According to French and English horologists, modern carriage clocks, also known as traveling clocks, first came into existence in 1798. A.L. Breguet was responsible for the construction, as well as the sale of this first clock. It was sold to Napoleon in that same year in Paris, France. It is also said that Napoleon required his soldiers to carry these type of clocks so they would never be late for battle.
Traveling clocks were initially designed for travelers to use as a time piece while traveling in carriages drawn by horses. It was essentially a portable clock. The design of the original version of this particular clock was a spring driven mechanism that was encased with a metal frame and a glass setting. For ease in carrying, there was a handle located on the top of the clocks. The clocks had to be wound with a key about once every eight days.
The majority of the carriage clocks marked the hour with chimes. Some played songs, and some even contained a distinctively loud bell that sounded each half hour and hour. Some of the reproductions of today often use batteries, instead of the more costly spring-driven design.
Antique collectors seem to have a fondness for any of the original carriage clocks that may still exist, as well as the authentic reproductions. France, Switzerland, Germany and Belgium all produce these collectible clocks. The most elaborate of the clocks hails from France. They are often purchased for decoration, rather than utility.
Companies have been making and/or restoring carriage clocks for many decades. These companies include L’Epee, Roderick Antique Clocks and Montpellier Clocks. Roderick and Montpellier are restorers of these types of clocks. They purchase high quality, antique carriage clocks that are in restorable condition. They then restore them and resell them to buyers who are interested in owning a unique and timeless piece of history. Proportions, style, color and original design all play into whether or not these companies will choose to restore a particular clock.
In 1975, the Roderick Antique Clocks Company was founded. The types of clocks they purchase, restore and resell include English, German and French made carriage clocks, longcases, skeleton, brackets, wall clocks, decorative French mantel clocks and even barometers. A collector can expect to find clocks made by Dent, Lenzkirch, Marti, Marc, Le Roy, Brocot, Jacot, Japy Freres, Drocourt, Hoffmier and Winterhalder, as well as many clock makers of English origin.
Montpellier Clocks was established in 1958, and they have built an excellent worldwide reputation for restoring quality antique clocks. They choose clocks for their authenticity and quality. Some of the clocks they currently have in stock were also made by some of the great clock makers and include E. J. Dent, Edward East, John Ellicott, William Dutton, Charles Frodsham, George Graham, Henry Hindley, Windmills and Whitehurst and many others. When necessary, they are faithfully restored by their highly-qualified clock makers.
The L’Epee workshop was founded in 1839. They began making the movements, escapements and finally complete Carriage Clocks. Today, as in the last century, they maintain a production of quality and precision by continuing to use the methods of traditional horology.