Differences Between English and French Bracket Clocks

The bracket clock is a type of portable clock that is built with a decorative bracket, as it is meant to be displayed on wall. The design of the bracket clock is said to have evolved from a lantern clock, which comes in either a rectangular or square-shaped silhouette.

Often, bracket clocks are confused for mantle clocks. However, mantle clocks are a type of table clock. Bracket clocks may also be displayed on a table or shelf, but what makes bracket clocks distinct from mantle clocks is their shape. Bracket clocks typically have a tall and narrow shape, whilst most mantle clocks have a smaller form. Many versions of bracket clocks also have a handle on top of the wooden casing–a feature that most mantle clocks don’t have.

Bracket clocks were first introduced during the 1600s. Early versions of the bracket clock have a verge escapement and are weight driven. This mechanism, which was developed and used since the 13th century, features a rotating crown-shaped wheel, a vertical rod or the verge, and pallets on opposite sides of the wheel.

In the late 1600s, the anchor escapement mechanism replaced the verge escapement. Unlike verge clock where the pendulum swings widely (about 80 to 100 degrees), the pendulum in clocks with an anchor escapement swings at smaller angles (as little as 6 degrees). This movement requires less power and results in less friction, which not only increased the accuracy of telling time, but also caused less wear and tear on the clock components. Soon thereafter, clockmakers made bracket clocks with a spring-driven pendulum instead of weights, making them more portable.

If you’re searching for an antique bracket clock for sale, you will find different models. Two of the most popular ones are the English bracket clocks and French bracket clocks. But how can you tell whether the antique clock you’re looking at is an English bracket clock or a French bracket clock? The differences, though only a few, are easy to spot, especially if you know where to look.

English Bracket Clocks

Classic English bracket clocks are designed with either a rectangular or square dial. Most dials had an arched top, but some Regency era English bracket clocks have a round dial.

During the 1600s to the early 1800s, it is common for clockmakers to engrave their name at the back plate of the clock. However, during the Victorian era, only a few clockmakers engraved their signature on the bracket clocks they made.

French Bracket Clocks

French bracket clocks, like English bracket clocks, were first produced in the late 17th century. During this period, many French bracket clocks feature a hinged dial covered in velvet. Just like English bracket clocks, 17th century French bracket clocks have a verge escapement.

How are English Bracket Clocks and French Bracket Clocks Different?

Both antique English and French bracket clocks are highly collectible. Here’s how you can distinguish one from the other.

Accuracy vs Aesthetics

English clockmakers focus on accuracy, which is why in the world of horology, the English are renowned for their clockmaking skills. Most bracket clocks produced from London would have the traditional rectangular or square case and it is only by the end of the 17th century when English horologists began experimenting with more artistic designs and using more sophisticated materials.

Meanwhile, French horologists focus on the artwork. Many antique French bracket clocks look grand and to a point, theatrical, featuring intricate patterns, sculptural designs, and architectural styles.  French bracket clocks are made in a variety of materials like wood, brass, and bronze. One of the most recognizable styles in French clockmaking is the ormolu, where gold (18 or 24 karat) is applied to a bronze object.

Placement of the Clock Movements

The clock movements include the wheels, rods, gears, and all other components that make the clock move. In a French bracket clock, these parts are typically placed inside the case from the front during the clockmaking process–the opposite of English bracket clocks.

Placement of the Door Hinge

The dial doors or bezels of French clocks are typically on the left, whilst those of the English bracket clocks are on the right.