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]

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    

Perfect Orrery Clock In Full Working Order And Great ConditionLarge 36" Tall Antique Seth Thomas 30 Day Regulator Wall ClockTriple Fusee Bracket Clock - Musical 8 Bell Clock - Antique ClocksE.howard Jeweler's Regulator Clock Movement W Dennison's Gravity EscapementAntique E.n. Welch Wall Clock Double Dial Calendar Original Finish "no Reserve"Vienna Wall Clock - Regulator Calendar Wall Clock - Antique ClocksAntique French Serves Type Porcelain Panel Gilt Striking Mantel Clock On Bell Seth Thomas Antique Large Gilt Mantle Clock 100% All Original Runs Great! Fancy Antique Ansonia Pompeii Iron Mantel Shelf Clock W/ Egyptian Ibises NrVintage Coca Cola Advertising Clock Kay Display Gas Soda Pam Oil Metal SignAntique Triple Fusee Clock - 8 Bell Musical Bracket Clock - Antique ClocksRare Howard Miller George Nelson Steering Wheel Wall Clock Mid Century ModernAntique Large Solid Silver Faux Tortoiseshell Carriage Clock 1921 Birmingham Vintage C.1960 Coca Cola Fishtail Soda Pop 15" Pam Clock Sign~worksAntique Ansonia Mantel Clock Rosewood Weight Driven Original Finish"no Reserve"Antique Gustav Becker German Movement Clock Parts Twin Weight MovementReal Nice Large Antique 27" Seth Thomas Time & Strike Regulator Wall Clock1885 Ansonia 'monarch' Drawer Front Parlor Clock1950's Art Deco Glass And Bakelite 8-day Mantle Clock By Smiths. WorkingVintage Jaeger Lecoultre Atmos Barometric Driven 15j Mantle Shelf ClockAntique French Carriage Clock C 1900. Key. Fully Restored/serviced July 2014. Musical Longcase Clock - 8 Bell Grandfather Clock - Antique ClocksQuaker State Motor Oil Illuminated Electric Clock - Works!! - VintageAntique Brass Cased Reapeater , Striking Carriage Clock Farcot Mantel Clock - Swinging Dole Clock - Antique Clocks Seth Thomas Early Omaha 1886 City Series Fine Antique Cabinet Clock In WalnutVtg Lecoultre # 65310 Tuxedo Atmos Perpetual 15 Jewels Mantle Shelf Clock NpaVintage Pam Clock Co. Dr. Pepper Thermometer Made In U.s.a.Antique Cylinder Music Box Playing 4 Airs Beautifully Clock Work MechanismAntique Longcase Clock - 8 Day Grandfather Clock - Antique ClocksAntique Junghans Inlaid Mahogany Mantle Bracket Clock W/ Chimes, No Reserve!Musical Mantel Clock - Westminster Chime 5 Gong Bracket Clock - Antique ClocksUnusual Triangular Imhof Desk Clock Barometer Seth Thomas Mov't Black Forest Cathedral Cuckoo Style Carved Wood Wall Clock Antique Clock Depthing Tool Top Quality Medium - Large Clocks - Compas & PoucesVintage C.1950 Coca Cola Soda Pop 20" Lighted Clock Counter SignVintage 1960s Bulova Accutron Spaceview Desk Clock Pristine And Works! 6"longAntigue English Wall / Bracket Clock Fusee Movement With Front Dial PlateGorgeous Huge Size Gustav Becker Q-strike Antique German Wall Clock-1880 GermanyStriking Carriage Clock - Repeat Mantel Clock - Antique ClocksVintage 1960's Swiss Jaeger Lecoultre 444 Square Skeleton Desk Clock 16j Gwo McmAntique Brass Skeleton Clock / With Bell On Marble Base Vintage Neon Advertising Clock Antique Birge Peck Triple Decker Weight Driven Clock Case Parts RepairBeautiful Jaeger Lecoultre Atmos Clock Just Cleaned, Serviced & Timed No Res!Antique C+lc Ives Triple Decker Split Column 8 Day Weight ClockShakspear Mantel Clock - French Ormolu Empire Clock Case - Antique ClocksSchneider Black Forest Wooden "edelwiess" Wall Cuckoo ClockAntique Brass Ships Bulkhead Clock , Wall Antique Ansonia Royal Bonn Porcelain Clock - Circa 1900Halifax Grandfather Clock - Moonroller Longcase Clock - Antique ClocksGood Early Double Twin Fusee Clock Movement And Dial Original Horolovor Flying Pendulum ClockVintage Original Gm Chevrolet Dealership Canadian Clock Showroom Dealer RareSevres Mantel Clock - Ormolu & Porcelain Clock - Antique ClocksRare Antique Open Escapement Cast Iron Ansonia Rosalind Clock **runs Great**Antique Seth Thomas Sonora Chime ClockAntique French 1880s Japy Freres Marble Mantle Or Shelf Clock Repair Or PartsNice Vigor Antique Micro Flying Pendulum Wind Up Dome Clock CuckooJob Lot Of Antique Clocks - Collection Of Antique Mantel Clocks - Antique Clocks

Recent News: Clocks

Source: Google News

Antique clocks, accordion stolen from home: Parma police blotter
The Plain Dealer, August 1st

Burglary, Park Drive: An unknown person entered a woman's residence and stole two antique clocks, an accordion, two speakers and an amplifier sometime between June 16 and July 17. Assault, Big Creek Parkway: A man is accused of assaulting a woman ...Read more

Middletown expects big crowd for ninth annual Run 4 Downtown
Times Herald-Record, July 31st

Organizers are expecting to raise $10,000, and that's to be directed toward the purchase of an antique clock for Middletown's King Street pedestrian walkway. The clock is expected to cost about $15,000, and, Madden said, the money they raised last year...Read more

Arts & Extras: Artist uses doll-sized dresses to embody important women in her ...
Roanoke Times (blog), July 31st

“Headmistress Harpie” Dress form made from an 1890s-era German handmade night dress with antique clock finial. Bodice made from a 1920s-era quilt piece. Skirt made from a 1940s-era handkerchief. Petticoat made from handmade doll dress sleeves...Read more

Antique taken
Henley Standard, July 28th

AN antique clock, family silver and a laptop were among items stolen during a burglary in Watlington. Thieves targeted a house in Brook Street between July 10 and 11. A spokesman for Thames Valley Police said: “The occupant was away on these dates and ...Read more

Putney's Hidden Gems, July 27th

They also carry a comprehensive stock of Antique Clocks from the 18th and 19th Centuries, specialising in English Longcase and Bracket Clocks, but with a selection of decorative French Mantel Clocks, Carriage Clocks and various Wall Clocks as well...Read more

What's happening at your Library
Wicked Local Tewksbury, July 25th

1 Antique clock class July 29, 7 p.m. Join Bob Frishman, owner of Bell-Time Clocks, for a free class on antique clocks. Learn about the history, styles, makers, values, collecting, repairing, and cultural importance of clocks. A free informal "road...Read more

Van Wert to make another television appearance
Times Bulletin, July 24th

old photographs, transistor radios, tabletop radios, oil paintings, rugs, cookie jars, western/equestrian gear, crocks, old bar equipment, antique clocks ,election memorabilia, duck decoys, gas pumps, old dolls, vintage diner items, wood carvings...Read more

Terryville resident's antique clocks on exhibit
Bristol Press, July 12th

PLYMOUTH — Tom Vaughn became interested in clocks when he was 14 and began tinkering with an old broken timepiece in his family's living. He bought new parts for it but still couldn't get it to work, so he found the same model online and bought it for...Read more