Think of antique clocks and a stately grandfather, German cuckoo, or Art Deco Bakelite clock may come to mind. But clockmaking is a vast field, spanning continents, outlasting empires, and encompassing a complete range of technologies and styles. Indeed, for clock collectors, the only problem with clocks is the lack of time to absorb and appreciate them all.

The Dutch are credited with inventing the first pendulum clock in the mid-17th century. The brainchild of a mathematician named Christiaan Huygens and a clockmaker named Salomon Coster, this first pendulum clock has an ebony-veneer case with an iron dial covered in black velvet.

French clockmakers of the 17th and 18th centuries took the Dutch pendulum and ran with it, focusing their creative attentions on the cases of their clocks. Ornately lacquered bracket clocks in oak, marble, tortoiseshell, brass, and gilt bronze were typical, as were larger pedestal clocks sporting similarly Rococo details.

The English were also influenced by the pendulum and improved upon it by inventing a recoil, or anchor, escapement that permitted a longer pendulum to be used—this resulted in a slower swing and less wear and tear on the clock. Brass lantern clocks were popular at the end of the 17th century; tall, walnut, long-case clocks were common in the 18th.

At the end of the 18th century and into the 19th, especially during the Biedermeier period, an Austrian wall clock known as the Vienna regulator came to prominence. These rectangular timekeepers often had decorative pediments on their tops and glass on the fronts of their cases, so that the slowly swinging pendulum inside was revealed for all to see. Most of these regulators ran for eight full days between windings—some could go for six weeks.

In America, Colonial clockmakers flourished, particularly in Pennsylvania and New England. David Rittenhouse, an astronomer who was the first director of the U.S. Mint, was the king of Pennsylvania clockmakers. His astronomical clock from 1774 is considered a masterpiece. Other noteworthy Keystone state clockmakers include Jacob Godchalk, his brother-in-law, Griffith Owen, and John Paul, Jr., whose German-style tall clocks were wonders of curly maple, walnut, and ivory.

In New England, the Willard family of Massachusetts, especially Simon, was every bit as influential. They made tall clocks, of course, but Simon and his brother Aaron are perhaps best known for the invention in 1802 of the much-copied banjo clock...

Just west, in Connecticut, Thomas Harland produced handsome clocks with all-brass movements. His Norwich cases from the late 1700s had bracket feet on the floor, decorative carved-cherry finials on top, and brass faces. But Harland is also remembered for the apprentices he trained, who in turn trained apprentices of their own. One of these was a clockmaker named Eli Terry.

Terry is widely considered to be the father of the clockmaking industry in the United States, thanks to his decorative pillar-and-scroll shelf clocks of the early 19th century. These modestly priced ($15), mass-produced clocks had wooden movements rather than brass, which kept costs down.

Terry’s clocks were widely imitated, and established Connecticut as the center of clockmaking in the United States. Makers such as former Terry apprentice Seth Thomas, the firm of Jeromes & Darrow, and Joseph Ives created boxy, bronze, and gilt versions of the same basic clock, some enclosed behind glass, others ornately carved and decorated with paintings of natural scenes or urban landscapes.

By the middle of the 19th century, the first spring-driven clocks began to appear. This allowed clocks to be smaller and lighter, as the springs did the job of weights. Balance wheels replaced pendulums, which added portability to the features of these new home timepieces. Clocks shaped like beehives and acorns were introduced, others resembled compact versions of Gothic cathedrals.

Elias and Andrew Ingraham created these latter clocks. In 1844, they partnered with Elisha Curtis Brewster to form Brewster & Ingrahams. The company quickly created a spring-driven banjo clock and, in 1850, a gallery clock, whose frameless design, save a ring around the clock’s face, appears very contemporary to 21st-century eyes.

Another key mid-19th century Connecticut clockmaker whose antique clocks are popular among collectors was the Ansonia Clock Company. Founded by Terry’s nephew Theodore, Ansonia clocks had brass movements—in 1850, the firm went through 58 tons of the metal. Chauncey Jerome based his Jerome Manufacturing Company in New Haven, renaming it the New Haven Clock Co. in 1853.

In 1857, the newly formed Waterbury Clock Company hired Chauncey Jerome—he had lost everything when he purchased a down-on-its-luck clock company owned by P.T. Barnum—to help with its case-making operations. The Sessions Clock Company arrived on the scene at the turn of the 20th century—between 1903 and 1933, Sessions made 52 different models, all mechanical.

As Arts & Crafts took hold, then gave way to Art Deco and Mid-century Modern, clocks continued to reflect the styles and technologies of their times. In the 1920s, Westclox introduced its crackle-finish Big Ben, Baby Ben, and Tiny Tim alarm clocks, each small enough to fit on a crowded bedside table. And in the 1950s and 1960s, George Nelson designed a line of battery-powered ball clocks that were practically all arms and dial. The ornate cases of shelf clocks and fine woodworking of grandfather clocks seemed so very far in the past.

Key terms for Antique Clocks:

Escapement: A device that converts the pressure of a spring or coil into a fixed release of movement.

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    

Extreamly Rare Black Forest Shelf Cuckoo Clock With Soldier Sentry Automaton Twin Fusee Cuckoo Clock Johann Baptist Beha For Camerer Kuss No ReserveSuperb Antique Mantel Clock - French Gilt Ormolu Regulator 4 Glass Mantle Clock Old Antique Cuckoo Clock Running With Weights, Large German Black Forest - L00kLarge Antique Japy Freres Bronzed Spelter & Agate Art Nouveau Women ClockAntique Ansonia Elysian Gilded Crystal Regulator Clock, Open Escapement MovementPhilco Clock Spinner Neon Octagon Vintage Quality The World Over 18 Inch FaceAtmos Jaeger Lecoultre Clock ViiiMarvelous Solid Bronze Candelabra Clock Set - Ormolu Candlestick Mantel ClockRare Antique German Glashutte 2 Day Marine Chronometer Clock In Original BoxWonderful Antique Mantel Clock Figural Gilt & Bronzed French Mantle Clock C1890Sevres And Ormolu Mantel Clock 1860Superb Antique Mantel Clock - French Gilt Ormolu Bulle 4 Glass Mantle ClockAntique Junghans German Bracket Clock Quarter Chime 8-day B09 Movement Nr1866 Ithaca Double Dial Perpetual Calendar ClockHeavy Carved Shelf Cuckoo Clock--beautiful Piece Of Intricate CarvingsAntique Ormolu Bronze Mantel Clock - Stunning Cubed French Mantle Clock C1870Superb Original Mantel Clock Walnut French Striking Mantle Clock C1870Antique Gustav Becker Complete Wall Clock Movement 2 Weights Vienna RegulatorRare Antique French Bronze & Blue Serves Grande Sonnerie Alarm Carriage ClockWonderful Antique Mantel Clock - Gilt Ormolu Carved Cased Repeat Carriage ClockAntique 19th C French 8 Day Bell Mantle Clock With Stunning Sevres PorcelainVintage Telechron Westinghouse Radio Lighted Electric 15" Advertising Wall ClockAntique 8 Day Grandfather Longcase Clock MovementSuperb Antique Mantel Clock Gilt Sevres Ormolu Spelter French Mantle Clock C1880Vintage C.1960 Wolf's Head Motor Oil 15" Lighted Metal Pam Clock Sign~nice/worksLovely Antique Mantel Clock Gilt Ormolu Classic Case Carriage Mantle Clock C1870Antique E. Howard Number #5 Weight Driven Banjo Wall Clock Runs GreatGenuine Antique French Repeating Carriage Clock Circa 1880 Movement Stamped L.f Vintage 1950's 7up 7 Up Soda Pop 17" Lighted Clock Sign~worksVintage German Gustav Becker 400 Day Anniversary Dome Clock - Good WorkingAntique Large French 19th C Solid Gilt Pierced Bronze 8 Day Palace Mantle ClockNeon Spinner Clock Neon Products PhilcoBeautiful Antique German Two Weight Wall Clock At 1860 / 1880Antique French Bronze Ormolu & Blue Sevres Cherub & Lady Figural Mantel ClockE.n. Welch Carved Oak Ball Top Hanging Kitchen Clock Circa 1885Chinoiserie Mantel Clock French Antique Miniature Bracket Carriage Clock C1910Genuine Late Victorian Carriage Clock With Masked Dial And Filigree PanelsFine French Bronze & Champleve Enamel Mantle Clock Ca 1860 No ReserveAngelus Clock" Sixsome"Rare Antique French Bronze Ormolu & Ornate Porcelain Cube Style Mantel Clock SetBeautiful Antique German Gustav Becker Two Weight Wall Clock At 1900Antique English Chain Fusee Dial Clock Like Railway With Pendulum & KeyAntique Clock - 19th C French 8 Day Gilt Ormolu Bronze Mantle Clock & BaseAntique 1830s Chauncey Jerome, Richmond Virginia Weight Driven Empire ClockGerman Anniversary Clock - Rare Glass Dome 360day Bandstand Torsion Mantel ClockAntique 1860's French Gilt Ormolu Bronze & Sevres Porcelain Figural Mantle Clock1915 - Waterbury Bracket Mantel Clock - Chime Clock No. 504 - Great Dial & BonusAntique Brass Carriage Clock-good Working OrderBallentine's Beer & Ale Glo Dial Clock Neon 1930's Whld Radio Outstanding Clock!Antique 1830s Chauncey Jerome, Richmond Virginia Weight Driven Empire ClockVintage 1960's Jaeger Le Coultre Atmos Caliber 528 Swiss Perpetual Motion ClockAntique Ormolu Bronze Mantel Clock - Stunning Cubed French Mantle Clock C1870Rare Hoadley Wood Works Calendar Case Weight Clock Grandfather Parts Eli TerryFrench Bronze Portico Clock With Knife Edge Suspension Large Triple Decker 8 Day Weight Clock By Birge, Mallory & Co.Antique Early 1800's French Empire Gilt Bronze Figural 8 Day Bell Mantle ClockUsed Ultrasonic Cleaner Tank - Steel Clock Cleaning Tank - 2.8l CapacityGustav Becker Pre Wwii Wall Clock; Unique & Beautiful 1/2 Hr Strike On GongVintage French Brass Carriage Clock - Working

Recent News: Clocks

Source: Google News

Annual lawn sale benefits 1811 Old Jail
Wiscasset Newspaper, May 25th

The committee already has collected many items including a 6 by 8-foot garden shed, several quilts, an antique clock, household items, boxes of books, electrics and electronics, luggage, carpets, tools, barn treasures and more. Anyone with items to...Read more

Watch and clock repair shops still going strong
Richmond.com, May 24th

Despite fewer timepiece repair shops operating than decades ago, the region still has a few left, including The Clock Shop of Richmond Ltd., The Clock Maker at Gwathmey, Cowardin's, Schwarszchild's Jewelers, Antique Clock Restorations, and Dransfield ...Read more

In memory of Gerald Davis
Chico Enterprise-Record, May 24th

Susan Davis, treasurer, and Rupert McDowell, board member of Chico Friends of the Library display a new antique clock hung in the Chico Library's conference room. The clock and plaque below are in honor and memory of Susan's husband, Gerald Davis, ...Read more

Plans to restore Topsfield Town Hall move forward
Wicked Local Topsfield, May 22nd

The landmark clock tower is hung with plastic sheeting to protect the antique clock mechanism from rain as the flashing on the slate roof is leaking. A fire escape has been removed from one side of the building, so now a second floor doorway is barred...Read more

Clock collector donates more than time to Cleveland church (photos)
cleveland.com, May 14th

One of three 6-foot clock faces on the steeple of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Cleveland's Slavic Village. (Frank Del Greco photo). James Ewinger, The Plain Dealer · Print Email · James Ewinger, The Plain Dealer By James Ewinger, The Plain Dealer The ...Read more

Antique clock stolen in burglary at Northampton house
Northampton Chronicle & Echo, May 5th

Thieves stole an antique clock, a 42-inch television and a laptop during a burglary at a home in Northampton. The burglary took place between 3am and 6am on Sunday (April 26) at an address in Clarence Avenue in Kingsthorpe. The thieves stole an antique ...Read more

Someone 2 Know: Blind Clock Collector
KTVN, April 30th

Time. It is a precious thing, the greatest gift you can give and it flies. Three reasons Jack Middleton doesn't waste his. He, instead, spends his time doing what he loves. So what is it that makes him tick? Clocks! Many, many clocks. Most of Jack's...Read more

Antique Clocks and Watches Show comes to Lenexa
KSHB, April 17th

Now they're buying another clock at the Antique Clocks and Watches Show in Lenexa. "We bought a Kienzle, it's a German clock," said Betty. "They have this deep magnificent tone when they bong." They drove all the way from Omaha, Neb., to be here...Read more