The Carriage Clock

View our selection of carriage clocks in our Clocks collection

The development of the carriage clock in the early 18th century was designed to meet the need for a portable timepiece. The first carriage clock was made very early in the 19th Century by Abraham Louis Breguet - reputedly for Napoleon who wanted a portable clock to take with him on campaign. Initially referred to as “pendule d’officier” or “pendule de voyage”, by 1810, the basic design of the carriage clock was much as we know it today. Breguet's carriage clock cases were either wooden in the empire style, metal in the empire style or hump-backed silver cases. However the first production carriage clocks did not appear until around 1830.

 

Prior to this the use of a pendulum mechanism meant that clocks would need to be re-regulated each time they were re-situated, unless kept on a perfectly level surface each time. The bracket and mantel clocks of the time (with pendulum mechanisms) also tended to be larger and heavier - restricting where they could be placed. It was the development of the platform escapement in France that enabled the carriage clock to be truly portable. Popular with French makers, the advantages of the platform escapement meant that the system soon spread to German and English clock makers (although the platforms themselves often came from Switzerland). The golden age of classic carriage clocks was between 1860 and 1900 coinciding with the increased ability to travel comfortably on roads and rail. The majority were produced near Belfort in France (typically unsigned) and mainly exported to England.

French gorge cased 8-day repeater carriage clock with alarm.

French gorge cased 8-day repeater carriage clock with alarm. Retailed by Charles Frodsham & Co.

The lever escapement was first invented in the mid 18th century but was not in common use until the 19th century. Its accuracy together with it being a self-starting escapement (so if shaken so that the balance wheel stops, it will automatically start again) made it a popular choice for carriage clock makers.

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