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The measurement of time has always fascinated men. In the West, the first mechanical clocks emerged in the Middle Ages. They did not have a dial or hands but rather a foliot escapement that made it possible to strike the hours. Shortly before the Renaissance, the weight-driven mechanism was replaced by a spring that could be wound with a key. The mechanism became miniature in size. Clocks, which had until then been mounted on walls, were henceforth placed on a surface: they were called ‘table clocks’.
The sixteenth- and seventeenth-century models usually have only one hand that indicates the hours. The vertical dial is characteristic of the horloge tour (table clock in tower form) and the horloge tambourin has a horizontal dial. There is a model that is emblematic of the period: the Augsburg clock, which has two dials, one for the hours and the other for the minutes.