A rare small French Louis XVI ormolu cartel clock, by Courvoisier, circa 1770
This clock is a ‘Cartel d’alcove’ which literally translates to ‘cartel of the bedroom’. Since a cartel is a decorative French wall clock, there must be something that sets this clock apart from ‘normal’ cartel clocks. First, its size is small size compared to the usual cartel, which were designed to decorate a large room rather than a smaller bedroom. But most of all it is the technical details that place this clock in a bedroom. For instance, there is no automatic hour and half-hour striking, so the clock remains silent. However the clock does have a quarter-repeater function that causes the clock to strike the hours and quarters that have passed when a cord is pulled. In this way, one can hear what time it is in the dark. One shouldn’t forget that turning on the light wasn’t an option, and starting a fire, not that easy. Lastly, this clock even has an alarm, which certainly places this piece close to a bed. But there is another remarkable feature to the movement. There is a clip that can fix the pendulum during transport. This would suggest that this piece could have been installed by the owner wherever he or she lodged. It is amazing what kind of objects were taken along on a trip by the nobility of the eighteenth century.
Therefore, this is not only a beautiful little clock, but it also has very interesting history.
Courvoisier A Paris
The 10-cm enamel dial has Roman numerals and is signed Courvoisier A Paris. The finely pierced and engraved gilt hands are made of brass while the alarm hand is made of blued steel. The signature probably refers to David Louis who became master clockmaker in 1765 and who had his workshop at the Quai Conti. (Tardy, Dictionnaire des Horlogers pp. 145.)
The movement is driven by a spring barrel and has a duration of eight days. It is regulated by anchor escapement in combination with a silk suspended pendulum. By pulling a thread, an auxiliary spring is wound which drives the pull quarter repeating on two bells. The alarm mechanism is activated when another auxiliary spring is wound by an arbor through the dial and which can be set by the blued steel hand.
The case is made of gilt bronze which is called ‘ormolu’ when it is done by fire-gilding. The casting and chiseling is of very good quality. The whole is surmounted by a classical urn, typical for the Louis XVI period just as the berry finials and the garland surrounding the dial. The lower part consists of a beautifully made lion’s mask.