This is the second and final part of my piece on French carrage clocks based on the lecture that was eld here in our shop in September 2016.
Paul Garnier (1801 – 1869) was a good and inventive clockmaker who had been a student of Janvier. Besides his craft as clockmaker he was a smart business man. His important role in the development of the French carriage clock was only really discovered after research in the early 70-s of the 20th Century. A jury report of a great exhibition in 1828 states that Garnier had no travel clocks in his collection. But according to a jury report of 1834 he did have them, several types actually. In the report there is also mentioned that these clocks are very popular. Finally there is stated that he had sold more travel clocks in two years than that there had been sold in all time before!! This is of course a very important remark because it means that he had discovered and opened a market that had been unknown before.
Here we see an example of the first generation carriage clocks that Garnier made. They were more affordable for a larger group of people because of the lower production costs. This was the case because Granier used the blanc roulant movements (pre fabricated, see part 1) and a well designed but relatively simple case. Besides that Garnier used an escapement of his own design that could be made mechanically. This escapement was patented by him in 1829.
Here is a picture of an early Garnier travel clock in parts. The design is relatively simple but very functional and neutral which could well be the reasons why it appealed to a lot of people. There were a few unpractical features though. First there was the front glass panel which had to be slid-up to gain access to the hands and winding holes. But it wasn’t secured which must have led to many broken or lost front panels. The front access to the winding holes and hands (the operating of these will later move to the back) also made it easily possible for a clumsy client to damage the hands.
Garnier’s frictional rest escapement was based on escapements by Enderlich and Sully as illustrated by the two upper escapements in the picture to the left.
The lower escapement is Garnier’s which consists of a semi-circular disc mounted on the balance axis. A tooth of one of the two parallel wheels which are connected to each other, rest on the disc alternating. Because of the shape of the teeth these wheels push the disc each time and thus giving impulse to the balance wheel. As already mentioned this escapement could be made by a machine which made it cheaper. It also omitted the use of a bevel gearing.
Here is a later carriage clock by Paul Garnier. The shape of the case is more rectangular and less square in comparison with the early clocks. This type of case is called ‘one-piece’ because the parts above the plinth are all solded together and form a whole. The ‘one-piece’ case is typical for early clocks before 1850.
Both case and mask surrounding the dial are finely engraved which must have made the clock much more expensive. We also see that the winding arbours and setting of the hands now has to be done at the back of the clock.
To my opinion the reasons of the sudden success of Garnier’s carriage clocks can be a attributed to a number of factors. First there is the rise of the ‘bourgeoisie’ in the first half of the 19th Century providing a large potential client base. This group was maybe less rich than the nobility of the 18th Century, but the group was much larger and still affluent enough to buy nice things. Secondly there was the smart production process and escapement keeping production costs at reasonable level. These costs were certainly lower than than those of the pendules d’officier. But most important to my opinion was the design was the most important reason for the success. Compared to these new carriage clocks, the Capucines look a little archaic. Although they are made for travelling, they proved to fit very nicely in an interior because of their neutral appearance.
Soon other clockmakers started to specialise in carriage clocks like Marc, Jules, jacot and Bourdin among others. Between 1830 and 1850 the production grows steadily. To the right we see an engraved ‘one-piece’ carriage clock from about 1845. Typical for the period are the trefoil hands which we also see on pendules clocks from this era.
Around 1845 the ‘Corniche’ case was introduced. It is a simple, neutral and elegant design of which the parts are screwed together this time, making it easier to produce than the ‘one-piece’. The name corniche refers to a simple moulding. It is the most common type of case which was produced from now until the end of the carriage clock production.
Here we see the parts of the Corniche case. All parts were cast seperately in sand and after that polished and worked by hand. Because of its simple straight lines, the parts were relatively easy to produce.
Even in the early period of these travel clocks there was a large difference in quality and execution. Depicted here is a fine clock of the famous clockmaker Bourdin. The case is of the Corniche type but executed with beautiful mouldings and fine foliate engraving. The ‘closed’ backpanel has holes with shutters for winding and setting the hands. It is also beautifully engraved. The feature of the ‘closed’ backpanels will dissappear after 1855.
Here is another clock by Bourdin illustrating that there were also carriage clocks of this type made for the very rich. The clocks has indicatons for time, seconds, alarm, phases of the moon, date, days of the week and power reserve. The finely egraved case is adourned with red marble panels.
I also wanted to show this carriage clock by Japy Frères from about 1845 which has a mechanical bird in the upper glazed part that moves and whistles. When we keep the clock above by Bourdin in mind we can already doubt if it was practical to travel with such a large clock. When we see this clock by Japy it is very unlikely that this clock was used fro travelling. It illustrates the fact that besides the practical travel clocks there were carriage clocks made purely for decoration and the use in the home. Thus serving an even larger market. It lead to the development of more types of cases and the further embellishment of the carriage clock.
Around 1855 the ‘gorge’ case was introduced. The name ‘gorge’ means steep valley or canyon which refer to the hollow and ogee mouldings of the parts. Because of the more intricate mouldings, it was more laborious to produce and therefore more expensive. The gorge case was almost exclusively used by the better makers like Drocourt, Margaine and Brocot. It is therefore very unlikely to find a gorge cased carriage clock with an inferior movement. The clock depicted here has a finely engraved case and mask.
Here is another example of a gorge case carriage clock. This clock with it’s plain mouldings and white dial it has a totally different appearance.
About five years after the first gorge case, the case ‘à l’Anglaise’ was introduced. The most striking feature of this type of case is the rectangular plinth and handle. The name ‘Anglaise’ would imply English taste but this is just a name because the gorge and corniche cased clocks were also sold very well in England.
Here was see another example of an Anglaise carriage clock made around 1880 but now throughout decorated with cloisonné enamel. Again the rectangular features of the plinth and handle are distinctive for this type of case.
Again a few years later around 1870 the ‘Bamboo’ case was introduced, with it’s parts simulating bamboo. Typical for the period in which there was a lot of interest for the art and culture of the Orient. Just as with the Gorge and Anglaise cases we can state that this type was only used by the better makers. Of the three types, the bamboo is the most rare. This fine clock has porcelain panels painted and signed by F. Gardon. Besides a rare case, this clock has four fine paintings which made this clock a very exclusive and valuable piece, It is also a good example of a clock made for the interior instead of travelling. Even though these clocks were transported in travel cases, the porcelain panels remain delicate.
Here we see two further bamboo case carriage clocks, both with porcelain panels. One of the two is a miniature which makes it a very collectable item or fancy gift. So besides being practical travel clocks and pieces for the home interior, they were also collectable. With this another market was targeted by the makers who sought new clientele.
Here is a nice example of collectable clocks. Some very small, or very large and all decorated with either enamel or porcelain panels.
Besides the fairly common Corniche, the more exclusive Gorge and Anglaise, and the more rare Bamboo, more types of cases were made. It is impossible to show all types of cases. But to illustrate the diversity I will now show a few examples.
A very rare type is the Rococo case made from about 1860 but in small numbers. The quality of the casting can very tremendously. Some of the clocks were chiseled very well after casting and after that gilt. But there are also Rococo cases that were not chiseled after the casting and lack a lot of detail therefore. The Rococo case was made well up to 1900.
Here is another rare type of carriage clock made in the shape of a sedan. Clearly this case has nothing to do with travelling and only with collecting and decoration.
The clock shown here is over 30 cm high and has a movement striking the hours and quarters (grande sonnerie). Below in the finely engraved mask there is a calendar dial with indications for day of the week, date, month and phases of the moon. The beautiful architectoral case is made up of a stunning 105 parts. This rare clock has a handle but the size doesn’t seem practical for travelling to me. With the rare case made up of that large number of parts in combination with the calendar and fine movement, this clock must have cost a fortune.
Here is a price list of the famous maker Margaine dating from circa 1875. Unfortunately we don’t know which models are represented by the numbers, but we do get a good impression of the differences in prices between the clocks. We can see that the most simple corniche case combined with the most simple movement with cylinder escapement can already been bought for 40 francs. But the most expensive type of case (we don’t know which) combined with a quarter repeating movement with alarm costs 246 francs. This is over six times as much!
There are even more expensive clocks on the list. On the right we see the prices for clocks with ‘superior’quality movements. It is remarkable to see that a ‘superior’ movement with only half hour striking is much more expensive (314 francs) than the quarter repeating clocks with lesser quality movements. We can conclude from this that the quality of the movement made a big difference to the value of the clock. The work of a clockmaker was valued greatly. This conclusion is strengthened when looking at a price list of Frodsham of 1893. Here we see a gorge case, time only with compensated balance offered for 6 1/2 pounds. A gorge case clock with striking, repetition and alarm with compensated balance was offered for 15 pounds which is 2 1/2 times as much.
Finally there is a price list of Duverdery & Bloquel from 1910, the company of which we saw an illustration in the first part. The price of a corniche clock with cylinder escapement was 1,1 pound. The same clock but now with a anchor escapement was 2,2 pounds. We can conclude from this that the anchor escapement and the work of a good clockmaker was valued as much as the movement, case and dial together.
Besides the substantial price differences in regard to the types of cases and movements, there were other options for the clients to chose from that influenced the price. We already have seen painted porcelain panels, cloisonné enamel and finely engraved decoration. And an engraved mask surrounding a dial was more expensive than a plain white dial. The clock shown here which has Limoges enamel panels and an engraved Gorge case must have been a very expensive piece.
The peak of carriage clock production was around 1880. From the beginning on, the French carriage clock was an important export article. We can only do an educated guess to the number of clocks that have been made but some conclusions can be made when looking at the production numbers of the ‘blanc roulants’ (prefabricated movements).
There have been a few enquiries in the 19th Century which shed some light on the matter.
An enquiry of 1857 reports that 170.000 blancs were made in the East of France (Jura and the area near the Swiss border). In 1867 this number had grown to 200.000, and in addition 30.000 music boxes and 100.000 escapements had been made. In 1878 a survey reports a number of 400.000 blanc roulants which means that the production had been doubled in 20 years!
The figures regarding the West of Franse (St.-Nicholas d’Alliermont) are a little less detailed. But in 1867 there were 144.000 movements made. The survey of 1878 states that production had grown with 35% compaired to 1867 which would mean that about 216.000 movements had been made.
These numbers of course do not only refer to travel clocks, but also to pendulum clocks and even simple alarms. The numbers do indicate that there was a considerable production which was at it’s peak around 1880.
The technical development of the movements is concluded around 1860. But the development in new cases besides the existing ones does go on, often fitting the latest style. To illustrate this fact we see here a carriage clock from about 1890 which has a lot of Art Nouveau influences and translucent enamel over an engined turned ground. This technique is seen from about 1890 onwards. The use of Arabic numerals on the dial is typical for some clocks between 1890 and 1910.
Here is a gorge cased clock which has been embellished with beautiful Art Nouveau translucent enamel panels. This clock also has Arabic numerals typical and was probably made around 1900.
Although there were still good quality clocks made after 1900, the main production is limited to the lower end clocks having time only or an alarm in addition.
A production of silver miniatures often decorated with translucent enamel was started around 1900 in Switzerland. Here we see an example of about 1925 in Art Deco style. The impact of World War I was probably less profound in Switzerland. This might well be the reason that the Swiss could establish themselves in the luxury market instead of the French.
On the picture here we see a travel clock with a case called ‘Doucine’. Many parts are made of flat brass that is ‘chased’ or bent into shape instead of cast parts. This is much easier and therefore cheaper to produce. Clocks with this kind of case are almost always provided with simple movements. It is a clock that is typical for the later Frencg carriage clock and heralding the end of French carriage clocks.
After the first World War there were carriage clocks made in France but the production consisted almost only of simple and cheap versiosns. To the right we see a number of late carriage clocks. Clearly the cases have been simplified and constructed like the Doucine from ostly bent brass parts. Again these were easy to produce by machines. It is the last phase of the French carriage clock production which had its peak in the second half of the 19th Century. During the interbellum many factories closed or switched to other products like simple alarm clocks etc.. Bloquel and Duverdrey were one of the last to close, they ceased production in 1959.