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Carriage Clocks

In my many antique clock blogs to date,  I have talked about the rise of clockmaking in England and London being the centre of clock manufacture in the 17th and 18th centuries. The tide starts to turn though through the 19th century. You will then see more makers from France and Germany exporting their products to the UK.

The Rise of Continental Clock Making

The French clock makers became very adapt at clock making during the start of the 19th century. I will look at the introduction of the French carriage clocks here and its impact on the market. The carriage clock above further details are found by on small carriage clock.

Abraham-Louis Breguet

It was Abraham Louis Breguet (1747-1823) that was in my opinion the finest of all the continental horologists. Breguet is classified as the inventor of the French carriage clock. He gave one of these clocks to Emperor Napoleon in 1812. A.L.Breguet although born in Switzerland spent almost his entire productive life in Paris. His career began with a series of new inventions in the field of watches.

The era of Balance Wheel Clocks

He invented the self winding perpetual watch for example. During the French Revolution Breguet took refuge back in Switzerland but he soon returned to Paris with further new groundbreaking horological ideas. He came up with the Breguet spring balance which was fundamental to the invention of the carriage clock. After his death in 1823 many would mention this great inventor and horologist as one of the greatest pioneers of  scientific achievements in the field of time-keeping in France.

Carriage clocks are usually made of brass or gilt brass have numerous glass windows to see the mechanism. These clocks have a platform escapement visible through the top glass window. These clocks use a balance and balance spring to control the timekeeping. This balance effectively made the clock very transportable, the way other clocks were not at the time.

Easy transportation – clocks on the move

Clocks were thus made smaller by not having to have a pendulum. These clocks were spring driven and could have a repeat function to show the last hour/half hour. These clocks were exported in vast numbers from C 1860 to C 1920. I suppose production was at his height around C 1860/80 in France. Many of these carriage clocks were made in France and retailed in the UK. The makers normally had some mark or feature engraved on the back of the movement. This you can normally decipher in a good French carriage clock makers book.


These French carriage clock are generally of ‘8-day’ duration. They are very good Christmas presents. Prices go from £300 or £400 upwards for timepiece examples. Repeating carriage clocks tend to go from around £1,500 upwards. Some porcelain panel carriage clocks and champleve enamel carriage clocks were also made. These are rarer and tend to be alot more money. It is important when purchasing these French carriage clocks to check the clock has an original escapement. Many have been changed over the years.