Friday, May 7, 2010

Clocks – Daryle Lambert's Antiques and Collectibles Blog – The Sound of Money

 Gilded Mantle Clock

This blog takes me back in time to when I stayed with my grandparents in Louisville, Kentucky. They lived in town, not on a farm like my dad's parents. Each morning, I would be awakened by the chimes of their mantel clock striking , which sure was different than hearing those roosters crow on the farm. I suppose you have guessed it. I am writing about clocks.

Over the years I have met many clock dealers and collectors but most of them specialize, like my friend that just loves carriage clocks. I really didn't know what a carriage clock was but I did manage to find this description.

A carriage clock is a modestly sized clock in a rectangular housing, designed for travel in the 19th century. Since people traveled by carriage in this period, these clocks needed to stand up to the rigors of a trip without failing. Carriage clocks reached their zenith in the late 1860’s, and formal versions were sometimes given to people on special occasions like weddings. Although carriage clocks were considered travel clocks in the 1800’s, they are much larger than conventional travel clocks, to house the traditionally spring-driven mechanism of the clock. Most of these clocks are constructed of metal and glass. 

The most popular clocks I run across are called mantle clocks and they come in all variety of shapes and forms. Here is the description of a mantle clock that I found on the internet.
What is a mantle clock? It is a house timepiece that usually sits upon the mantel or shelf, above the fireplace, inside a house, hence the name.  These timepieces originated in France in the 1750’s. What made these new time pieces different from their close relatives, is the lack of a large handle on the top of the case. The decorative timepieces back then were designed to be taken by carriage, and had the handle for easy maneuverability. Mantel timepieces were designed to be shown off in the home and are very extravagant, artistic and decorative. They are usually made of ormolu, porcelain or wood. 

In the 1860’s some of the French mantel clocks were made of onyx, marble, or slate.  These were very expensive to produce so when American companies started to produce them, they used iron or wood.  The woods used were typically cherry or oak. In modern times even brass is used to make mantel timepieces as there are many different styles of mantle timepieces produced in the modern age.

Mantel and carriage timepieces are both very similar. The main distinguishing attribute is of course the large carrying handle found on the carriage timepieces. Yet today however there seems to be some blending of classifications. Some wooden mantel timepieces with handles are called carriage timepieces, even though traditional carriage timepieces were made of brass. And some brass mantel timepieces without handles are called carriage timepieces simply because they are made of brass. In this day and age the classifications are irrelevant. No one rides in a carriage anymore and the majority of people purchasing decorative mechanical clocks are not buying them to be transported, as there are far more modern timepieces or watches that can serve that purpose better. Both mantel and carriage timepieces share the same mechanical movements and glass cases covering the dials. Both usually have chimes on the hour playing the standard Westminster chime, or a choice of other chimes.

Modern Mantel and carriage timepieces are also made in a much cheaper quartz battery powered movement. They are cheaper to construct, and do not need to be wound every fourteen days. Some think that the history is lost when you use batteries and the antique quality or tradition, not to mention the sound, is lost. However, mantel clocks are a time honored tradition with a rich worldwide history and will continue to bring class to any home.
Mantle clocks come in a variety of styles, materials, and price ranges. Modern technology has made it possible to produce both traditional and modern variations of mantel clocks, making it very easy for consumers to find the perfect timepiece for their home or office.

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Between the carriage and mantle clocks, you will capture the greater percentage of clock collectors. Here is something that might surprise you. Collecting clocks can be one of the most expensive forms of collecting, although many can be purchased rather reasonably. I have just put a collection of clocks on my website, but I am still waiting to price them.

The carriage clocks can start very cheap but then they leap past $5000 very quickly. The mantle clocks, which seem to outnumber the carriage clocks, can be found rather inexpensively but special ones can easily exceed $10,000.

Here are two books that might give you further information: Carriage and Other Traveling Clocks by Derek Roberts, Century of Fine Carriage Clocks by Charles Terwilliger and Joseph Fanelli.

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