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    

Rare Antique Oak Seth Thomas #2 Wall Regulator ClockRare Plato Jump Hour Digital Flip Lantern Carriage Desk Clock Junghans Watch CoVintage Art Deco Bakelite & Chrome, Sessions Airplane Clock, Working! ... NrAntique Ansonia Gilded Bronzed Crystal Regulator Clock W/ Open Escapement FaceA Rare Large Antique German Black Forest Weather House Cuckoo ClockTop Quality Antique Fruitwood Bell Striking Repeat Austrian Verge Bracket ClockTwin Fusee Clock Movement With Dial, Hands, Pendulum Shouldered Plates RestoreJaeger Lecoultre Marina Clock,mantle ClockOriginal Seth Thomas World Regulator Clock Canadian  railroad / Military 15 DayGustav Becker 19c Westminster Striking Bracket Clock - Original Antique ClocksVintage 1950s Bakelite Digital Clock , Nice Marbled Swirls & Silver Color TrimSilas Hoadley Short Drop Shelf Clock .. Wooden Works Mvt. Great LabelAntique Westerstrands Swedish Carved Wood Cartel Wall Clock W/ Bells, NrGothic Trumpeter Shelf ClockAntique 36" Regulator Single Weight Driven Railroad Wall Clock W/ Second Dial NrVintage 1950s Drink Coca Cola Fishtail Lighted Advertising ClockRare Quality Antique Fusee Verge Engraved Bronze Ormolu Miniture Carriage ClockLarge Antique Spring Driven Junghans Hunter Cuckoo ClockSeth Thomas #2 Weight Driven 8-day ClockVintage 1930's Authentic Dr.pepper Clock Advertising Thermometer 118-g Rare!!Matthew Norman Grand Sonnerie Strike Repeating Moonphase Calandar Carriage ClockAntique Black Forest Trumpeter Clock (gordian Hettich & Son) For RestorationRare Art Nouveau Pewter Clock By B G Imperial 5210Large Antique Neon ClockVintage 1950's Meridian Clock Howard Miller George Nelson No Res!!!Antique Seth Thomas No. 96 Mayland Westminster Chimes Mantle Clock 124a, NrVintage 1960's Rc Royal Crown Cola Soda Pop 22" Lighted Metal Pam Clock SignAntique Fusee English Wall Clock Case Mid Nineteenth Century Drop Dial ClockAntique French Striking Clock , Porcelain Panels Comitti Gold Plated Grasshopper Skeleton Clock S236gLarge 36" Harley Davidson Motorcycles Cleveland Neon ClockRaretall Case Grandfather English Jewelers Astronomical Regulator Clock C1820Large Antique Phillip Haas Black Forest Hand Carved Cuckoo Clock, ProjectFantastic 1874 Walnut Waterbury Striking 8 Day Parlor ClockAntique French Marble Mantle Clock Garniture Set~cherub &ram’s Heads €2 Weight Vienna Regulator Clock Movement Only @ 1890Rare Dent Fusee 9 Inch Dial Striking Wall Clock, Gallery ClockRare 19th C French Gilt Bronze 8 Day Mantle Clock With Pendulum View Glass FrontAntique Twin Bell Alarm ClockEarly 1875 E.n.welch & Spring Company Perpetual Calendar ClockAntique Ansonia €Antique Seth Thomas 8-day, Time & Strike, Crystal Regulator Clock With ColumnsHigh Quality Antique Brass & Ships Mahogany 8 Day English Ships Wall Clock8 Day Omega Watch Co Golitah Wall Desk Clock Chronometer Bronze By E.f CaldwellAntique Gustav Becker Brass 400 Day Anniversary Clock Glass Dome Parts Repairs Antique 19th Cent. Bronze Vincenti & Cie Champleve Cloisonne French Mantel ClockThe Best Ever ////longcase Clock Set Of 3 Brass FinialsVintage Mid Century Modern Jefferson Clock Eames George Nelson Era No Res!!!Antique 19thc French 8-day Movement Alarm Brass Carriage Clock, Richard & CoBrass Wall Mount Bracket Shelf For Le Coultre Lecoultre Atmos ClockExcellent Hamilton Model 22 Ships Deck Clock Chronometer Watch With Both BoxesRare Antique French Cast Iron Mantel Clock With Automation Monk Striking AlarmAntique 8day Wood Works Clock With Alarm/jerome & Darrow, Bristlol Conn. C.1831Antique American Walnut Inlaid 12" Wall Clock, Circa 1890 & Just 99p Start!Rare Vintage 15" Duquesne Beer Advertising Bubble Clock C.1952, Pittsburgh,nice!Twin Weight Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Movement By Lenzkirch - Antique ClocksAntique 33" Walnut Seth Thomas Regulator Wall ClockSwiss Boxed Platform Escapement For Mantle Clock Antique E. N. Welch 8-day Time & Strike, Mahogany Wall Clock - "sembrich" ModelUrania Clock Co Torsion 400 Day Anniversary Clock W/ Rare Disk Pendulum & Dome

Recent News: Clocks

Source: Google News

The Capitol's Treasury vault is a mix of buried history, forgotten treasures ...
The Patriot-News - PennLive.com, September 18th

The list of unclaimed items in the vault goes on: a men's diamond-face Rolex watch, war rations, old currency, military medals, diamond bracelets, antique clocks, and more. Much of it comes from neglected safety deposit boxes, police evidence lockers...Read more

Spain garden tour: Out to Segovia
Vancouver Sun (blog), September 17th

As rain clouds gathered over Madrid, we took a bus ride out into the country to Segovia where the sun was still shining. On the way, we stopped at the Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso where we found immense sequoias and blue cedars in the ...Read more

Medford man watches over a niche market
Burlington County Times, September 17th

His expertise at repairing new and antique clocks and barometers has earned him a wide reputation. “I have customers in every state,'' he said, adding, “There are not too many people doing this and there are still those who require the service and are...Read more

Secrets of the Pennsylvania Capitol 17 views that aren't on any tour
The Patriot-News, September 15th

What sits in the vault are tangible treasures – expensive-looking jewelry, antique clocks, war medals and highly valued baseball cards, among a host of other items. Those unclaimed goods are held for three years while efforts are made to locate their...Read more

Quality time: Clockmakers mark 50 years in Newfane
Bennington Banner, September 14th

Because with an antique clock, you have to retain the authenticity of the original maker," the elder Bates said. "If computers and milling machines and all the rest of that stuff had been available, these old clockmakers would have been using them," he...Read more

Mad Hatter brings buzz to Birmingham
Hometownlife.com, September 13th

Many one-of-a-kind antique clocks adorn the walls of the Mad Hatter, which Sakko hand-picked most herself at the Knightsbridge Antiques Mall in Northville and Oddfellows Antiques in Berkley. “There is so much love and stories behind the development of ...Read more

Obituaries/Births/News of Windham County people
Commons, September 3rd

“My mission, as I see it,” says Bates, “is to save as many of these antique clocks as I can, to bring them back to their original mechanical integrity — using all of the same techniques and materials from their period — and hope that someone will...Read more

social -- Antique Clock and Watch Show
Glens Falls Post-Star, August 30th

Antique Clock and Watch Show with Free Appraisals and Repair Estimates, sponsored by the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, Rip Van Winkle Chapter 40, at Saratoga Springs United Methodist Church (Northway Exit 14 to Henning Rd and...Read more