Cartel clocks first came into their own around the year 1700 and decoratively speaking, were at their most “exuberant” during the 18th Century. At this time they were renowned for their abundance of rococo swirls and arabesques.
|This photograph of an English cartel clock comes from Wikimedia Commons I couldn't find a French one but you get the idea.|
Often decorated with gilded cherubs, nymphs, animals and heroes, the whole clock case was covered in gilt and ormolu, and the occasional splash of enamel work. Others have a certain chinoissiere look; while some of the most expensive ones contained porcelain flowers, however, it is rare to find examples of those today.
While English clockmakers were good at making these clocks it was the French who were the masters and their creations were things of beauty as well as craftsmanship and mechanical expertise. They appear in paintings of the period and were to be found in all the great houses of the day, none more so than at Versailles where they were admired (along with everything else at the Court) by the visiting Swedish King, Gustav III in 1771.
|This picture of King Gustav III of Sweden comes from Wikimedia Commons.|
King Gustav was entranced by the elegance and beauty of the Versailles ‘style’ and introduced it with his usual vigour back at Stockholm, where it gradually developed and matured into what we now know as ‘Gustavian’ style.
We now move forward a couple of centuries to Sweden in the late 1930s, and in particular to the town of Töreboda, in southern Sweden. It was there that a firm of watchmakers known as ‘Westerstrand and Sons’ had established their business.
Having been in operation for some time, a younger generation at the company, full of bright ideas and eager for expansion, was now at the helm. In 1936 it was decided that the firm would branch out into making wall clocks - as a way of getting a toehold in the lucrative wedding/anniversary gift market.
But Westerstrand and Sons were not going to make just any old wall clocks.
Not for them the ‘Art Deco’ or the ‘Modernist’ style.
Like King Gustav III of old, they looked to France for their inspiration: The France of the Ancien Régime, and decided that they would make their clocks in the 18th Century Rococo manner. The result was not quite the same, especially given that this was 1930s Sweden and not 1770s France where money was no object. Some of the old French cartel clock makers might have turned up their noses just a little, at seeing the results, but the move proved extremely popular and the firm had soon built up a sizable clientele.
|This photograph was taken by Kirk Dale. It shows one of the Westerstrand clocks.|
We now move forward to the year 2012!
AGA collects clocks.
Mechanical and antique clocks.
As I write, in our apartment we have twenty four clocks: Two eighteenth century long-case (grandfather) clocks reign over this horological court which contains French mantel clocks, German clocks, English clocks, a Viennese regulator, a Czech village shield clock, some nineteenth century French carriage clocks, and a Black Forest cuckoo clock. They all tick. They all sound the hour. Visitors with a more 21st century digital mentality wonder how we put up with the ‘noise’ but to be honest with you, we often don’t even hear them and we couldn’t classify the gentle tick of our clocks as ‘noise’ anyway.
. . . And we have three Swedish Cartel clocks.
|This photograph of a Swedish Cartel clock was taken by Kirk Dale.|
|This photograph of the back of a Swedish Cartel Clock was taken by Kirk Dale. You can also see one of our Grandfather Clocks in the background...|
AGA tells me that these Westerstrand Cartel Clocks were carved of Linden wood (also known as Lime wood) and then gilded. This was a change from the 18th century ones which were usually ornamented with ormolu (a type of gilded metal).
|This photograph of the movement of a Swedish Cartel Clock was taken by Kirk Dale.|
They are spring driven, requiring winding every week. The pendulum is also gilded and sits snug within the body of the piece. The movement within these clocks is extremely sturdy and is adapted so that the hands can be pushed backwards, unlike almost all other mechanical clocks, to adjust the time. One cannot do this to most mechanical clocks without damaging the mechanism.
So there you are: Swedish cartel clocks.
|This Photograph of our third cartel clock was taken by Kirk Dale.|
And Westerstrand? Time passed, Cartel clocks went out of fashion, and by the 1960s, while maintaining a smallish clock making division, the company had branched out yet again, this time making parts for televisions. They went bankrupt in the 1980s and the company was sold off piecemeal. The mechanical clock division of the business was renamed and later sold and then resold; swiftly sinking into oblivion. Now they are somewhat collectable.
Our three clocks date from the 1930s and 1940s.
I like them.
They are very handsome pieces.
They have a very gentle tick and a silvery strike for the hours.
In their way these clocks were a return to the roots of the so-called ‘Gustavian style’: The 18th Century Versailles ‘look’.
In the interim however, Gustavian style had evolved, taking a different path to a more simpler line.
I wonder if these opulent, ornate clocks, wantonly tossing their gilded curls, were somewhat at odds with the austere, simple lines and cream-and-white colouring, that is so evocative of all things Gustavian.
|This photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.|