How to buy a clock on Craigslist, Kijiji, Gumtree and so on…..And this is what I bought

Unknown French clock
Unknown French clock

It is a French mantel or shelf clock. I have no idea of the maker but it is an antique (over 100 years old), possibly 1890 to 1900. It has “Marque Deposse” stamped on the back plate but that simply means “trademark” in French. It is not a maker’s name. The clock is 11 inches high by 8 inches wide by 5 inches deep.

Access door
Rear access door

It is a time and strike movement on a coil gong. Unfortunately, the strike side does not work though the seller disclosed that to me before I bought the clock. I can feel the tension of the spring when I turn the key in the arbor but the spring does not engage the click, so, a broken or disconnected click I presume. The previous owner described it as having a melodious sounding gong. I would love to hear it. I wondered if the spring barrels could be taken out without separating the plates but further research has revealed that the movement must be dis-assembled.

Clock face
Clock face

The clock dial face is in two sections. The brass inner pan is surrounded by a porcelain dial with painted numbers. The dial door is flat glazing in a brass bezel with a high quality “hidden” hinge. A taper pin holds the delicately crafted hands. There is a smaller arbor, a speed regulator above the 12, which allows more precise tuning in concert with a speed adjustment on the pendulum.

Pendulum back showing stamped numbers
Pendulum back showing stamped numbers

Aside from numbers on the back plate, an identical batch number on the pendulum and the Marque Deposee stamping, there is no makers mark. There may be a mark on the gong block but I won’t know until I release the nut on the base panel to take it out from underneath the clock. The numbers on the back plate are 3851-55. The number 5 5 is the pendulum length as in 5 and 5/12 French inches.

Adjustable pendulum
Front side of pendulum
Time and Strike movement
Time and Strike movement

The movement appears to be of superior quality though common in a number of higher end French clocks. From what I can determine, the movement can be taken out of the case by undoing the two screws that go through the back bezel into the brass straps that protrude through the case from the front bezel. The movement should come out through the front once the two screws are released. The movement looks clean and there is sufficient oil in the pivots (no black or green gunk). I have other projects on the go so it might take me some time to take the movement out for inspection but for the time being I will let it run to regulate it.

The Corinthian style case is very heavy and is quite possibly Dinant Belgian Black Marble. Aside from the non-functioning strike side there are other issues. One is a very noticeable chip on the bottom right corner of the base which you can see in the photo below and the other is a small chip in the top left corner which is less visible. Close-up that larger chunk out of the corner looks ugly; from a distance it is hardly visible.

The worst of two chips
The worst of two chips, bottom right corner

Despite the slight damage the overall look is impressive. Most of what I see is well preserved. Indeed, it is a very attractive and stately antique French mantel clock that now occupies a prominent place in our family room.

Who made it? Unless there is a maker’s mark on the gong block or somewhere else on the movement, I may never know.


4 thoughts on “How to buy a clock on Craigslist, Kijiji, Gumtree and so on…..And this is what I bought

  1. For wath i can see it is black marble i personnely own 3 of them ther is 4 name of french clokmaster that made them but normally the name is handgrave in the back i well go look on the one that look the same and Wright it to you with photo

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  2. Ron, normally the logo/company is marked within a circular stamp. I can clearly see one on the back plate of the movement. Is this what you’re saying only says “Marque Deposee”? It might be nice to see a close-up. I would think there might be a monogram, letters, or a symbol to go with it (within the circle), no?

    There are a fair number of unmarked “anonymous” French clocks, so it wouldn’t be that surprising if there is no other ID on it. I have a rather nice time only French clock within a wooden case (made to look like marble). You MAY be able to see a photo here (I don’t remember the account settings):

    The movement in that one is only marked 1144 (batch number) and 55 (pendulum length). It uses the less common “Vallet” suspension unit/speed adjuster, but the stem for it is missing.

    You may be able to chip-fill the damaged corner with epoxy (tinted or mixed with black pigment), but it may be tricky to get the shape perfectly square and flat. That’s optional, of course. Lots of these clocks tend to have broken corners.

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    1. There is nothing inside the trademark as I have seen in other French clocks however I will see if I can post a photo. I will see what I can do with the corner, it doesn’t look too bad from a distance. Missing piece? Interesting.

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