Antique French Clocks
Learn more about Antique French Clocks
What is a French Clock?
French clockmaking came of age in the seventeenth century when highly decorated clocks, made from gilt bronze known as Ormolu, were produced to represent the new standards of opulence set by King Louis IV’s Palace of Versailles.
French clockmakers contributed to the new art movement of Neoclassicism; the timekeepers incorporated this new artistic language featuring classical designs, allegories and motifs. Often stone, marble, alabaster or biscuit, was combined with gilded or patinated bronze. Many cases were architectural in design while others displayed classical style figures.
French Clock Features
When and Where Were French Clocks Made?
During the 1790’s, the production of Ormolu increased dramatically, and many casters developed large factories. The use of gilt bronze to make luxury clock cases reached its peak at the beginning of the nineteenth century in France. Thanks to the skill of remarkable bronze casters and chasers, these were not merely timepieces but became objects D’Art.
This golden age of French clockmaking ended toward the end of the 1820’s, as by 1830 French legislation outlawed the fire gilding process. Although it was still in common use until 1900, it was outlawed because of the danger to health of the practitioners. By 1850, French clockmaking had entered into a higher level of mechanisation, sacrificing craftmanship for an increase in productivity and to reduce costs and manufacturing time.
French clocks used many different materials for their clock cases, such as tortoiseshell, to produce fine Boulle clocks. These were inlaid with brass, pewter or ivory, also brass and pewter inlays set in ebony veneers, to produce religieuse style casework.
Clocks featuring rococo detailing were very popular as well as cartel clocks, also known as gilded wall clocks, comtoise and ‘oeil de bueuf’, bulls eye wall clocks. Additionally, French carriage clocks were produced in large numbers, mostly for export to England and America.
The French clockmaking industry thrived with the introduction of the round French movement for mantel clocks. During the turn of the twentieth century, French clockmakers incorporated the aesthetics of Arts and Crafts into their finished products. The Art Deco period was particularly flamboyant for French clock case design.
One of the most successful styles of clock produced in France was the French marble clock. They were sold in large quantities from c.1850 until the beginning of the First World War in 1914 and they were exported all over the world but mainly to Britain and America. They contained the classic eight day ‘Pendule De Paris’ movement made by the prominent makers of the time: Japy Freres, Jean Vincenti, Samuel Marti et Cie, etc.
French Clocks for Sale
A large number of French clocks have undergone a great deal of alteration over the years and as such prices of French clocks are influenced by condition, originality and authenticity. The best advice which applies to buying a French clock is to be vigilant and seek the advice of a reputable experienced dealer.
Olde Time French Clocks for Sale
We supply a wide range of French clocks here at Olde Time. We have a huge choice with each clock more unique than the next.
French Clocks Maintenance and Repair
In order to keep your French clock looking as good as new, here are some maintenance guidelines:
- Keep the clock out of direct sunlight and avoid excessive hot or cold temperatures.
- When cleaning surrounding areas, avoid moving the clock around. If the clock has to be moved, be very careful to either remove the pendulum or keep it as still as possible and move the clock slowly so as to avoid damage to the movement.
- A weekly feather dusting or cleaning of the casework with a mild natural beeswax or crystalline wax will help to remove fingerprints and a build-up of dust from the case. Crystalline wax is a mixture of refined waxes, blended to a formula used by the British Museum to revive and protect valuable furniture, leather, paintings, metals, marble, etc. It is available to buy from Olde Time.
- Never use household cleaners or abrasives of any kind to clean any part of the clock.
An antique French clock should only be cleaned and overhauled by a specialist restorer. Never attempt to clean or repair an antique clock yourself.