Antique Carriage Clocks
The term Antique carriage clocks refer to carriage clocks that were produced from the early-nineteenth century up until the First World War.
Brief history and description
Carriage clocks were designed in France for travelling in the early-nineteenth century and were also known as “Officer Clocks”. These small, spring-driven clocks were invented by Abraham-Louise Breguet for the Emperor Napoleon in 1812.
The French carriage clocks built in the early part of the nineteenth century were usually made by just a half dozen of clock makers. Breguet was considered as the early master of the small box-like timepieces and it was his masterful use of size and dimension that encouraged the carriage clock to spread from France to Britain.
A carriage clock's case was typically rectangular and constructed from plain or gilt brass and equipped with a carrying handle. The clocks were often set with glass, though more expensive models featured enamel or porcelain panels.
Carriage clocks became more prevalent in both France and Britain from the 1820s. Clock makers such as Paul Garnier and Alfred Drocourt in France designed distinctive models that were both aesthetically pleasing but also had advanced methods of time-keeping. British clock makers, such as James McCabe, began producing carriage clocks locally in order to dispel the need for French exports and became extremely popular.
Many of the most popular carriage clocks were produced in the 1850s when the standard of clock making was extremely high. Perhaps the three most renowned makers from this period are Henry Marc, Henri Jacot and Leroy & Fils.
Guide for collectors
Carriage clocks made by Breguet that have retained their original maker's mark are extremely desirable to collectors and can fetch extremely high prices. Additionally, Henri Jacot pieces are always of excellent quality and are equally sought after by clock collectors.
Prices for carriage clocks increase depending on the quality of the case, their brand and the degree of complexity of the movement mechanism. Furthermore, if the clock retains its original travelling case, then this can make the piece considerably more expensive.
As a general rule, English carriage clocks fetch higher prices than French pieces, on account that they were produced in smaller numbers and were significantly larger than French carriage clocks. English carriage clocks were commonly produced by the best London clock makers such as Charles Frodsham, Dent & Company and McCabe.
High quality carriage clocks manufactured by the most notable clock makers are regularly sold at Bonhams and Christie’s, specialist antique clock dealers such as Gütlin Clocks and the online antique dealers, such as Sellingantiques.co.uk and Antiquorum.com. Collectors should, however, proceed with caution as there are many reproductions in the current market. Always buy from reputable dealers.
In April 2011, a Breguet silver carriage clock with ten complications was sold by Antiquorum in Geneva for a record $230,000. Produced in 1812, only a few were ever made and the price set a new record for a sold carriage clock.
A McCabe bronze carriage clock, dated towards the end of the nineteenth, realised a price of £7,800 when it was sold by Bonhams, London, in December 2005.