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What is a Traveling clock, a Carriage clock, and a Coach clock, and what is the difference between them, since they have the same function? The aim of this article is not so much to offer new information to specialists, but rather to explain and clarify the subject to a general public, providing a background for the upcoming sale of the historically important Le Bon clock, featured in the April sale.
We know for certain that in order to function correctly, a watch, whether worn on the person or intended for traveling, had to include an autonomous moving force (the main spring). This was originally a helicoidal spring, and later a spiral (main spring). It had to possess enough autonomy to guarantee a sufficiently long duration of timekeeping, and to allow it to be transported while maintaining a relatively constant moving force.
It is not particularly relevant to this article to determine whether the first to adopt the spring as a moving force for a horological object was the architect Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446), quoted in Vasari in 1410, Jean de Paris, watchmaker to Louis XI, or, according to the Germans, Peter Henlein (c.1480-1542).
It does, however, seem to me to be essential for a detailed analysis of the origins of traveling clocks, to understand the difference between the names used to identify the various types of clocks, and to review, in this manner, their history. In order to remain accurate, it is necessary to take into account the many appellations used in the horological jargon and the various interpretations given in the past. The latter often derive from translations of historical documents, and offer descriptions that are often extremely brief, which only creates uncertainty. I would also like to emphasize the fact that horology is a mathematical and geometrical science, despite the many various interpretations of the product throughout the centuries. Though it is sometimes enthusiastically interpreted in too idealistic a manner, it always remains strictly logical. The few known horological “curiosities” are anomalies which give credit to the true inventions, the discoveries of which make the field even more fascinating and surprising. Let us go back to the beginnings of portable horology. The first travel clocks emerged around 1400 ; these early traveling clocks were referred to as simply l’horloge de voyage in French. It goes without saying that a trave- ling clock must function when it is being transported from one place to another. It is equally evident that the name pendulette de voyage, in the French language, could only be used after 1657, that is after the invention of the pendulum by Huygens, who published his work in a book called “Horologium”. All agree, whether it be the French or English horologists, that the modern Traveling Clock, or Carriage Clock, began in 1798, when A.L.Breguet sold his first carriage clock, or pendulette de voyage to General Napoleon Bonaparte, a few weeks before his departure for the Egyptian campaign. (See Antiquorum “The Art of Breguet”, April 1991, lot 10)