by Dr. Lori Verderame
Carriage clocks are very popular, small scale, table clocks that were first introduced to the world from French clockmakers during the age of Napoleon Bonaparte in the early 1800s.
A far cry from tall case clocks or mantle clocks, carriage clocks were called by many different names. Other names for carriage clocks included sedan clocks, officer’s clocks, and bracket clocks even though there were differences between carriage clocks and these other clock types. For instance, carriage clocks were associated with military officers for their portability and accuracy. With troops relocating frequently during battle, carriage clocks were easy to move from place to place.
Carriage clocks were introduced to replace bracket clocks which were small scale clocks that ran with the aid of a pendulum. Popular in the 1700s, bracket clocks used a pendulum and hanging weights attached to a bracket in order to drive the clockwork mechanism. Unlike bracket clocks that were mounted to a particular spot, carriage clocks did not have to use weights and thanks to the innovative platform escapement and balance spring mechanism, they were both highly portable and accurate.
Carriage clocks have a highly recognizable clear window or glass lens called an aperture located at the top of the clock’s case. This window reveals the clockwork’s mechanism and allows the owner to view the platform escapement easily to assess the clock’s working condition.
What to Look For
Values for carriage clocks vary widely with collectors paying top dollar for good examples of brass carriage clocks.
Seek out carriage clocks that have interesting design details–hand painted dials, porcelain faces, enamel work or gilt.
Brass or polished metal cases in good condition with fold-down handles at the top.
Most carriage clocks produced during the golden age of carriage clocks, circa 1840-1900, were made in France and distributed through England and parts of continental Europe. The majority of carriage clocks have an 8 day spring movement. Some carriage clocks have striking trains that strike bells or gongs, too.
Get an online appraisal of your carriage clock from Dr. Lori.