Mantel clocks (also known as mantle or shelf clocks) were inexpensive to make and affordable to own, which explains why they were one of the most popular clocks in the 18th and 19th centuries. Part decoration, part practical timepiece, mantel clocks are so named because they were small enough to be displayed on a shelf or mantel.

Mantel clocks were made with both brass and wood movements and ran anywhere from 30 hours to eight days between windings, although some Seth Thomas clocks from the late 19th and early 20th centuries ran for 15 days. Although its origins lay in France in the 18th century, the mantel clock took off in the U.S. in Connecticut during the early 19th century, when clockmaker Eli Terry began mass-producing them.

Simon Willard, who created the banjo clock, made mantel clocks popular in Massachusetts. His design for a weight-driven timepiece, known as the Simon Willard Shelf Clock, is highly collectible today.

Ornately decorated and usually made of wood, porcelain, or ormolu, mantel clocks were mostly key-wound with a swinging pendulum. American mantel clocks were typically made of cherry or oak and sometimes incorporated iron or brass.

The bases of mantel clocks were decorated in a variety of ways. Some were made of solid wood or wooden panel, others were engraved, and some mantel clocks featured intricately detailed painted scenes. There were even mantel clocks with calendars built into their faces.

The Ansonia Clock Company made some gorgeous porcelain mantel clocks, whose front surface was painted with images of flowers. Ansonia also produced carved clocks with beautiful sculptures and figurines sharing their base.

Unlike Ansonia’s elaborate carvings, Seth Thomas clocks were all about smooth, sleek lines. His slick, 19th-century mantel clocks, usually made of richly colored wood, look more ...

The ogee clock was introduced in the 1840s. Featuring an "S"-like curve in its molding, ogee clocks were very popular, and most clock companies of the era produced variations on the ogee theme.

In the mid-19th century, Elias Ingraham created what is known as the steeple clock, whose triangle front and column-like sides resemble a church steeple. This design sparked numerous spin-offs, such as the double steeple and the beehive.

Whatever you call them, mantel clocks have maintained their popularity for more than two centuries because they are dependable and work so well in so many different domestic situations. Today, they continue to be sought after by collectors and non-collectors alike for pretty much the same reasons.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

National Watch and Clock Museum

National Watch and Clock Museum

This virtual museum, created by the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, lets you stroll through tim… [read review or visit site]

Bill Stoddard's clock history site offers a trove of great reference information on clock and watch makers includin… [read review or visit site]

National Maritime Museum

National Maritime Museum

Check out this sampling of nautical and maritime items held by the U.K.'s National Maritime Museum and Royal Observ… [read review or visit site]

Dan and Diana's Lux Clock Collection

Dan and Diana's Lux Clock Collection

Dan and Diana Lockett's amazing collection of several hundred novelty Lux clocks made by the Lux Clock Manufacturin… [read review or visit site]

Detex Watchman's Clock Album

Detex Watchman's Clock Album

Philip Haselton's guide to watchmen's time recording equipment. Includes 19th century German portables, 20th centur… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage Old New Haven Antique Depression Era Art Deco Electric Digital ClockSevres Mantel Clock - French Gilt Clock - Antique ClocksAntique German Phillip Haas & Son Mahogany Bracket Mantel Clock, Working! NrAntique Clock €Exceptional Walnut 4 Glass Musical 4 Bells Westminter Chimes 8 Day Mantle ClockAntique Telechron Electric Clock Model 8b03 "minitman" Drum Dial Mantle Clock Antique "fashion" Double Dial Mantle ClockAnsonia Clock Triumph Mirror Side 8 Day Bell Strike Mantle With ShelfSuperb Mahogany & Brass 4 Bevelled Glass Tourbillon Skeletised 8day Mantle ClockStunning Antique French Statue Striking Mantle Clock "nymphe De L'onde"A Good Clean Working Bulle Electric Mantle Clock C1920 Rare Antique Junghans Large Germany Westminster Chime Bracket Mantle Shelf ClockAntique French Boulle Style, Franz Hermle Mantel Clock And Works Great !!!30's Ge Telechron Eldorado 7h90 Cobalt Blue Mirror Alarm Clock~art DecoSevres Mantel Clock - French Porcelain Clock - Antique ClocksEnglish Mantel Clock - St James Carriage Clock - Antique ClocksAnsonia Alhambra Eight Day Mantle Clock C. 1880'sRare Antique Gilbert "cato" 1896 Black Mantel Column Clock Working Well 8 DayJauch Dual Double Chime Chiming Westminster Whittington Art Deco Mantle ClockFrench Mantel Clock - Carved Architectural Clock - Antique ClocksAntique Clock-19thc French Japy Freres Bronze Roccoco Mantle Clock Garniture Set1890's Lenzkirch Mantle Clock :: German Black Forest :: Walnut & Brass/bronze Vintage Jaeger-lecoultre Atmos 528-6 Mantel Clock Serial #284308Antique Japy Freres Porcelain Dial Portico Mantel Clock 8 Day Key Wind NoresRare Antique Ansonia Marbelite No 8 Open Escapement Mantel Shelf Parlor ClockAntique Terry & Andrews 30hr Steeple Clock Mantel Clock C1845Antique Sessions Mantle ClockJaeger Lecoultre Atmos 24k Gold Mantel Clock Perpetual Motion Caliber 528-8Antique Victorian American Jerome New Haven Gothic Alarm Mantel Clock 8day C1860Antique Clock -19th C French Marti Marble & Bronze Roccoco 8 Day Mantle ClockJaeger Le Coultre Atmos Perpetual Motion Swiss Clock Cal 528-6. Serial #212249Exquisite Antique Lenzkirch Walnut & Ormolu Mounted Miniature Mantle Clock.1900f Seth Thomas Antique Delos Model Black W/marbleized Adamantine Mantle ClockAntique Vtg Retro Jefferson Mystery Clock Golden Helm For Parts As-isAntique Ginger Bread Mantle Session Clock Nice Old Antique Arts & Crafts Mission Oak Diamond Beveled Mirror Clock ShelfAntique Adamantine Seth Thomas Mantel / Shelf Clock. 1900 Vintage 1930's~'40's Electric Deco New Haven Clock Westminster Chimes Harkness2 Vintage Swiss Lecoultre Mantle & Travel Clock Glass Brass 4 Repair RestorationTerry & Andrews Gothic Steeple Mantel Clock 1845 Brass Springs ''rare''Antique 1880s Seth Thomas Cottage 8 Day Clock Veneer Case Bird Mantel Shelf (2) Antique 19thc Victorian Empire Wood & Plaster Corbel Style Clock Wall ShelfVintage 1950s Art Deco Jefferson Electric Golden Hour Mystery Mantle ClockVintage Art Deco Onyx Stone Telechron Mantel Clock €Antique French S. Marti Medaille De Argent Clock Movement Dial Bezel Gong PartsRare 1903 Antique Sessions Mantle Clock With Columns Hour & 1/2 Hour Strike RunsJaeger Lecoultre Atmos 13 Jewel 540 Caliber Round Dial Mantel Shelf ClockSevres Mantel Clock - French Gilt Clock - Antique ClocksVintage 1950's Cyma Amic 8 Day Sonomatic 15 Jewel Desk Alarm Clock Nice ! Vintage Rose Pink Gold Case Atmos Lecoultre Clock No ReserveSevres Mantel Clock - French Gilt Clock - Antique ClocksRare Antique George V Solid Silver & Enamel Mantle Clock - Cohen & Charles 1913Rare Antique Seth Thomas Red Adamantine Parlor Clock Shelf Mantel Pillar Scroll1883 Gilbert Parlor Shelf Clock The Altai 8-day Antique Jaeger Le Coultre Atmos Swiss Made Perpetual Motion Mantle Clock Caliber 528-8Tiffany & Co. Gilt Bronze Mantle Clock Garniture Set Louis Xv Style Ad MouginAnsonia -- Minerva-- Porcelain Dial Open Escapement Mantel ClockRare Antique Seth Thomas "kent" Oak Wood City Series Mantle Parlor Chime Clock !E Ingraham Antique Mantle Clock Beautiful Completely Restored Runs Great!A Good Clean Walnut Cased Mantle Clock With Marti Bell Strike Movement C1880

Recent News: Mantel Clocks

Source: Google News

Marking Time
Bangalore Mirror, July 13th

My father manufactured the parts,re-assembled the clock in 30 days and took it to Delhi where he presented the working Mantel Clock to its owner, the Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi. He charged only `3000 for the job" says Syed Mahmood "but Mrs...Read more

Terryville resident's antique clocks on exhibit
Bristol Press, July 12th

PLYMOUTH — Tom Vaughn became interested in clocks when he was 14 and began tinkering with an old broken timepiece in his family's living. He bought new parts for it but still couldn't get it to work, so he found the same model online and bought it for...Read more

Finalists announced for VIVID emerging design competition
Architecture and Design, July 3rd

Vibrant Vision in Design (VIVID) will return to Decor + Design from 10 July to 13 July 2014 with over 80 innovative pieces by 58 shortlisted designers to be put on display at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, Southbank. Once again, VIVID 2014 will give...Read more

Auction Systems Auctioneers & Appraisers Inc. to Host "5th of July Auction" in ...
PR Newswire (press release), July 1st

Courtship International set of two sterling candle holders, Velocity Micro Cruz Reader tablet with charger, Jane Wooster Scott pencil signed "School Days" matted and framed serigraph, decorative Samurai sword, Antique style mantel clock featuring...Read more

'Antiques Roadshow' was great fun, but not profitable
Farm and Ranch Guide, June 25th

The mantel clock was appraised by a very sophisticated appraiser with excellent people skills and a slight British accent. He commended us on the cleanliness and the condition of our old mantle clock but scolded me for scotch taping the key to the...Read more