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]

Clockhistory.com

Clockhistory.com

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    

Rare Vintage Art Deco G-e Telechron Clock~ Lotus ~ W/ Catalin / Bakelite BaseJaeger Lecoultre Atmos Perpetual Motion Barometric Mantle Shelf ClockBeautiful Jaeger Lecoultre Atmos Clock Cal 528 Just Cleaned Serviced & Timed NrAntique Victorian French Marble Portico Striking Mantel Clock Urn Garniture 1880Beautiful Jaeger Lecoultre Atmos Clock Cal 528 Just Cleaned Serviced & Timed NrStunning Antique French Empire Brass Ormolu Cathedral Automation Mantel ClockGorgeous Antique French Japy Rosewood Marquetry Mantel Clock Silk Suspension GwoAntique Ansonia Open Escapement Mantel Clock Movement Dial PartsJust Cleaned Serviced & Timed The Rare Blue Screw Jaeger Lecoultre Atmos 519 NrFrench Gilt Cast Mantle Clock With Female Figure & Porcelain Panels Vtg 1950s Lecoultre Atmos Gold Ormolu On Brass Swiss 15 Jewels Deco Mantle ClockOld Chinese Turquoise Glazed Porcelain + French Ormolu Bronze Mount Mantle ClockAntique Ansonia "cygnet" Gold Gilt Mantel Shelf Clock Faceted Stones And CherubLecoultre Musical Mantel Clock Swiss “let Me Call You Sweetheart” Excellent CondAntique Jaeger Lecoultre 9" Round Swiss Atmos Time Clock Brass & Glass Case Rare Antique 18thc French Gosselin Boulle Inlaid & Ebonised Shell Mantel Clock1890's Antique Ansonia Monmouth Brass 8-day Mantel Clock Hour 1/2 Chime Strike1920s Antique Herschede Hall Co Westminster Chimes Mantle Clock, NrRare Antique Seth Thomas Walnut Wood Old Eastlake Mantle Parlor Chime City ClockOld Clock Shelf Bracket Clock Louis Philippe *schmid 8 Day* Miniature Baby ClockAlabama Calender Clock Co. Tuskegee Ala. Shelf Calender Clock OriginalStylish Art Deco Green Jadeite Glass & Chrome Desk Dressing Table Mantle ClockOld Cylinder Escapement Platform/carriage/mantle Clock #2Vintage Mid Century Modern Jefferson Electric 24k Gold Plated Suspense Clock/boxRare Schmeckenbecher Vintage Mantle Bird Cage Automaton Cuckoo Clock As Is PartsJean Roulet, Time Day Date Month Moon Phase Desk Shelf Mantel Clock Mint CondLarge Size French Open Escapement Mantle Clock MovementWaterbury Clock Co. Oxford Mirror Sides Parlor Shelf ClockLovely Antique Mantle Clock Case With Brass Inlay For ReuseBeautiful Antique French Bronze Ormolu Classically Designed 4 Glass Mantel Clock 8 Day Jaeger Le Coultre Rue De La Paix Street Sign Lamp Post Clock AlarmLg 19thc Antique Victorian Ansonia Lady Figural Mantel Clock Sculpture StatueArt Deco Machine Age General Electric Telechron Clock 5f52 Black Mirror Glass Spectacular Large Heavy Spanish Sterling Silver 925 Mantel Clock. 857 GrVintage Junghans German Figural Swinger Mantel Shelf ClockOld Mantel Clock Bracket Clock 3 Melodies*westminster & Whitt & Winch*9 HammersOriginal Art Deco Mantle Clock. Needs AttentionAntique 19thc French 2 Tone Gilt Bronze Centurion Soldier Figural Mantel ClockSchatz And Sohne 8 Day Triple Chime Carriage 3.73 Clock Seven Jewel Works Antique French Mantel Clock Surmount By Ph Mourey In Gilt Metal 'diana Huntress'Old 1800s Ansonia Mantle Shelf Clock Open Escapement Movement Clock PartsKundo 400 Day Anniversary Glass Dome Mantle Clock GermanyVintage Brass Pink Guilloche Imhof Swiss Alarm Desk Clock Repair Parts As IsAntique 1909 Seth Thomas Mantel Clock 2 Adamantine 1/2 Pillars 4 Parts Or Repair**old Mantel Clock Lantern Clock * Franz Hermle & Sohn * Vtg Linden 8 Day Mantle Wind Up Clock Odo Made In France Movement Figurine BellAntique French Bell Striking Mantel Clock By Japy Freres Wth Gilt Classical CaseAntique 19thc French Gilt Metal & Pink Sevres Porcelain 8 Day Mantel ClockVery Rare Rolex 1950s Sabot Hoof Desk Clock Spanish W Box To FixEarly Paper Mache Mantle Clock. To Restore Terry Jerome Welch LitchfieldReally Old Clock Antique Early Mantel ClockAntique Shelf Clock Black Starr & Frost 8 Day Sterling SilverVintage Jaeger Lecoultre Atmos Mantle Clock Model 528-8 #476073Lecoultre Atmos Clock Caliber 519 - Serial # 44859Vintage Ansonia "toulon" Enameled Iron Mantle Clock, C.1904. Height 11” 1904Antique 19th C French Figural 8 Day Mantel Clock With Beautiful Sevres PorcelainFabulous Genuine Signed Antique 19th Century Marti Mantel Clock By Royal Delft Antique 19th C French Japy Freres Gilt Bronze 8 Day Bell Strike Mantle ClockMantle Clock An Elliott Clock From The Alexander Clark Co Ltd Working English Antique Germany Kundo Electronics Keininger & Obergfell Brass Mantel Shelf Clock