Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Simple Pleasure of a Chiming Clock In One's Bed Chamber

As readers of this blog well know, Reggie is a somewhat old-fashioned fellow.  While he appreciates the conveniences and advances of the modern world, when it comes to how he lives his daily life his feet are inclined to be planted in an earlier time of rotary telephones, winding clocks, and monthly calendars.  In England he might be considered a Young Fogey, except that he has long since passed beyond what anyone (except for those of a very advanced age) might consider to still be young.  Sad, Dear Reader, but true.

Reggie's carriage clock
sitting on a chest of drawers at Darlington House

As a boy I had a fascination with carriage clocks, which I first came across in the houses of my little friends and also those of our neighbors.  Developed in France around 1810 by master clock-maker Abraham Louis Breguet (1747-1823), carriage clocks (also known as "officer's clocks," or pendules de voyage) are compact traveling timepieces that were fashionable among well-to-do Europeans and Americans throughout much of the nineteenth century.  Their appeal was both visual (they are pleasing to look at) and practical, as the clocks' mechanisms were cleverly designed to keep ticking (and thus telling accurate time) on bumpy carriage and train rides.

An early French carriage clock, with its original leather carrying case
Image courtesy of the Clock Workshop, Winchester, England

As I grew into adulthood I considered buying myself an antique carriage clock, but refrained from doing so (even though sorely tempted in several instances) because of a (perhaps unfounded) concern that finding someone to skillfully refurbish said clock to modern timekeeping standards would be challenging and expensive.  In other words, I was concerned that the purchase price of the clock would merely be the entry ticket to a long and costly project that might not, in the end, produce the desired result: a well regulated clock that keeps accurate time.

"The London to Bath Coach" by John Charles Maggs (1819-1896)
Image courtesy of Wikimedia

But that all changed a decade or so ago when I was fortunate to find myself on holiday in London.  I had recently received a substantial bonus at the Investment Bank where I work, and—as they say—money was burning a hole in my pocket.  (I note that this was back in the days when Investment Banks still paid handsome bonuses, which is today but a sad (albeit sweet) and (increasingly) distant memory for those of us who remain employed in what is left of that industry.)

"The New Steam Carriage" by George Morton
Image courtesy of Wikimedia

In any event, Reggie was in a shopping mood on that particular trip, so where do you think he made his way to in order to indulge his desire to spend?  Asprey!  Yes, the august English bespoke jeweler, silversmith, leather goods and timepiece purveyor to royals, aristocrats, and moneybags the world over.

I didn't go to Asprey to buy a carriage clock, mind you, but it was there that I serendipitously chanced upon the perfect one to bring home with me to Darlington House, as a souvenir (well, a trophy, really) of our trip to London.  While strolling through Asprey's New Bond Street store I came across a display of handsome clocks in a room that included a modern gilt brass carriage clock made in the traditional form.  I wondered: "Could this be the fulfillment of my desire (finally) to own a carriage clock that actually works?"  After giving the glittering timepiece a look over, and having the saleslady demonstrate its features to me, I decided to buy it.  Yes, it was rather costly, Dear Reader—I was shopping at Asprey, after all.

Asprey's store on New Bond Street in London
Image courtesy of Wikimedia

The carriage clock I acquired that day has stood ever since on a chest of drawers in our bedroom at Darlington House, where it pleases me whenever I see it, or hear it.  For, you see, Dear Reader, my little clock softly and mellifluously chimes the number of hours at every hour and a single note at every half hour, so it is not only a visual reminder of the passing of time, but a gently aural one too.

The clock's works are a marvel
of elegant engineering

I had never before known the pleasure of a chiming clock in one's bedroom, and I have come to be a great appreciator of mine as the years have passed.  There is something quietly reassuring of hearing its chime strike softly as one wakens, either during the night or in the morning, and to learn what time it is.  When one has such a clock in one's bedroom one needn't grope for one's bedside clock to find out the hour, but rather one's clock sweetly and quietly announces it from across the room.

There's no place like home, Dear Reader.

Photographs of Reggie's carriage clock by Boy Fenwick


  1. Hello Reggie, I agree that London is a good place to spend money, and I think that your carriage clock is quite handsome and impressive. It looks quite at home in your vignette with the old wood, old porcelain, and gilt picture frame.

    However, I'm not sure that I would personally want a chiming clock--when I'm up very late, I wouldn't want to be reminded of how little of the night is left. Out of curiosity, does the clock also make an audible ticking, or is that part of its operation silent?
    --Road to Parnassus

  2. Oh Reggie, your Asprey clock, with its partly-exposed mechanism, is a real beauty! Occasional extravagances are always worth it if one can continue to perceive the object with such pleasure. Thank you for a lovely story.

    I'm with you on the sweetness of chimes. When I was a child, the sounds of the grandfather clock outside my door had the added advantage of disguising my footsteps when I snuck out to get a another book at night. If that's not love, I don't know what is.

    Your post also makes me think of the Zytlogge in Bern, which mechanized chimes-and-puppet clock show I'd once been wildly anticipating. The show turned out to be sort of kitschy and underwhelming--rather a letdown for a UNESCO site. But I fondly remember the pell-mell scramble through crowds and crowds, towing my mother (and Mother towing a small parcel of chocolates that I hadn't allowed her to finish adding to) to arrive in time. We also misplaced my father along the way, so it was a bit of an adventure. But all in all, makes me fonder of clock chimes still.

  3. I adore a chiming clock in the bedroom and have hade one for a long time. It's a family mantle clock and it's Westminster Chimes but it is so comforting to awake and lay there in the still of the night and find out what time it is. Alas, no glaring red digital clock at Linderhof!

    A chiming clock is a comforting clock in the bedroom!

  4. We have a ticking clock in the master bathroom and a chiming clock (Directoire) a few feet away from the bedroom door which when we are alone is always open. Ticking and chiming are like audible heartbeats and after only minutes reassure rather than disturb. There's something elemental about the sound.

  5. That is a beautiful clock. I envy you.

    In my parents house there was one my children grew up with and hated. It kept them up at night and it always chimed at the wrong time when they were trying to watch TV. Now they speak of it as a fond memory of the past. Go figure.

  6. The day my sister gave me "back' my grandmother's carriage clock was a really happy one for me..I thought it had disappeared for all time ..

    It is very heavy and has Arabic numbers on it's face and a smaller "minute"? clock beneath the main face .and a plate at the back "Made in France"

  7. Chiming clocks are comforting. It must be very pleasant to wake up to soft chimes instead of a loud repetitive iPhone alarm tone.

  8. A beautiful object and so much nicer to listen to while asleep than a wave machine. We had a lovely old ship's clock when I was young, which chimed every half hour: one bell, two bells, etc.; when I left home it was years before I could sleep soundly without the occasional chimes.

  9. Now, dear brother, if only one were so fortunate as to have a chiming pocket watch . . .


  10. It's beautiful! (I also love the Staffordshire poodle just behind it in the first picture.)

  11. I have a small Van Cleef and Arpels agate alarm clock (with small diamonds at the corners which I now find a little too much) sadly it doesn't chime- would that it did- it does have a reassuring tick like the alarm clocks my father and grandfather used- However for all it's glamour, it has a strident buzzing alarm- not at all what one would expect looking at it- it does ,however get me out of bed-

  12. Hello Reggie,

    As beautiful as your carriage clock is, I'm afraid I fall decidedly in the opposite camp when it comes to the rhythmic tick tocking of a clock in my bedroom.

    I once rid myself of a refrigerator that would make a low humming noise, endlessly resonating through the floorboards, and driving me to distraction, during the wee quiet hours, when one is trying ones best to fall asleep. Not good for insomniacs I'm afraid.

    Now, onto the topic of embracing all that is Fogey (young or otherwise), about home life. Well here, dear Reggie, I most certainly agree with you and wallow in the knowledge that my home is firmly rooted in that camp.

  13. Dear Reggie,
    I recently found your blog, and love it! It is such a pleasure to read. Unfortunately, I do not have a beautiful carriage clock like yours, but enjoy the dependability of my old fashioned wind up alarm clock. No worries about power outages! I am an old fogey myself, but as a youngish? woman, I am wondering if the label "fogey" applies to me? Fun stuff!
    The Perfect Life

  14. Some years ago, Viscount Linley and his father, the late Lord Snowdon, teamed up to design an invisible clock for Asprey. They weren't expensive and I have one that still keeps time, but does not chime.
    -Carey Pickard

    1. As of 15 May, 2013, "late Lord Snowdon" as you refer to him,
      is still living.

  15. I have two carriage clocks on my desk in the hall, (one French and one English - I like the symmetry of near pairs). Happily they do not chime; I'm afraid I suffer from insomnia, and even a ticking clock in the bedroom has never been in the equation. To Carey Pickard, Lord Snowdon is still with us, but when he departs Linley will become (the second Earl of) Snowdon.

  16. Reggie, dahhling, you know this speaks softly to my heart. I love the story of buying a treasure when traveling but above all I agree that the sound of a chime give a house such life & whimsy. We have a large Rococo 1980's French clock we absolutely love in the parlor.

  17. Is your clock in AD? The cat is out of the bag.

  18. i have the same clock as shown in this above picture. it is one of my best shop i did ever.
    Bed Store Edinburgh


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