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Works of Art and Clocks

Mantel Clocks

Mantel clocks are a type of antique clock that differ to a bracket clock. A mantel clock tends to be a smaller antique clock in a base metal, often ormolu or bronze, or in a marble case, and tend to be of French manufacture.

As the name suggests, mantel clocks where made to sit on a mantelpiece and, therefore, the proportions tended to favour a case that was longer but thinner.

A French ormolu and chempleve enamel clock garniture (FS18/763) went to the Chinese market for a winning bid of £4,200.

A French ormolu and chempleve enamel clock garniture went to the Chinese market for a winning bid of £4,200.

The majority of mantel clock examples that pass through our hands are of French manufacture, with movements supplied by the leading clock makers of the day such as Henri Marc, Pons, Samuel Marti, Japy Freres and Raingo Freres being the most prolific, with each mantel clock movement maker having his own individual stamp that would be embossed on the backplate of the clock movement.

Other, more illustrious French mantel clock makers were supplying the nobility and aristocracy of France in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and, therefore, mantel clocks signed by makers such as Lepine, Lepaute, Janvier and, of course, the great Abrham Brequet command quite a premium.

The English also produced fine mantel clocks with Victorian makers such as the Vulliamy family, although their clock movements tended to be made with a fusee rather than the French style with a spring barrel.

Other countries were producing fine mantel clocks, not least the Austrians, the Germans, and the Dutch who were at the forefront of horological innovation, Amsterdam being the home of Christiaan Huygens who, working his magic on Christmas Day, 1656, adapted an existing clock movement to use a pendulum and so invented the first pendulum clock, as opposed to the far less relable balance escapement.

Specialists

Martin McIlroyMartin McIlroy
Department Head

Leigh ExtenceLeigh Extence
Clock Consultant