Antique German Carriage Clock Buying Guide

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Antique German Carriage Clock Buying Guide

Antique German carriage clocks are popular and highly collectable timepieces that are easily recognisable by their small design, rectangular case, and hinged handle. Designed with portability in mind, antique carriage clocks are sought after for their unique characteristics and historic charm. Clockmakers all across Europe crafted these clocks as they became more and more in demand. With a reputation for high quality craftsmanship, German carriage clocks are sought after as lovely additions to homes and collections. German carriage clocks vary in style depending on when they were made. Before purchasing a German carriage clock, a buyer should become familiar with which clocks are considered antique, the different characteristics that make them unique, and the methods for caring and maintaining these antique timepieces.

History of Antique German Carriage Clocks

Germany, famous foremost for its cuckoo clocks, is responsible for creating millions of precision timepieces over the last five hundred years. It was in Germany during the sixteenth century that Peter Henlein invented the spring-powered clock, changing the course of timekeeping history.The first carriage clock is believed to have been of French origin and given as a gift to Emperor Napoleon during the early nineteenth century, but with Europe as the epicentre of design during this time, Germany was soon employing its own abilities in creating carriage clocks of high quality.

The period from 1860 to 1900 saw large-scale production of the carriage design. Its small handle allowed it not only to serve as a mantel clock, but to also be used during travel, and many were fitted with protective cases made of leather.The demand for the carriage clock continued up until 1930 when the quartz clock was introduced. Many of the antique pieces, crafted in German regions such as Black Forest on the border with France and Switzerland, are now antiques that continue to work and travel as well as they did in the past.

Discover Antique German Carriage Clocks

Antique German carriage clocks, simply by meeting the criteria of the carriage design, are not overly different in appearance to carriage clocks from other nations. This is less surprising when it is considered that the three famous clock-making regions of France, Switzerland and Germany, are close and easily exposed to each other’s work. Whilst the appearance may stay predominantly the same, many prospective buyers look toward German antiques due to their reputation for high-quality craftsmanship. This leads to an important consideration for a buyer of any antique clock. Though somewhat debated, ‘antique’ is a term generally referring to an item that is at least one hundred years old. A buyer may also note that 1930 is occasionally considered a measuring year, but regardless of which definition is considered correct, it is important to understand that simply being an ‘old’ German clock is not the same as classifying one as antique.

Parts of Antique German Carriage Clocks

The following table lists some of the typical components of antique German carriage clocks.



Power source

Allows the clock to run and is often wound by a key.


Vibrates at a steady frequency and is connected to the escapement.


Helps the oscillator to make up for frequency lost by friction and gives out a measured pulse.

Counter Chain

Gears that convert the pulse from the controller into minutes and seconds on the indicator.


The readable part of the clock, commonly represented by two ‘hands’ and the numbers one through twelve.


Mechanism that creates noise upon certain positions of the hands, usually on the hour.


Used to periodically wind the power source.


The case surrounding the clock’s mechanisms and indicator.


Found on top of the housing for easy transportation.

Types of Antique German Carriage Clocks

German antique carriage clocks, though specific in history, are likely to be described to buyers using a number of other criteria. Carriage clocks known as ‘Corniche’ clocks had a simpler housings, while other designs were more ornate, such as the ‘Gorge’ carriage clock. Antique German pieces designed in the early twentieth century, such as those during the Art Deco movement of the 1920s, were designed patterned after the popular styles associated era, with features such as geometric composition and symmetry. The materials used in their construction, such as silver-plated or gilded frames, can often further define clocks of German origin.

Due to the variety of criteria available, it is important to avoid possible confusion during the purchase of a German carriage clock. For instance, to be informed that an antique carriage clock is of German design does not mean it is necessarily gilded or is of Corniche influence; neither does an antique Art Deco carriage clock confirm that it is of German origin. Essentially, when looking through antique German carriage clocks, it is the specific clockmaker that needs to be researched to verify its true origin.

Factors to Consider When Buying an Antique German Carriage Clock

Before settling on a final decision, it is advisable to consider a few factors before purchase.

  • Maker’s Mark – Antique carriage clocks are often marked by their manufacturer giving the pieces valuable authenticity. For instance, if one were to be found made in Bavaria as opposed to Berlin during a particular time period, it could potentially change the value.
  • Condition – A buyer should check to see if the housing’s brass, wood, glass or hinged handle is damaged.
  • Price Comparison – If there are German carriage clocks found on eBay, a buyer should compare prices.
  • Components – Even though German antique clocks are famed for their craftsmanship, a buyer should be aware that it is possible for the internal pieces to have been replaced with modern parts during repair.
  • Winding – Almost every antique German carriage clock needs to be wound with a key once every week.

Typical Features of Antique German Carriage Clocks


Generally rectangular, the small housing of a carriage clock is one of an antique German carriage clock's defining characteristics. It has a handle on its top and is often made from brass, but the housing can also be found in silver-plate, bronze, gold or even ceramic designs.

  1. Face - Every antique carriage clock has a carefully crafted face that will vary slightly with the size of the housing. Some German carriage clocks will also have a lunar dial on the face that measures a lunar month, though this is less common. Most faces will have Roman numerals, but more contemporary pieces can also be found with Arabic numerals.
  2. Hands - A German carriage clock, like any antique clock, has two hands on its indicator. They are generally made from metals such as steel or brass, and come in various shapes and designs that complement the style of the face.
  3. Chimes - Carriage clocks can have an hourly or even quarter-hourly chime, known as the Grande Sonnerie (grand strike). A buyer will find that German carriage clocks are still often described using this French term. Chimes can vary in their frequency and loudness, and can also come with a silencing option.
  4. Key Winding - The famous German ‘400-day movement’ unfortunately does not apply to carriage clocks. Most antique carriage clocks will require hand-winding with the use of a key, and many will have an eight-day movement, requiring winding once a week.
  5. Platform Escapement - This feature is an improvement on many of the pendulum clocks commonly produced in Germany, as pendulum clocks could not be easily moved without damage to the timing.

Popular Antique German Carriage Clock Manufacturers

  • Junghans
  • Gustav Becker
  • Winterhalder & Hoffmeier
  • Joseph Kieninger
  • Franz Hermle
  • Sigmud Riefler
  • Franz Ketterer
  • Johan Baptist Beha

Finding Antique German Carriage Clocks on eBay

Once you determine the type of antique German carriage clock that you want to purchase, visit the Antiques portal on eBay, select 'Clocks' and start searching item listings. The Categories list on the left-hand side of the eBay page helps to narrow the search.

Searching forAntique German Carriage Clockson eBay

Search eBay listing titles for specific words when shopping for antique German carriage clocks. For example, to find an antique German brass carriage clock, type ‘Antique German Brass Carriage Clock’ into the search box, and then click the Advanced button to customise the results. Also visit eBay’s Search Tips page for more advice on searching for antiques clocks with keywords. If you can’t find the exact antique German carriage clock you want, try shopping eBay Stores.


Small and practical, the carriage clock is often an attractive addition to a home or collection. Antique carriage clocks are highly collectable, however, due to the large amount of information that buyers may find when searching for antique German carriage clocks, it can be a good idea to consider the various factors that make them so unique. It is advisable to be equipped with the knowledge of what defines an antique carriage clock, the geographical and historical factors surrounding German production, and the specific features to look out for. Once you have collected this information, you can buy an antique German carriage clock safely and securely on eBay.

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