French Officer's Clock
Produced circa 1900, this travel clock features a brilliant gilt brass casing, white enamel face, and carrying handle. The initials ‘J.F.’ mark the clock’s interior. The glass panes are bevelled and allow for an appreciation of the clock’s inner workings. The timekeeping mechanism is achieved by a balance and balance spring, replacing the bulkier pendulum bracket clock. The small size, corniche casing, and convenient handle are typical design elements of French carriage clocks in the 19th and early 20th century. A wood and leather case would have likely accompanied this piece for extra protection within the suitcase of an elegant traveller. Carriage clocks were first developed in France in the early 19th century. They were produced in a variety of designs and materials, from simple wooden casings to highly ornamented silver, mother-of-pearl, and tortoiseshell details. This clock’s timeless design is achieved by a minimal approach to ornament. It subtly evokes period-appropriate neoclassical design features, from its golden-brass sheen to the convex mouldings running along the edges of the case. A key is supplied with the clock; the hands may have been replaced.
At this time in France, Paris hosted the 1900 Summer Olympic Games. This five month event was the second occurrence of the modern Olympics. Although the Games suffered from poor organisation and a lack of supplies (broken telephone poles were used to make hurdles), close to 1,000 athletes represented 24 countries. Competitors participated in 19 sports, ranging from familiar Olympic staples like swimming, rugby, and tennis, to unique events like croquet and tug-of-war.