Watches and clocks in the Victorian era


Watches and clocks were an intrinsic part of Victorian culture and society. According to historians, Victorians had a “mania” for punctuality, so watches and clocks were taken on every journey and embedded into every aspect of day to day life. This article looks at some of the most famous watches and clocks that have emerged from the Victorian era and how they are still celebrated in our society today.


The Victorian travel companion – the carriage clock


Carriage clocks were originally intended for travelling in late Victorian times, where businessmen would carry a clock with them on every journey to make sure that they were always on time. Carriage clocks were usually rectangular and framed with guilt brass with a carrying handle. Some clocks also had decorative mouldings and engravings. The first carriage clock was made in 1812 by Abraham-Louis Breguet for Napoleon, and these elegant clocks went on to become a popular and sought-after possession in Victorian society. Some of the most famous carriage clocks were made by Paris clock makers Henri Jacot and Alfred Drocourt. Carriage clocks have retained their popularity today and are still a cherished antique for lovers of the Victorian period.


Victorian clocks – the perfect accessory for a restored Victorian home


Many Victorian properties are now being restored to reveal their original period features and Victorian clocks are a perfect accessory to bring a Victorian home to life. Brass clocks are a true celebration of Victorian opulence and are perfect for a Victorian style dining room.


Another popular option for a restored Victorian home is the early Victorian antique longcase clock. Longcase clocks are designed to be freestanding and enclosed in a wooden or carved case. These clocks are famously known as grandfather clocks after the popular Victorian song. The grandfather clock is a celebration of two significant horological breakthroughs from the 1600’s, namely the pendulum which ensured frictionless time-keeping and the anchor mechanism which reduced the swing and greatly improved accuracy. The grandfather clock has remained popular for centuries and continues to be so today.


Victorians and their watches


By the middle of the Victorian period, the design of watches was rapidly changing. Watch makers from the mid 1900’s started to produce delicate and elaborate bracelet watches which often had jewels embedded and were made to be cherished and admired. These bracelet watches were popular with Victorian ladies while Victorian men favoured pocket watches. These stylish and classic timepieces were usually tucked into a pocket of a waistcoat with a long “Albert chain” (so called as it was introduced by Prince Albert). Pocket watches were a mark of a true gentleman and a clear status symbol in Victorian times. There are different styles of Victorian pocket watches, including open-face watches, hunter-case watches which have a cover that can be released to show the watch’s crystal face and a demi-hunter watch.


Pocket watches are emerging back into today’s fashion along with other Victorian style accessories including lace handkerchiefs and pocket books, both of which were popular during the Victorian period and fit perfectly alongside the Victorian pocket-watch.


The Victorian years were an unforgettable period and the watches and clocks of the Victorian era are stunning, timeless representations of how clock and watch making has developed throughout history. Victorian watches and clocks were made to be cherished and admired, rather than being simply a day-to-day necessity, and they still have as much capacity for appreciation today as they did in Victorian times.

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