Regulator clocks, sometimes referred to as pendulum clocks, were invented in the late 18th century in a quest for greater timekeeping accuracy. They were weight-driven devices and featured a deadbeat escapement (an improvement on the anchor design). To ensure their accuracy, they usually omitted complicated features like calendars. Instead, each of the clock’s hands worked off a different mechanism.

The Englishmen Benjamin Vulliamy and James Harrison invented two of the earliest regulators between 1760 and 1780. Despite this British lineage, regulator clocks were not especially well received in England, but they were in Vienna, where the form flourished. Indeed, Vienna regulator wall clocks gained such a reputation for accuracy that they were routinely used in public places such as railway stations and post offices.

During the Empire period (1800-1835), the cases of early Viennese regulator wall clocks were typically made of wood, which was either polished or gilded. These laterndluhr clocks resembled three boxes, one stacked on top of the other. The upper part of the case housed the movement and was capped by a roof. The clock’s weights dangled in the center of the case, and at the bottom swung the pendulum.

The Biedermeier period (1835-1848) was a very conservative time in Vienna—regulator clocks reflected the new austerity. The dachluhr clocks from this era were thus simpler in style. Instead of three sections, these clocks had two: a top section (still with a roof) for the clock’s face and movement, and a bottom section for the weights and pendulum, which could be accessed by a glass door. The clocks were elegant but rigid in their design, except for the "piecrust" bezels around the clocks’ faces.

The Viennese revolution of 1848 expanded the middle class, which made luxuries like regulators more accessible to a greater percentage of the population. And after years of aesthetic repression, these newly affluent Viennese embraced revivals of Greek, Renaissance, and Gothic styles.

For regulator clocks, this meant that straight sides would give way to serpentine waves. Ornamentation was on the rise, as pediments were interrupted by finials and the sides of regulators were ornately carved and scrolled. As for the dials, they were rendered in creamy, bright porcelain.

In 1850s Vienna, antique regulator clocks continued to become increasingly ornate. This meant more finials, more flanking columns, and fancier woodwork on the clock’s top and bot...

The Vienna regulator clocks from about 1870 to 1895 are the most common today. They are also some of the most ornate and beautiful. Signatures of these regulators include the Corinthian columns on the sides of the cases and the clock’s elaborate hands.

All that effusive design ground to a halt at the turn of the 20th century, when the overlapping impulses of Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts ushered in the Jugendstil style, which was a precursor of sorts to 20th-century modernism. It was a return to the box regulators of almost a century before, but this time the lines were softer, the boxes were less boxy but more massive. In addition, Viennese regulators from this period often featured leaded and beveled glass in front of their swinging pendulums, and the woods ranged from gorgeous maple to rich walnut.

In the United States, 19th century clock manufacturers such as Ingraham, Sessions, Seth Thomas, and New Haven also made regulators. Some were designed like squat versions of the famous banjo clocks that were so popular, others were marketed as "railroad regulators" with train-station style numerals and hands.

Just as in Vienna, accuracy was the main selling point for makers of U.S. regulators. Even more interesting, the look of these U.S. clocks paralleled the evolving design of those of the old country, which suggests that U.S. clockmakers were not yet setting the standards for clock design.

Key terms for Antique Regulator 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    

Antique Original Waterbury No. 20 Regulator 2 Weight Wall Clock W/ HistoryOriginal Cherry Case Seth Thomas No. 2 Single Weight Regulator ClockRare Antique Brass 30 Day Month Duration French 4 Glass Regulator Mantle Clock19c French Bronze & Beveled Crystal Regulator Mantle Clock By Vincenti & Cie E. Howard & Co., Boston, Mass., "no. 59 Regulator" Wall Clock, 8 DaysFantastic 5 Foot Triple Weight Grand Sonnerie Vienna Regulator Wall ClockWaterbury Crystal Regulator Open Escapement Clock 8 Day Movement Perfect Dial30 Day Waterbury Oak Regulator Wall Clock Original Dial Label Cincinnati VtgFancy 1896 Gilbert Bronze & Beveled Crystal Regulator Mantle Clock No ReserveVintage Waterbury Admiral 30 Day Regulator Oak Wall Clock 32"Antique Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Weight Driven~lg Antique Ansonia Regulator Clock Crystal Beveled Mantle Case Carriage Bronze~Old Wall Clock From Germany Regulator **hermle** Mystery Ferris Wheel Falling Ball Gravity Driven Brass Crystal Regulator ClockAntique Ansonia Marquis Crystal Regulator Mantle Clock For Parts Or RepairE. Howard & Co., Boston, Mass., No. 6 Regulator ClockGilbert Crystal Regulator Clock For Parts Restoration Excellent Open EscapementAntique German Nice Gustav Becker Vienna Regulator Wall Clock 1890's Antique 32" Seth Thomas Regulator Wall ClockAntique-wall-clock-grAntique Ansonia Regulator Brass Crystal Mantle Clock Parts Or Repair No KeyExcellent Junghans Striking Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Horse Decorated CrownAntique Wall Clock Regulator Art DAntique Ansonia Crystal Regulator Mantel Clock. Outside Escapement "no Reserve"Vienna Regulator Spring Driven Wall ClockAntique Oak Sessions Eclipse Regulator Wall Clock Runs Well !Vintage Waterbury Crystal Regulator Time And Strike Mantel Clock - GranvilleAntique Vienna Regulator Wall Clock For Parts Or RestorationAntique-wall-clock- Regulator 19th Century Vienna Clock *kienzle* Xl110 Cm 1885 Striking Vienna Regulator Wall ClockEarly Regulator Weight Driven Clock Movement--seth Thomas??-------terry???1890 Antique France Wall Vienna Style Clock Regulator, Very Good Condition1920 Antique Art Deco Junghans French Wall Regulator ClockAntique Ingraham Regulator Wall Clock Vintage Regulator Wall Clock 31 Day Pinwheel Jewelers Regulator Clock Pendulum BobVintage Seth Thomas Banjo Wall Regulator 8 Day Clock Working 1958Rare Vtg German Oak Wood Vienna Regulator Bim-bam Chime Hanging Wall Box Clock !1930 French Wall Vedette Clock Regulator Oak WestminsterAntique Wall Clock Regulator 1920th Century Made In West Germany **junghans **Antique Large New Haven "blake" 8 Day Striking Regulator Wall Clock RunningAntique Regulator Wall Clock W/ Pendulum & Winding KeyOld Gustav Becker Spring Driven "vienna Regulator" Clock Movement Spares/repairSelsi Clock Co Germany Crystal Regulator Torsion Clock Parts ProjectAntique German Wall Clock Old Style Junghans, Horse Top Vienna Regulator 1880'sEarly Regulator Weight Driven Clock--- Iron WeightWaterbury Crystal Regulator Porcelain Clock Movement Excellent Open EscapementAntique Japy Freres Regulator Wall ClockCharming Antique~1880's~wm Gilbert Parlor/regulator Clock~quail~chimes Nicely~Antique All Original Regulator Wall Clock Oak Cabinet Simulated Mercury Pendulum For Crystal Regulator ClockAnsonia Clock Co Crystal Regulator Porcelain Dials Parts-originalAntique Railroad Regulator Wall Clock Parts (nos) Antique/vintage Master Heat Regulator Tycos 8 Day Jewel Clock ThermostatBristol Antique Regulator Wall Clock, 31 Day, Has Key And PendulumRare Antique Vienna Regulator Wall Clock For Parts Or RestorationAntique School House Regulator Wall Clock Vintage Verichron Regulator 31 Day ClockAntique Westclox Big Ben Repeater Alarm Regulator Mantel ClockRegulator Clock Case

Recent News: Regulator Clocks

Source: Google News

Estate Sale Roundup: October 24-26: Check your shocks before you buy old ...
Austin Chronicle, October 24th

There are wall clocks galore, including an Ansonia regulator clock. There are several bedrooms, and the rest of the house, which is full of finds, and don't forget the garage. Inside the house you'll find a floral love seat, two Ethan Allen side tables...Read more

Estate Sale Roundup: October 17-19: The weather is perfect for rummaging
Austin Chronicle, October 17th

1947 Roseville blue "Snowberry" pedestal (no jardiniere); Vilbor (Germany) barometer/thermometer/hygrometer; El Presidente humidor; Howard Miller "Regulator" clock; Southwestern Louisiana Institute "L'Acadian" 1947-49 yearbooks and other books; ...Read more

The October Sale
Maine Antique Digest, October 7th

sculpture bust by Hudon; British telescope; Chippendale and Federal mirrors; American Indian pottery, baskets and related; primitive painted birdhouse; antique carved mantel; New Haven regulator clock; other clocks; saxophones; selection of...Read more