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 Ansonia Gold Gilt Brass & Oak Mantle Clock W/ Lion Heads NrSuperb Harding & Bazeley Rolling Ball Gravity Clock.Antique Clock Face Erie Gas Pump 1930s ?Vintage Atmos Jaeger Lecoultre Clock Marina White With Fish Antique Very Rare Exquisite Large Antique French Brass Carriage Clock. With Key. Made C 1895. Antique, Tiffany & Co. New York, 19thc Louis Xvi French Bronze Clock, NrTop Quality Antique W & H Ebonised Westminster 5 Gong Musical Bracket ClockTop Quality Rare Antique Dutch Carved Black Forest Automation Monk Wall ClockAntique Early 20thc Chelsea Mantle Clock W/ Ram Heads, Working ConditionThomas Mercer Ships Fusee Marine Navigation Chronometer ClockF Lidecke Geestemunde Ships Fusee Marine Navigation Chronometer Deck Watch ClockBoston Beer Bb Ale Advertising Clock Telechron Ashland Ma Lighthouse Nautical **Art Deco Vintage Cleveland Neon Clock 1930s 40s Hexagon Rare Red KardashianAntique 19thc Victorian French Lourd Bronze & Spelter Mantle Clock & CandelabrasExquisite Antique French Carriage Clock Repeater Charles Frodsham Works!Antique Shelf Clock For Parts Or Repair *samuel Terry * Bristol Conn1950's- Elec.-"pam Clock Co.-15"-coca Cola-fishtail Backlit Clock-telechron-usaAntique Brass Cased 4 Glass Striking Mantel Clock 19th C French Japy Freres Mantle Clock With The Most Beautiful Sevres PorcelainChelsea Us Navy 8" Ship Clock With Sweep Seconds HandVintage 1950's Sanitary Farm Dairies Milk Cow Dairy 17" Lighted Clock SignExceptional Rare Antique French Bronze, Champleve & Onyx 4 Glass Mantel ClockAntique 1911 Chelsea ClockLarge Antique 19thc Rosewood & Burl Mantel Clock, Inlaid Base, Working, NrExcellent French Gilded Ormolu Striking Mantle Clock S Marti Movement Circa 1890Vintage 1960's Working Pam Coca Cola Fishtail Advertising Coke ClockSuperb Rare Art Deco 1930s Dep Alarm Clock And Petrol Lighter - Made In France Rare Vintage Rensie Mid-century Modern Atomic Starburst Wall Clock Eames EraGenuine Very Old Knights Castile Advertising Wall Clock - 8 Day - Very Rare Extremely Rare Antique Paul Garnier Weight Driven Longcase Grandfather ClockAntique 19th C Ansonia Philosopher Figural Gilt Statue Mantel Shelf Clock Nr YqzBeautiful Ansonia 'radical' Blue With Florals Porcelain Clock Circa 1885Antique Couaillet Carriage Clock - Unusual Patterned Case - Cleaned & ServicedVintage Karl Griesbaum Handcarved Clock Man Hobo Whistler Automaton GermanySuperb Antique Brass Carriage Clock With Pierced Fretwork Dial MaskRegency Ebonised Bracket Clock By John Moore Clerkenwell London C1830.Rare Antique French 19th C Gilt Mantle Clock With Eastern Sultan Huntsman & WolfSelf Winding Clock Circa 1898 – – New YorkAnsonia "prompt" Wall ClockFrench Morbier Wall Clock For RestorationVintage Telechron Neon Light Up Ad Advertising Clock SignAntique Early 1800's French Empire Gilt Bronze Figural 8 Day Bell Mantle ClockAntique French Mantel Clock Movement Porcelain Dial Bezel Case Back Parts RepairJaeger-lecoultre Atmos Tuxedo Clock 9x6x4.75" Perfect , Running, Serial #63065Dated 1880 Lenzkirch Twisted Column German Regulator Wall ClockMusical 8 Day Cuckoo Clock Made In GermanyRare Vintage Cuckoo Clock Mfg Co 5-rod Westminster Chime Mantle Desk GermanyBergeon 30076 Clock Mainspring WinderVintage Horolovar Flip Ticket Traveling Carriage Clock UntestedFantastic 1875 Carved Lion's Heads Walnut Gilbert Parlor ClockRare Antique Circa 1890 French Industrial Automaton Windmill Clock By GuilmetNr Rare Antique Plato Flip Ticket Brass Mantle Carriage Desk Clock Ansonia ClockAnsonia Visibile Escapement Marble Clock With Topper StatueAntique French Japy Freres Cartel Gold Medal Movement Bronze Wall Clock No ReserMacbeth Ansonia Large 1882 Statue ClockAntique Bracket Clock Impressive Walnut Case Lenzkirch Circa 1870'sWw2 Usn Us Navy Ships Sea Clock Seth Thomas Bakelite 100% WorkingJ. Oswald Germany 'time Of Death' Skull ClockVtg Chartiers Valley Brewery Carnegie Back-bar Beer Clock, Extremely Rare, Nice!E Howard Boston Wall Clock Movement For Restoration

Recent News: Clocks

Source: Google News

Transformation of Tymperleys- town's cherished Grade II listed building
Gazette, August 2nd

The town, including respected historians, was horrified. Share article. The 15th century building had been left to the town by philanthropist Bernard Mason. He had been a prolific clock collector and the timber-framed house had, after his death, become...Read more

Leon Orr
Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette, August 1st

Leon collected antique clocks and enjoyed watching the Fighting Illini and Chicago Bulls basketball games. The visitation will be held from 11 a.m. to noon Wednesday, Aug. 5, at Anderson Funeral Home, 427 E. Main St., Hoopeston. The funeral service...Read more

Keyport's Honey Hole Antiques has future in past
Asbury Park Press, July 29th

with a great variety of antiques and collectibles,” said Aberdeen resident and regular customer Bill Calabrese, 69, a retired automotive radiator shop owner who's been collecting everything from antique clocks, phonographs, and furniture since he...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

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

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