Antique French mantel clocks are clocks that are encased or placed on a base or box and meant for display on top of a fireplace mantel. They typically run for approximately eight days between windings and many make a gong sound at each hour. Antique French mantel clocks differ from American clocks or those made from other European countries. There are a few methods to identify a French mantel clock.
Look for a company signature on the dial or the moving parts of the clock. Many U.S. and English clock manufacturers signed their clocks or imprinted their trademark, but French manufacturers did not. Therefore, the absence of a company name is a good sign that the clock is French.
Find antique mantel clocks made out of marble, particularly mauve, onyx, green and slate marble. Marble was a favorite stone of many French clockmakers when creating mantel clocks.
Look for the words “Made in France” and markings for “LR” (retard) and “FA” (advance), both terms used by French clockmakers. In addition, look for clocks made by well-known French clockmakers who did sign their clocks. This includes Duverdey & Bloquel, Japy Freres and Samuel Marti.
Look for ornate mantel clocks. The French used gilt bronze (ormolu) and tortoiseshell with inlaid ivory, porcelain, pewter and brass (boulle) to create elaborate clock designs. Compared to the more simple English designs of the time, French mantel clocks were distinctive.
Search for mantel clocks that incorporate styles from the Art Deco period and that use brass, onyx, marble, glass and chrome. French mantel clocks from the early 20th century often had columns and used Roman numerals on the clock face.
If doubts remain as to the origin of a clock, take it to an authorized antique dealer for assistance.
Meredith Jameson writes early childhood parenting and family health articles for various online publications. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from San Francisco State University.