Clocks & Barometers

An Expert Guide to Collecting Clocks

By Sara Putterman

NEW YORK – While iPhones and the Apple watch have developed into our main sources for telling time, clocks that are hundreds of years old are still ticking away. The often elaborate and decorative cases of 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century clocks house precise mechanisms that are technical puzzles of small intricate parts. Most clock collectors relish in the study of these timeless masterpieces of mechanical ingenuity, but clocks still have more to offer. 

A Louis XVI ormolu and white marble mantel clock. To be offered in Collections: European Decorative Arts. Estimate $15,000–20,000.

Dials are often made from enamel and decorated with elaborate Roman numerals and the signature of the maker. Dials are puzzles themselves because they can often be replaced or signatures can be removed or altered.

A Louis XVI ormolu horloge à poser. To be offered in Property from a Distinguished Private Asian Collection. Estimate $12,000–18,000.

One very interesting example on offer in our 15 October sale of Property from a Distinguished Private Asian Collection has its dial signed Le Paute Hger…. A Paris. The words after Hger are effaced and would have said Du Roi, but were most likely eliminated during the French Revolution.

A Louis XVI style gilt bronze and blue turquin marble mantle clock, dial signed Dernière Paris.
To be offered in Collections: European Decorative Arts. Estimate $3,000–5,000.

Once one decides what type (longcase, mantle, cartel, bracket, etc.) or what date of clock to collect, the vast range of clocks becomes apparent. Our Collections sale on 17 October offers more than 30 Charles X clocks from a private collection. All of the examples have Siena marble bases and patinated bronze figures; however, the decoration varies enormously and the figures range from mythological heroes to famous persons from French history. The group of circa 1830 makers shared designs and ideas but each created their own unique models. 

A Charles X patinated bronze and Siena marble mantel clock. To be offered in Collections: European Decorative Arts. Estimate $3,000–5,000.

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