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]

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 Seth Thomas Oak Wood Weight-driven Regulator #3 Hanging Wall Clock Rare Antique Seth Thomas Oak Orange Crush Store Regulator Advertising Wall ClockSeth Thomas No. 2 Regulator Single Weight Wall Clock As ShownAntique Vienna Regulator German Wall Clock Movement Parts Repair Antique Ansonia Regulator A - Calendar Wall Clock - NoreserveAntique Wall Clock Vienna Regulator 19th Century Werner Deponir Xl Heigth 134 CmAntique Late 19thc German Vienna Regulator Clock W/ Art Nouveau Woman PendulumAntique "e. Howard & Davis" Regulator No. 5 Banjo Clock CopyAntique Samuel Marti French Regulator Mantle Clock, Mercury Pendulum, Brass CaseAntique Square Store Regulator Waterbury Clock Serviced Runs Strong C1900 No ResAnsonia Crystal Regulator ClockOriginal Gustav Becker German Regulator Clock Movement And Dial PartsTwo Weight Walnut/ebony Slim Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Movement Restored.Vienna Regulator Clock Mechanism, Face Plate, Mounting Plate, And PulleyLarge German 2 Weight Wall Clock Striking Regulator Pair Of Antique Vienna Regulator Weight Driven Wall Clock Weights Parts1890 German Junghans Vienna Regulator Wall Clock No ResAntique Ansonia Green Onyx Crystal Regulator Archduke Keywind ClockAntique Large Calendar? Regulator Wall Clock By Sessions Clock Co As Found ConAntique Clock -19th C French S.marti Large Marble & Glass Regulator Mantle ClockAntique English Double Fusee Regulator Clock Movement Vulliamy London No 704Antique From Germany Large Gustav Becker Vienna Regulator Wall Clock 1900'sSeth Thomas Crystal Regulator ClockOld Particular Wall Clock Regulator ErmleVintage 8 Day Regulator Wall Clock Case W/ Cleaned & Oiled Antique New Haven 7msGustav Becker Silesia Clock Movement Vienna RegulatorDouble Weight Wall Clock Movement Twin Weight Vienna Regulator Wall Clock OnlyAntique Wall Clock Vienna Regulator 19th Century Xxl Large Clock Height 124 CmSeth Thomas No 2 Regulator Clock Kit Rare Antique Seth Thomas Crystal Regulator Clock Empire 22 Working GreatStunning Antique German Vienna Regulator Wall Clock , Remember S/weightVienna Regulator Clock PendulumDouble Weight Wall Clock Movement Twin Weight Vienna Regulator Wall Clock OnlyAntique Gustav Becker Embossed Vienna Regulator Clock Weights 1880 To 1890Antique 1913 Wm L. Gilbert Large University Regulator 8 Day Wall Clock, RunningAnsonia Bagdad / Regulator 8 Day Clock Movement Parts And DialHoward Miller 8 Day Large Regulator Wall Clock In Pristine Condition Antique Wall Clock Vienna Regulator 19th Century Xl Large Clock Height 107 CmAntique From Germany Fms 1890s Friedrich Mauthe Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Low Reserve Antique German Hac Vienna Regulator Striking Wall Clock Circa 1900Pair Of Antique Veinna Regulator Clock Weights Antique Original Wooden Clock Topper Crown For Regulator Or Vienna Wood Top Crest Piece NoresrvVienna Regulator Clock Dial Enamel Outer Chapter Dial Vienna Clock Dial SpareAntique Vienna Regulator Clock MovementAnsonia Crystal Regulator ClockOriginal E. Ingraham Store/ Regulator Clock Movement Parts  Kilbourne & Proctor Banjo Weight Driven Regulator Clock Movement Parts1890 French Crystal Regulator Mercury Clock Pendulum Antique Ingraham Oak Regulator Model Arctic Clock 1896Lovely Vienna Franz Hermle Regulator Ra Wall ClockVienna Regulator Clock Winding KeyOriginal Early Waterbury Regulator Wall Clock Movement Parts 34 Tooth EscapementRegulator Parlor Clock 8 Day StrikerVienna Regulator Clock Beat ScaleAnsonia Wall Clock Office Regulator Circa 1900 Time And Strike Oak Runs GoodOld Wall Clock Regulator Commodor 31 DayLarge 1-2-3 Weight Regulator Mahogany Clock CaseSeth Thomas Reissue #2 Regulator Wall Clock No Reserve!Ansonia Brass Crystal Regulator Clock, Double Barrel Pendulum, C. 1900 Vintage Seiko Regulator Wall Clock/ Working Order-winchester/wittington Chimes