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    

Rare Antique Seth Thomas World Regulator Wood Store Long Drop School Wall Clock57"h Vienna Laterndluhr One Weight Driven One Year Movement Regulator Wall ClockRare 1881 Kroeber Regulator No. 31 Wall ClockRare 3 Weight Grand Sonnerie Vienna Regulator Wall ClockBeautiful Antique Sessions Regulator E Calendar Wall Clock (ca 1905)Antique E. Ingraham Co. Wall Clock Railroad Regulator Oak Original Finish 1910Rare 3 Weight Grand Sonnerie Vienna Regulator Wall Clock1890 Gilbert Large Store Regulator Wall ClockCoca-cola Regulator Clock, Gilbert, C.1916-1920Seth Thomas Regulator Clock Case---------case OnlyAntique Wall Clock Vienna Regulator 19th Century Antique 37" Carved German Junghans Black Forest Regulator Wall Clock NrAntique Art Nouveau Crystal Regulator Clock Beveled Glass Seth Thomas PorcelainCoca-cola Regulator Clock, Gilbert, C.1916-1920Old Wall Clock Regulator Particular Hand Painted DialClock Part Antique 2 Weight Regulator Movement With Bracket And PendulumAntique Ingraham Regulator Calender Clock -running Strong50"h Seth Thomas Double Dial Office Perpetual Calendar No 5 Regulator Wall ClockAntique Sessions, Gilbert , Ansonia , Seth Thomas Regulator Clock CaseVienna Regulator Wall Clock Movement Time / Strike Fancy Cream Porcelain DialAntique Ingraham Regulator Clock - For Restoration Or PartsSessions Large 1890 Jewelry Store Calendar Regulator Wall ClockAntique Clock Wabash Railroad Regulator Electric9 Antique Clock Seconds Hands 2 1/4" & 1 5/8" Regulator Or Ships Clock3 Weight Vienna Regulator Clock Movement Project @ 1895Vintage Tiffany Crystal Regulator Mantle ClockSessions 1890 Oak Calendar Regulator Wall ClockAntique Original Gustav Becker P42 Silesia Regulator Wall Clock Gloria Chime YqzTerrific 30 Day New Haven 1885 Golden Oak Regulator ClockSt51 Antique Seth Thomas Octagon Regulator 8-day Clock Short Drop Schoolhouse Clock Part 2 - Vienna Wall Regulator Brass WeightsAntique Ruttman & Klein, Kempten Vienna Regulator Clock Oak Case C. 19th 20th C.Vintage Spiegel Oak Wall Clock 31 Day Ra Regulator Pendulum W/ Key 77-7510Wall Clock Regulator In Oak WoodTwin Wieght Vienna Regulator Wall Clock By Lenzkirch - Original Antique Clocks3 Weight Vienna Regulator Clock Movement Project @ 1890Antique French Japy Freres Chime Crystal Regulator Mercury Pendulum Mantle ClockAntique Regulator Seth Thomas Wall Clock With KeyAntique E. Ingraham Wall Regulator Clock 36 " TallAntique Vienna Regulator Wall ClockAntique Deutsches Reich German Regulator Wall Clock For Parts Or RepairVery Large Antique Brass Clock Bezel For A Regulator Wall Clock. **with Glass**Large Regulator A Wall Clock 31"- Wood CarvingAntique Gilbert Clock Wall Clock, Regulator Calendar ClockCollectable Wall Hanging Wind Up Regulator Clock With Pendulum Chimes On HourAnsonia Clock Co Crystal Regulator Porcelain Dials Parts-original3 Weight Vienna Weight Regulator Clock Dial Only @ 1860Clock Part 2 Vienna Wall Regulator Weight PulleysGerman Gustav Becker 3 Weight Oak Full Column Vienna Regulator Wall Clock CaseInteresting Waterbury Alarm Wall Regulator ClockVintage Working Elgin 31 Day Chiming Regulator Wall Clock"heirloom" Quartz Regulator Chiming Pendulum Wall ClockArt Deco Vienna Regulator Clock Dial Only @ 1910Vienna Weight Regulator Clock Parts @ 1800sJunghans Regulator Wall ClockVienna Regulator Clock Movement For Parts Or RepairNew Old Stock 8 Day Time Only Regulator Wall Clock Movement IndiaAntique Regulator Clock HandsClock Part Antique 3 Weight Grand Sonnerie Vienna Regulator Movement Great! Antique Regulator Pendulum Musical Wall Clock For Repair / Parts

Recent News: Regulator Clocks

Source: Google News

Elaborate board games used as decorations, August 17th

Simon Willard regulator clock, mahogany, painted dial, gold leaf reverse-painted glass, 8-day, c. 1815, 57 inches, $9,600. 4 Remaining Thanks for visiting You're entitled to view 4 free articles every 30 days. Then, if you enjoy our...Read more

Kovels: Homemade game boards had elaborate designs
Winston-Salem Journal, August 15th

Not all game boards are for checkers or chess. Our ancestors played parcheesi, backgammon and cribbage on boards that could be made at home. From about 1850 to 1920, homemade game boards were created by talented folk artists. Elaborate designs ...Read more

Homemade game boards more than just decorations
HeraldNet, August 14th

Simon Willard regulator clock, mahogany, painted dial, gold leaf reverse-painted glass, 8-day, c. 1815, 57 inches, $9,600. Story tags » • Antiques. Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile...Read more