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    

French Antique 8 Day Blue Sevres Mantel Clock - 19th Ormolu Bronze Mantle ClockAntique Figural Spelter "la Nuit" Statue Swinger Mantel Shelf ClockRare Antique German Brass 400 Day Gustav Becker Torsion 4 Glass Mantel Clock19thc Antique Slate & Bronze Sculpture French Mantel Clock, No Reserve!Antique 8 Day W&h Westminster Chime Bracket Clock On Musical Gongs Mantel Clock19c "leroy&fils Ormolu/gilt Bronze French Mantel Clock.Antique American Seth Thomas Parlor Calendar Mantel Clock Bell Chiming No 5 1880Antique Mantel Clock German Clock Bracket Clock * Westminster With 2 Melodies *Exceptional Antique 19thc French Bronze & Champleve Enamel 8 Day Mantel ClockHenry Marc French Gilt-bronze Ormolu Mantel Clock Strking Pendulum Louis XvBeautiful Antique 19thc French 8 Day White Marble & Bronze Ormolu Mantle ClockRare 1930s Smiths Electric Mystery Glass/ Chrome Vintage Art Deco Mantel ClockFrench Antique 8 Day Red Sevres Mantel Clock - 19thc Gilt Porcelain Mantle ClockVintage Smiths Sectric Green Bakelite Art Deco Curves Mid Century Antique ClockTiger Or Curly Maple Shelf Clock With Carved Mahogany Splat And ColumnsFrench Antique 8 Day Cherub Figural Mantel Clock - Gilt Sevres Porcelain ClockWarmink Shelf Mantel Clock Moon Dial Strikes Double Bell 70s Nut Wood Dutch 26cmGlorious French Ebonised Mahogany Drumhead Mantle Clock/timepiece C1890Antique E. Ingraham 30 Hour Time & Strike Grecian Mantle Clock German Junghans Antique Mantle Clock Large, Beautiful / Runs GreatAntique Ornate Bronze Glass French Style Cherub Lion Chariot Maiden Mantle ClockBeautiful Jaeger Lecoultre Atmos Cal 528 Just Cleaned Serviced & Timed No Res!Ge Telechron Monitor Top Refrigerator Clock Jaeger Lecoultre Baby Atmos Blue Screw, Good Condition,cleaned And Serviced.Vintage Antique Brass 1692 London 1824 France Ansonia Alarm Usa Ny Clock PartArt Deco 8 Day French Mantel ClockAntique Ansonia Mantle Or Shelf Clock Oak Victorian 1882Antique Mantel Clock 19th Century French Clock In Porcelain Nice And PerfectAntique Chiming Ansonia Trump Porcelain Mantel ClockGood Antique 8 Day Kienzle Westminster Chime Bracket Clock Musical Mantel ClockAntique Ingraham Chiming Black Mantel Clock With Green Adamantine Pillars Antique * E.n.welch Ripple Front Beehive Mantle Clock / 8day, Alarm Stunning Antique 19thc French 8 Day Walnut Effect & Bronze Portico Mantle ClockAntique Clock Chiming 8 Day Ansonia Slate Mantle C1890Beautiful Antique 19thc French 8 Day Variagated Marble & Bronze Mantle ClockAntique Ansonia Rare 1894 "nice" Ornate Cast Iron Horse Statue Mantel Clock Antique 1890's Ansonia Beaver Mantle/parlor Clock With Buffalo StrikeNear Mint Square Dial Jaeger Lecoultre Atmos 528 Just Cleaned Serviced Timed Nr!Jaeger Lecoultre Atmos Very Good Condition,cleaned And Serviced.Antique Victorian French Gilt Figure Mantel Clock By S Marti Chiming AlabasterAntique Clock-seth Thomas Clock-1897-adamantine-mantel Clock-beautiful!-l@@k!Antique Large Jerome Ogee Weight Drive Mantel Clock 30 Hr Runs Unique Dial 1869Jaeger Lecoultre Atmos Clock 528-8 Early 1970'sFine French Antique 8 Day Bronze Ormolu Mantel Clock - 19th Rococo Mantle ClockBeautiful Vintage Kaiser Skeleton Globe Visuable Works Globe 8 Day Mantle ClockAntique Vintage French Art Nouveau White Metal Figural Lady Mantel ClockJaeger-lecoultre Atmos Perpetual Motion Mantle Clock #528-8 - No ReserveAntique 19thc French 8 Day Walnut Effect & Bronze Officers Carriage Mantle ClockAntique Ge Digital Clock Art Deco Pre Lawson Era - Runs Great!!Early French Silk Thread Movement Mantle Clock Inlayed Ebonized Case Project031 Vintage German Sinn (oswald) Revolving Eyes Novelty Clock - Dog1930 French Art Deco Mantel Clock With Bronze Statue Sculpture Signed M.secondoJermone And Darrow Eight Day Wood Works Shelf Clock / Working ConditionArt Deco Mantle ClockAntique Rare 1843-1852 Early Brewster & Ingrahams Rosewood Beehive Shelf Clock Top Quality C19th French Rococo Brass & Cherub Mantle Clock (46 Cm High)Vintage 1920s / 30s Mantle Clock.French Timepiece Antique 8 Day Serpentine Carved Fret Case Carriage Mantel ClockExcellent Antique Seth Thomas Adamantine Mantel Clock Case Parts RepairLarge Antique 1800's Phs Mantle Cuckoo Clock.