What is a Carriage Clock?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2019
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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 1860s, and formal versions are sometimes given to people on special occasions like weddings. Although carriage clocks were considered travel clocks in the 1800s, they are much larger than conventional travel clocks, to house the traditionally spring-driven mechanism of the clock.

Several characteristics can be used to identify a carriage clock. The first is the case, which is usually made from polished brass or another bright metal. The face of the clock is covered in glass, while the hands may be placed on a porcelain background to make them clearly visible. The porcelain may also be decorated, especially in antique carriage clocks, which often include elaborate painted scenes. A carriage clock also has a large handle so that it can easily be picked up and moved.


Most carriage clocks are equipped with chimes which mark the hours. Some are designed to play songs, with an assortment of different notes and chords. In some cases, the top of the clock may be marked with a large resonant bell which is rung every hour or half hour. The clean lines of a classic carriage clock are sometimes interrupted with elaborate features like stamped scrolls and foliage or inlaid enamel, porcelain, or gemstones.

The regal look of an antique carriage clock is quite distinctive. Many people like to use these clocks as decorative mantel clocks, especially in homes with an antique theme. Modern carriage clocks may use quartz movements, rather than spring-driven innards, since quartz and batteries are cheaper than traditional clockworks. In the case of a carriage clock with true internal clockwork, the company may cut away part of the housing so that people can look inside.

Many shops sell modern carriage clocks, and they can also be ordered from clock-making companies. Some of these companies have been making clocks for over a century, and they offer a range of designs and finishes from ornate brass to streamlined stainless steel. Antique carriage clocks can be found at many antique stores and auctions, and you may also stumble across one at a casual market or bazaar.


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