Unsigned French mantel clock – pretty but I wish I knew more about it

I acquired this elegant antique French mantel/shelf clock online in March of 2017 and it is the only French clock in my collection. Not many come up on Nova Scotia online for-sale sites.

French mantel clock
French time and strike mantel clock

I felt somewhat guilty leaving the home of the man I bought it from because he told me that he was selling off his possessions to provide for his wife after his passing as he was in the final stages of a terminal illness.

Clock face showing the two winding arbours
Clock face showing the two winding arbours

The elderly gentleman said that the low price reflected the fact that the strike side was not functioning and it had been like that since shortly after the last servicing. When inserting the key in the strike side arbour I immediately noticed that the spring had tension but it would not click. It could be a simple fix.

There was nothing on the inside of the case that would tell me anything about the maker

It is a time and strike clock of French origin from the turn of the 20th Century. The clock is 11 inches high by 8 1/4 inches wide by 5 1/4 inches deep, jet black, either slate or Belgian marble with lighter reddish brown rectangular accents and serpentine scrolling. It is quite heavy! The dial has a brass centre cup with enamel surround, delicate hands and painted Arabic numerals.

It is in the Grecian architectural style popular during the late 19th century both here and in France. But for a large chip on the bottom right of the case and a smaller chip on on the bottom left it is in very good condition. Unfortunately chips on the corners of these old French marble clocks are quite common. The movement is an exquisitely crafted French time and strike mechanism with a pleasant sounding but subdued coiled gong. It is unsigned.

The only markings are the word Brocot on the speed adjustment gear and another marking on the back plate. This patented Brocot speed adjustment was invented by French clock maker and inventor Louis-Gabriel Brocot in the 1800s.

Brocot patented speed adjsutment
Brocot patented speed adjustment

Stamped on the rear plate is Marque Deposee which means registered trademark in French. EBay sellers often mistakenly refer to it as the maker’s stamp. Careful examination of the movement revealed that there was nothing on the inside of the case or the movement that would give me a clue about the maker. A mystery, but not surprising as many French clocks are similarly unsigned.

Time and strike movement
Time and strike movement

The previous owner advised that the clock had been serviced but I decided to take the movement out of it’s case to inspect it more closely, re-oil if necessary and determine why the strike side was not functioning. The movement is relatively simple to remove. To extract it from it’s case undo the two slotted screws (rear) that hold the straps and pull the movement out from the front.

Side view of movement
Side view of movement showing brass straps

A very nice acquisition though I keep thinking about that old fellow

I discovered that for whatever reason the click screw was very loose, and not engaging the ratchet. After screwing it down tightly the click engaged the ratchet as it should. I can only assume that during it’s last servicing the click screw was not tightened securely.

The strike side click was loose
The strike side click screw was very loose
Numbers on bob correspond with the movement
Numbers on bob correspond with those on the movement
pendulum bob with adjuster
Pendulum bob with rate adjustment screw

I re-oiled the movement, returned it to its case and wound both sides. There are two speed adjustments on the clock, one on the bob and a finer speed adjustment arbour just above the number 12 on the dial. At the moment the clock is running a little slow and will take weeks to regulate. A one-ended key came with the clock, the original would have been double-ended.

It is a very quiet ticker with a pleasant strike and perhaps the perfect clock for those who might be bothered by the sound of a mechanical clock in any room.

A very nice acquisition though I keep thinking about that old fellow.

 


39 thoughts on “Unsigned French mantel clock – pretty but I wish I knew more about it

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