Time in Hand

A Private Collection of Carriage Clocks

Abraham-Louis Breguet, the most famous and noted clockmaker in France at the end of the 18th and early 19th centuries, developed the pendule de voyage, a timepiece designed to be sturdy, reliable and able to withstand the rigours of travel. Known in English as a carriage clock, these popular timepieces were widely produced throughout the 19th and into the 20th century by a variety of makers, mostly French, and are valued and sought after by collectors today.

While the mechanical features and case decoration can range from simple to highly complex, nearly all carriage clocks follow the same design format: a brass frame body with a carrying handle on the top, a white enamel dial and an 8-day spring-driven mechanism with a platform lever escapement. The more complex clocks have repeating strike mechanisms, and by the end of the 19th century, cases were often highly engraved, enameled or fitted with painted porcelain plaques.

A collection of carriage clocks from a private Scottish collection was offered in our Fine Antiques auction on March 5th 2014. The collection, which was assembled from the late 1950s to the 1980s, included examples by some of the most well-known English and French clockmakers of the 18th and 19th centuries. While other clocks were represented in the collection, it is the group of 19th century carriage clocks that impressed the most.



Of particular interest was a large pendule de voyage by Berthoud, pictured left. The architectural case, with a swan neck cast handle, has a stepped cornice above a silvered dial flanked by Corinthian columns. The Roman numeral hours chapter sits beneath a subsidiary seconds dial and encloses an up/down quadrant (which indicates how long it will be before the clock requires winding). The movement is quite complex, with a remontoir (a device which winds an auxiliary spring to provide a more constant driving force for the escapement) and a chronometer escapement with pivoted detent, all designed to contribute to the accuracy of the works. The clock sold for £10,250.

While the French dominated the production of these popular clocks, those by English makers are particularly desirable due to their scarcity and high quality. A striking and repeating example by James McCabe (pictured left) which sold for £12,500, demonstrates all the restraint characteristic of McCabe clocks. It has a double fusee movement with a striking and repeating mechanism, Roman numeral dial with McCabe’s characteristic fleurs-de-lys tipped blued steel hands, and numbered 3506, dating it to the mid-19th century. McCabe clocks are particularly sought after because of their high quality.


humpback carriage clock


Also of note was a humpback carriage clock with an engine-turned dial and engraved case by Edward John Dent another London-based clockmaker known for producing high quality timepieces during the first part of the 19th century. This example pictuired right, which sold for £16,875, with its unusual arched or humpback, case, has an engine-turned silvered Roman numeral dial with subsidiary seconds dial, an 8-day fusee movement and bears serial number 473. The case is further enhanced with finely engraved foliate scrolls and mounted with a turned ivory handle. Another clock that did well was a small Regency brass rosewood and brass inlay bracket clock by Handley, Windsor which sold for £8,250, soaring to 10 times its original estimate. Specialist Douglas Girton said, " I think the small size and the quality of the movement, as well as its excellent condition, helped to make it one of the surprise lots of the day."

Other clocks in the collection included a William & Mary oyster veneered and marquetry long case clock by Edmund Appley and Adamson (sold for £11,750), a late 17th century ebonized bracket clock by Samuel Watson (sold for £8,500) and 18th century English ebonized bracket clocks by makers Matthew Hill and Peter Wise (sold for £4,375 and £2,500).

For more information please contact our specialist, Douglas Girton.

All prices premium inclusive.


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