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    

Nice Edwardian English Silver Carriage Clock C.1902 Antique Cuckoo Clock Black Forest Carved Oak Twin Fusee Working Order Circ 18808 Day Unusual Mido Melik Watch Pat. French Art Deco Mystery Chromed Desk ClockAntique Gilbert #10 Weight Drive Wall Clock Regulator In Gorgeous Walnut8 Day German Lenzkirch Plato Jump Hour Digital Flip Lantern Carriage Desk ClockLarge Early Gothic Church Cathedral Clock - S.wartenberg Paris - Extremely RareKrups Clock Pop Art Panton Eames Vintage Space Age Rare Collectable 70s 1975Vintage Quaker State Motor Oil Advertising Lighted Bubble Clock Gas Sign 1950s Antique Banjo Clock Circa 1840-1850Superb Mid Century Jaeger Lecoultre Skeleton Inline Clock 16 Jewell C1960Seth Thomas Antique American Seth Thomas Number 2 Weight Wall ClockAntique Gilt Bronze Tiffany & Company Wall Clock & Barometer W/ Dolphins, NrAntique 'henri Jacot' Striking Carriage Clock Repeater, Requires Attention.Vintage Art Deco "richfield" Clock Cast Iron Airplane Motor 6.5" Tall Gas AdvertAntique Rare Ingraham "ionic" 1913 Figure 8 Wall Clock Working Well 8 Day StrikeCuckoo Clock With Singing Bird Cage Automaton Black Forest For Spares Or RepairsEarly English Fusee Dial (or Bracket) Clock Movement Working Order Circa 1820Seth Thomas Woodworks Column And Splat ClockAntique 1903 Ansonia Plato Bronze Art Nouveau Flip Ticket Clock Angel On TopRetro Space Age Aurora Clock Kirsch-hamilton Color Changing Clock 1970's Mod YqzVintage German Gustav Becker 400 Day Anniversary Brass Case Clock - Good WorkingBeautiful Vintage Jaeger Lecoultre Atmos Marina White Chinese ClockLenzkirch Antique Clock19thc Walnut Framed Wall Hanging Clock Calendar & Barometer Heath & Co LondonUnusual 400 Day Anniversary Clock W/ Original Dome C1910Rare Hamilton Watch Co. Neon Lighted Advertising Clock - WorkingVtg Retro Elgin Welby Starburst Sunburst Atomic Mid-century 1960s Teak Clock Vintageelectric Neon Clock, Cleveland 26" Clock With SpinnerAntique Miniature French Carriage Clock With Original Case 10cm High, WorkingSuperb Antique 19thc French Gilt Bronze 8 Day Bell Striking Roccoco Mantle ClockIngraham Wall Regulator Clock Made For Western Union Pressed Oak Case WorksAntique Gothic Black Forest Cuckoo Clock.Retro 1960's-1970's Anstey & Wilson Teak Sunburst/starburst Wall ClockStunning Wmf Art Nouveau Maiden Figural Clock CaseIthaca 1866 Walnut Double Dial Perpetual Calendar ClockAntique 1820's French Gilt Ormolu Bronze Figural Mantel Clock - Henri Marc-parisVintage Rare Hunter's Full Buck Cuckoo Clock Germany Nice Fusee Wall Dial Clock Thomas Sly Salisbury C188019th Century French Ormolu Bracket Clock On A Plinth Under Glass DomeLarge Seth Thomas Adamantine Mantel Clock(milo)French Carriage ClockBeautiful Rare Vintage German Wood Saw Clock Wall Clock 65cms Length1930's French Art Deco Mantel Clock Set With Panther StatueFine Jaeger Lecoultre Folding 8 Day Travel Alarm Clock Crocodile Skin CaseVintage Omega 8 Days Art Deco Desk Clock 1930Antique German G.h.s. Deer Style Cuckoo Clock From The Late 1800's19thc Antique Egyptian Revival Figural Lady Goddess & Lion Statue Mantel ClockVintage 25" Mid Century Elgin Brass & Wood Atomic Starburst Sunburst Wall ClockAntique English Fusee Dial Clock Pendulum Including New Suspension SpringNos Banjo Clock Movement Made By Howard Clock Co, Waltham Mass, Signed ColonialVintage 1950's Fort Pitt Special Beer 16" Lighted Metal Clock Sign~worksAntique French Dore Gold Enamel Porcelain Scenic Portrait Mantle Clock Eli NrRare Estate Antique Original New Haven Gallia 8 Day Walnut Mantle Clock Running Vintage Smiths Enamel Alarm Clock Chicken Chicks Hen Cockerel Animated PoultrySmiths Chrome & Bakelite Art Deco Mantle 30 Hour Clock Antique PatentAntique 19th C French 8 Day Mantle Clock & Base With Lovely Sevres PorcelainOlder Very Large German Black Forest Carved 8 Day Cuckoo ClockAntique Cylinder Platform Escapement For Carriage Clock Etcetera WorkingAntique French Carriage Clock C1900 With Painted Dial. Key. Restored Aug. 2015. Large Early Gothic Style Inlaid Bracket Clock - John Walker - London - Very Rare

Recent News: Clocks

Source: Google News

The Faithful Shopper: Services I Swear By
Huffington Post, September 1st

dealers, private collectors, and fine crystal and china manufacturers, restores and repairs art objects made of porcelain, ceramics, glassware, silver, lacquer, ivory, enamel, paintings, antique clocks, picture frames, lamps, marble, fine wood...Read more

Miguel Horn sculpts an expanding career
Philly.com, August 31st

Raised in Philadelphia, Horn at an early age worked at his father's antique-clock shop, tinkering with gears, springs, and weights to make or repair intricate ornamental clocks - which ultimately influenced him to make art. More coverage. At Michener...Read more

Clock and watch collectors open secrets to public
Reno Gazette Journal, August 25th

“It's usually closed to the public, but we want to make an effort to get the public interested in antique clocks,” said Reno's Brian Bullard, who owns Timeless Enterprises, Inc. More than 400 collectors who are members of the national association are...Read more

Antique clock worth €20000 stolen in Cork
UTV Ireland, August 19th

Antique clock worth €20,000 stolen in Cork. Gardaí 19 Aug 2015. Gardaí in Fermoy are seeking the public's assistance in finding an antique clock that was stolen during the burglary of a house in Co Cork. Antique clock stolen in Cork. The stolen clock...Read more

Antique clock's return to Laramie symbolizes downtown revival, says owner
Casper Star-Tribune Online, June 8th

LARAMIE — An antique clock that was once a landmark in downtown Laramie had returned to its home. The clock historically stood in front of Midwest Trunk and Sporting Goods but was removed in the 1960s. Mayor Dave Paulekas says the city council ...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

Passion for history drives antique clock collection
Spartanburg Herald Journal, April 21st

Randy Cobb has a collection of more the 25 antique, grandfather clocks at his home in Inman,Thursday, 4-9-2015. Cobb runs Legacy Antique Clocks, and buys, repairs, and sells many of the vintage collector's clocks. Cobb repairs the clockwork for a...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