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Collecting Carriage Clocks

Miniature Carriage  clock

Travel clocks have existed since the Renaissance but what we call the carriage clock and the french call "pendule de voyage" appeared at the end of the 18th century. It's purpose was simple and practical, to keep time whilst travelling, from that developed such clocks as the "pendules d'officier" which officers took on campaign with them.

The first carriage clocks were made in Paris by the great horologist Abraham Louis Breguet and were designed for the very wealthy, such as Napoleon Bonaparte and the Queen of Spain etc.. These were the finest carriage clocks ever made and now command huge prices for the simplest examples and for the very best, if they can be found, cost hundreds of thousands.
Miniature Carriage  clock

The 19th century was an age of increasing travel and it wasn't only the wealthy who needed to be on time, the less well off also needed clocks. This fact was acted on by another Frenchman, Paul Garnierwho adopted a more industrial approach to production. The high quality machine made components and standardised parts revolutionised the industry in the 1830's and soon led to a rapid expansion.

The clocks became very popular, particularly in England, many carrying the names of retailers and clockmakers although the actual manufacturer often stamped the back plate DC for Drocourt, for example.

Their popularity stemmed from the many varieties available, there was a carriage clock to suit most tastes and pockets.

Collectors of French carriage clocks judge them according to two distinct criteria ie. functions and style of case.

The simplest clocks are called time pieces which just tell the time. The next level are those which strike the hours. Then there are the clocks that repeat the last hour at the push of a button and perhaps have an alarm. Each of thse functions would have added to the original cost and would therefore reflect in todays prices.

More complicated features such as grande sonnerie, whereby the will strike and repeat the quarter hours, are highly sort after; even more so are the clocks which repeat the time to the last minute. Calendar work also adds value as does the facility to show the phases of the moon.

Certain case style also attract a premium. For example, the gorge with it's grooved angles, tended to be used only for the best clocks. When such cases are gilded and engraved the price goes up even further.

Some collectors will pay high prices for porcelain or enamel side panels, (but they must be in good condition) Size also comes into it by determining the value, with miniature or giant versions of the same clock generally costing more.

As with all collecting, originality is of utmost importance. A replaced escapement can greatly reduce the value of even the best clock, whilst original accessories such as leather travel cases and keys are prized by discriminating buyers.

The sheer variety of French carriage clocks makes them an ideal collectors item and although we don't need them any more, they are still practical and look good on any shelf or cabinet.



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