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    

Out Standing Antique Mantel Clock Champleve Bronze Ormolu French Clock C1860Antique Black Forest 8 Day Fusee Shelf Cuckoo Clock Kammerer ?? Needs Repair NrC 1880 Seth Thomas #2 Oak Weight Driven Regulator Clock Signed Works Orig LabelAntique Weight Driven Banjo Clock Possibly Waltham Unsigned RunsSuperb Antique Mantel Clock - Gilt Ormolu Gorge Cased Calendar Carriage ClockExceptional Large Antique French Bronze Gong Striking Carriage Clock & Alarm1950's Vintage Neon Glo-dial Belfast Sparkling Water Advertising Clock Works 22"Antique French Figural 8 Day Chime Mantel Clock - Good WorkingWeight Driven Banjo Clock ProjectRare 20thc English Regulator Longcase Clock Solid Mahogany Grandfather C1910Antique Circa-1830s Morris Tobias Ship Captains English Chronograph Clock & CaseBrewster & Ingrahams Onion Top Four Candle Bee Hive ClockRare French Boulle Mantle Clock On BracketJaeger Lecoultre Skeleton Clock - Rare 8 Day Jewelled Swiss Movement Gallery TopAntique 19thc German Junghans B06 Bracket Clock W/ Chimes & Mahogany CaseSuperb Antique German Carved Black Forest Classic Style Cuckoo Bracket ClockAntique Rare William L. Gilbert Psyche Parlor Clock, Beautiful, Nr Antique 1800s Early American Banjo Clock Project Restore Willard ?Secessionist Arts & Crafts Nouveau Copper & Enamel Mantel Clock German MercedesBristol Longcase Clock - Silver Dial 8 Day English Grandfather Clock High TideAntique 19thc Gold Gilt Bronze Carriage Clock W/ Curved Glass Front & Columns60's Dr Pepper Soda Pop Pam Clock Dancing P's ChevronGeorgian Longcase Clock Movement - Painted Dial 8 Day English Grandfather ClockRare Quality Small Antique French Bronze & Glass Gong Striking Carriage ClockAsprey Pocket Watch 8 Day Swiss Car Clock Travel Desktop Edwardian AntiqueEureka Battery ClockAntique Seth Thomas Umbria Wall ClockExcellent Antique Mantel Clock Mother Figural Spelter French Mantle Clock C1870Out Standing Antique Mantel Clock Sevres Bronze Ormolu French Mantle Clock C1860Antique Sevres Mantel Clock Garnitures French Cherub Painted Candle Sticks C18501956~hartford Insurance~illuminated Bubble Clock~electric Advertising Sign~rare~Antique Sevres Mantel Clock Garnitures French Hand Painted Clock Tazos C1850Ansonia Crystal Regulator Clock - Very Rare1965~squirt~pam Electric Illuminated Advertising Bubble Clock Soda Sign~excelentMantel Clock Glass Dome - Taxidermy Class Oval Dome - Bracket Clock Glass DomeAntique French Comtoise Clock Parts For Spares Or RepairVintage General Electric Art Deco Chrome Trim Lucite Facade Antique Old Clock Vintage C.1960 Bardahl Motor Oil 12" Clock Sign~works Antique French Inlaid Boulle & Bronze Clock Bracket Stand Antique French Carriage Clock C1910 With Masked Dial. Key. Restored June 2015. Antique French Boulle Mantel Clock Circa 1860Fine Elliott Westminster Chimes Mantel Bracket Clock, 8 Day, Working Well, C1949Superb Unusual Antique French 2 Tone & Blue Porcelain Gothic Style Mantle ClockJaeger Lecoultre Atmos Clock Blk Lucite Marina Fisherman In Box Since New 70s1950's Vintage Neon Glo-dial Belfast Sparkling Water Advertising Clock Works 22"Stunning Howard Miller Barrister Westminster Chime Key Wind Mantle Clock Works !Original Ansonia Fisher Swinger Mystery Clock W/ "tin Can" Arm Circa 1880'sWolverhampton Longcase Clock - Brass Dial English Grandfather Clock Solid OakAntique Brass Carriage Clock French Working Order For Small Restoration Vintage Atmos Jaeger Lecoultre Clock Borne Retro Ansonia Porcelain Crystal Gilded Regulator Clock Pristine! Jaeger Lecoultre Atmos *540* Elysee Mantel Clock- Working- Nr!Large 49.5" Waterbury Dual Weight Driven Wall Clock #18~quarter Sawn Oak~runsGustav Becker Double Weight Wall Clock Movement 8 Day Vienna Wall Clock MovementNice Antique Mini Turret Clock - English Skeleton Weight Driven Wall Clock C1880Marvellous Antique Mantel Clock Solid Marble & Bronze French Mantle Clock C1860Georgian Longcase Clock Movement - Painted Dial 8 Day English Grandfather ClockAntique Waterbury Large Octagon Wall School Clock Time & Strike Calendar TypeSuperb Small Antique German 8 Day Mahogany Musical Vienna Regulator Wall ClockSilvered Dial Antique Longcase/grandfather Clock Movement-no Reserve!!!

Recent News: Clocks

Source: Google News

Union subway station done but overall revitalization still two years away
Globalnews.ca, July 2nd

An antique clock that once stood outside along Front St. has been restored and put back in place as part of the complete plaza makeover. When all is said and done, the overall project will feature 160,000 square feet of restaurants and retail. © Shaw...Read more

Market News: British art's untapped potential
Telegraph.co.uk, June 30th

Antique clock dealers, Carter Marsh from Winchester, captured the spotlight at the opening of the Masterpiece fair last week, selling 18 English clocks for over £8 million. The dealers had stolen a march on the salerooms by securing the Tom Scott...Read more

Stanley Gibbons profits boosted by £533000 sale of single coin
Yahoo Finance UK, June 26th

There were some notable high-profile sales, including rare Beatles and NASA photographs, significant pieces of 20th century signed jewellery and antique clocks. In November, Stanley Gibbons sold a turquoise and white enamel 'Serpenti' watch by Bulgari ...Read more

History Preserved at the Smithsonian of the Ozarks
KSMU Radio, June 26th

“First floor is Special Collections, we have a lot of antique clocks, watches, dolls and furniture . There's also a music room which highlights Ralph Foster and Si Siman, both instrumental in KWTO radio and The Ozarks Jubilee TV show. We also have an...Read more

Antique clock's return to Laramie symbolizes downtown revival, says owner
The Republic, June 6th

LARAMIE, Wyoming — An antique clock that was once a landmark in downtown Laramie had returned to its home. The Laramie Boomerang reports (http://bit.ly/1MbAgXD ) that the clock historically stood in front of Midwest Trunk and Sporting Goods but was ...Read more

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

Clock collector donates more than time to Cleveland church (photos). 1 / 10. A passion for time on a grand scale. 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)...Read more

Antique Clocks Bloom At Cherry Blossom Festival
New Haven Independent, April 24th

Not all the flowers may be out in time for Sunday's Cherry Blossom Festival in Wooster Square, but 50 clocks will be. The still-working antique time pieces from the 1880s to the 1950s, all manufactured by the New Haven Clock Company, will be ticking...Read more

Antique-clock collector turns hobby into a business
Dallas Morning News, April 17th

Antique-clock collector turns hobby into a business. 1/2. Michael Ainsworth/Staff Photographer. Henry Juvers decided to sell clocks when he found that he had some time on his hands after retirement...Read more