The carriage clock has often been seen as a gift, an often ornate timepiece given from one person to another to celebrate a particular milestone be it in work or personal life. For many people, these delicate-looking clocks adorn a mantelpiece and remind them of this proud life moment. For others, these antique clocks become part of a beautiful collection and are the pride and joy of the collector.

Much like someone that collects watches or art, every carriage clock has a story behind it and the collector embellishes themselves in the allure, history and magic that may be found within each clock.

We see this at The Clock Clinic a lot where our clock repairs help keep this passion for collecting high and the love of antiques thriving.

When were carriage clocks invented?

As with anything of antique origin, people often want to know when the first iteration of the item became known. With carriage clocks, things evolved, rather than became invented.  Portable timepieces were already in circulation and over time changes to coach watches and the pendules d’officer among others gradually led to the creation of the carriage clock.

What we know today though as a carriage clock began to appear in the 19th century thanks to the craftsmanship of the famous Abraham Louis Breguet. He carefully crafted clocks that were not only exceptional in appearance but also in their mechanisms. In fact, his first carriage clock was made especially for Napoleon in 1812.

The careful and exquisite design and mechanisms led to very high price points which made the first real carriage clocks become items only obtained by the wealthy. Today, when they do appear at auction, it is not unusual for them to reach five or six figures.

By 1839, demand for such portable clocks was on the rise and other expert watch or clockmakers were soon to take this on board. Paul Garnier, another famous French clockmaker was the first to launch them to mass market and found instant success. From here on, plenty of others followed suit both in France and here in the UK.

Carriage clocks in Britain

The rise in popularity caused by the innovation of Breguet and the development by Garnier saw carriage clocks become a household staple for many. None more so than in the houses of Britain. A simple design by Paul Garnier had a tremendous impact and interestingly, despite the huge numbers being sold, almost all were heading across the channel to the UK. Whilst still selling in France and being lovingly designed there too, the market was largely dominated by British custom. Factor in the work of Armand Couaillet too and the mass production of carriage clocks was starting to satisfy a growing demand.

For the most part, the carriage clocks heading for British shores were finished in Paris but the movements and were put together nearer Dieppe. The escapements would be coming from companies closer to the Swiss border and the springs from somewhere else across the vast French landscape. Despite this being a Garnier creation, the industry spawned many businesses that were specialists in creating standard parts. Much like the car industry we see today, this sub-contracting allowed for clocks to bear names of retailers that hadn’t actually built the clock but had rather ordered bulk stock from these suppliers.

How do carriage clocks work?

A carriage clock is often identified by the handle. It more or less defines the clock in terms of appearance. The interior does also lend something as to why they are so special though. Antique carriage clocks are spring-driven with a balance and balance spring. These are what help keep the clock accurate. In addition, the platform escapement is something seen as unique. The glazed aperture showcases the escapement much better and helped allow the clock to become portable and replace the common, large, heavy, and more awkward pendulum clocks that were popular at the time.

What are the types of carriage clocks?

Whilst carriage clocks can come in a variety of finishes, they typically fall under three categories based on size.

The Mignonnettes, are carriage clocks that are under 4 ¼” high with the handle raised, carriage clocks referred to as full size will be between 5 1/2” and 9” and those known as giant are all carriage clocks over 9”.

Today the majority of carriage clocks will fall within the full-size range with giants quite rare and as a result, expensive.

How much are antique carriage clocks worth today?

Antique carriage clocks can be found at a host of auction sites and stores as well as specialist clock stockists like The Clock Clinic and can vary dramatically in price. In some cases, the clock that may look the most expensive often isn’t. Price can be largely determined by the striking of the carriage clock rather than how it looks. Typically, there are four types of striking:

Plain strike

  • The carriage clock will only strike on the hour and a half hour.

Petite Sonnerie

  • Two different bell tones are sounded, and the clock uses them for quarter hours as well as half hours and on the hour.

Grande Sonneri

  • Similar to the Petite Sonnerie but also strikes for the preceding hour at each quarter.

Minute Repeater

  • The same as the Grande Sonnerie but with the addition of sounding the number of minutes that have passed since the last quarter.

When it comes to price today, you could see a carriage clock with a minute repeater selling for as much as £8-9,000.

Should you own a carriage clock that is in need of clock repair or servicing, contact our experts at The Clock Clinic. We have been carefully restoring clocks for many years and our team works to ensure you can enjoy your carriage clock for years to come. Should you be looking to embellish your collection further, our stunning carriage clocks for sale should appease anyone wanting to add something a little extra special to their display.  Open for appointment only, please contact us so we can dedicate our time to you as you browse our collection or have your timepiece carefully bought back to its best.