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    

German Hac Animated Monk Striking Bell On Top Of 1890 Regulator Wall ClockLovely Antique 1800s Mahogany Key Wind Regulator Wall Clock Fancy Hood PendulumGerman Junghans Striking 1890 Regulator Wall ClockOak Seth Thomas #2 Type Regulator Clock----bradley Woodworks-canadaWonderful French Black Slate Marble Gilt Inlay 8 Day Regulator Mantel ClockAntique French Japy Freres Mantel Porcelain Dial Regulator Clock Open EscapementLovely Antique 1800s Mahogany Key Wind Regulator Wall Clock Fancy Hood PendulumMusical Vintage Comitti 8 Day Mahogany Vienna Westminster Regulator Wall ClockLarge Vtg Antique Germany Vienna Regulator Wall Alarm Clock L Brass PendulumGustav Becker One Weight Regulator Clock NrFrench Antique Japy Freres Mantel Porcelain Dial Regulator ClockGustav Becker 1890 Vienna Regulator Wall ClockSession No. 5 Rr Oak Regulator Wall Clock Top QualityAntique Two Weight Vienna Regulator Clock Excellent NrNew York Standard Clock Co Regulator MovementRare Antique 16th Century Regulator Wall Clock In Need Of Tlc Antique French Crystal Regulator Clock 1885-1890Antique Enoromus Running 3 Weight French "grand Sonnerie" Vienna Regulator ClockAntique Schoolhouse Carved Regulator Wall Clock Waterbury Louviers Rare Crystal French Regulator Mantel ClockSuperb Original Ca. 1910 Ansonia Dorval Model Brass Crystal Regulator Clock NrArt Deco Green Onyx Four Glass Crystal Regulator Mantel Clock Made Usa NrAntique French Crystal Regulator Clock Oval ShapeAntique Regulator A Clock Beautiful Carved Wall Clock Non-working/parts/restore31 Day Regulator Clock ,oak Finish , Key Wind/ Pendulum. WorkingVintage Regulator Key Wind Pendulum Ltd Edition New England Day Date ClockAntique Vtg School House Wall Mounted Clock Trade S Mark A Regulator MahoganyAntique Regulator Wall ClockAntique Japy Freres 8-day Time & Strike French Crystal Regulator Clock Runs FineAntique/vintage Ingraham Hartford Regulator Wall Clock In Octagon Long Drop Case1890-1900 Mission Oak Wall Regulator By The National Clock & Mfg. Co., ChicagoGerman Kienzle Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Circa 1890Vintage Jaeger Le Coultre Atmos Clock Regulator PartVintage Korean 31 Day Regulator Wall Clock WorkingIngraham 8 Day Time Only Regulator Clock Movement With Pendulum- Parts / Repair Seth Thomas Crystal Regulator ClockRa Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Needs Time Mainspring