Carriage clocks are small, portable clocks driven by springs. They often have a brass or gilt-brass rectangular case, a carrying handle and often glass panels. They were known as carriage clocks as they were designed for travelling, and had separate fitted cases for protection. A common feature of carriage clocks is the glazed window on top of the case, through which the works can be seen.
French master clockmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet was credited with the invention of the carriage clock around 1796, but the heyday of the carriage clock was the mid to late 19th century (until they were superseded by wristwatches), and the firm of Breguet was a major influence in design and manufacture. As well as plainer, less expensive clocks, Breguet made top-of-the-range timepieces with decorated dials and silver cases. The British Museum has a record of such a clock being sold by Breguet’s in 1822 for the fabulous sum of FFr4,800. Other noted makers include Paul Garnier, Alfred Drocourt, Henry Marc, Henri Jacot, Leroy & Fils and, in England, James McCabe.
These little clocks are decorative as well as practical, and there’s strong interest from home collectors as well as horologists. Prices can vary enormously depending on quality, maker, condition and complexity. As a general rule, English clocks are more valuable than French as fewer were produced and they were larger in size. There’s a strong market for carriage clocks in good condition, and unusual features such as ornaments, calendars, engraving or enamelling, porcelain panels or an original travelling case will increase value. Often clocks are ‘cannibalised’ for repairs with a modern movement being paired with an old case, so authenticity is another factor.
Below are a few highlights, or click here to browse our Sold Lots Archive.
We offer a free valuation service to people who are considering the sale of their items through our auction room. Click the button to complete our short form, and one of our experts will be in touch.