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    

Antique Victorian Ansonia Patented Regulator Mantle Shelf Clock, No Reserve!Carved Walnut Case 1 Weight Seth Thomas Style Regulator Wall ClockAntique Oak Ingraham "western Union" Regulator Wall ClockAmazing German Antique 8 Day Walnut Inlay Drop Dial Vienna Regulator Wall ClockRare 19thc Antique 8 Day Original 4 Glass Crystal Table Regulator Mantle ClockExcellent Condition Antique Striking Vienna Regulator Wall Clock C1900sSwiss Precision Sweep Second In Wheel Regulator Walnut Tall Clock ProjectOval French Crystal Regulator ClockAntique French Crystal Regulator Clock With Original Pendulum Made In FranceAntique ~1873 Lenzkirch German Pendulum Ra Regulator Wall Clock 26 Serial 281536Antique New Haven Regulator ClockLot Of 2 -- Circa 1885 Junghans Unusual Bell Clock Regulator Wall ClocksAntique Ingraham Calendar Wall Regulator Clock Parts RepairAntique Sessions Regulator ClockRare Antique American Waterbury Crystal Regulator Clock Vintage Coca Cola Oak Ingraham Co. Regulator ClockAntique Ansonia Crystal Regulator ClockAntique Seth Thomas #13 Empire Bronze And Brass Crystal Regulator ClockAntique Vienna Regulator German Wall ClockVintage Korean 31 Day Regulator Wall Clock WorkingAntique Deutsches Reich German Pendulum Regulator Wall Clock Patent 55006 72797Antique Sessions 8 Day School House Wall Regulator Clock Works Great !Cute Vintage Regulator A ClockVintage Schoolhouse Regulator Wall Clock Golden Oak With PendulumGustav Becker 1910 Double Weight Regulator Wall Clock-beveled GlassAntique American Regulator Wall Clock Original Beautiful & Runs Great JapanAntique Oak Regulator Clock Railroad Clock Antique Regulator Brass Clock Mercury Pendulum Holder FrameAntique Wall Regulator Clock Pendulum Parts RepairVintage 31 Day Light Wood Regulator Pendulum Wall Clock & Key ~rare Find~Jacot's Regulator Mantel Clock PendulumAntique Large Vienna Regulator Clock Top, 18 1/4" LongVintage Wall Regulator Clock Hands Set Parts RepairGerman Wall Clock Vienna Regulator Fms Friedrich Mauthe Schwenningen