstruction, the clock is in the same condition as when it was produced in the 16th century. The wind-up brass clock is 10.5 centimeters deep and wide and 21.5 cm high.
The clock is owned by the Mount Kuno-zan Toshogu shrine in Shizuoka city and is on permanent display at the museum that is located within the shrine grounds.
"We will take very good care of it as a treasure of the world," said Hidekuni Ochiai, the head priest of the Kuno-zan Toshogu shrine.
The clock was made in 1581 by a clockmaker living in the Flanders region of what is now Belgium who worked for the Spanish king.
The clock, designated by the Japanese government as an important cultural property, was presented to Ieyasu as an expression of gratitude for saving a Spanish ship that was wrecked off the coast of what is now Chiba Prefecture.
There are about 20 clocks made by craftsmen in the Flanders region from the 16th century that remain in the world. However, all of those clocks now use parts that were replaced much later or underwent major repairs. Another factor that makes the Ieyasu clock very unique is the existence of the leather box in which it was stored.
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