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    

Seth Thomas Reissue #2 Regulator Wall Clock No Reserve!Stunning Antique German Vienna Regulator Wall Clock , Remember S/weightTwo Weight Walnut/ebony Slim Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Movement Restored.Seth Thomas Oak Regulator #2 Wall Clock Weight DrivenAntique English Double Fusee Regulator Clock Movement Vulliamy London No 704Vienna Regulator Wall Hanging Clock, Single Weight, Unknown Maker, Part/restoredAntique Clock -19th C French S.marti Large Marble & Glass Regulator Mantle ClockDouble Weight Wall Clock Movement Twin Weight Vienna Regulator Wall Clock OnlyDouble Weight Wall Clock Movement Twin Weight Vienna Regulator Wall Clock OnlyVintage German Regulator Wall Clock 8 Day Westminster Chime Mahogany Wall ClockAntique Ansonia Green Onyx Crystal Regulator Archduke Keywind ClockAntique Single Weight Driven Vienna Regulator Wall Clock - Needs Case Work-runs1890 French Crystal Regulator Mercury Clock Pendulum Antique From Germany Fms 1890s Friedrich Mauthe Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Antique From Germany Large Gustav Becker Vienna Regulator Wall Clock 1900'sAntique Wall Clock Vienna Regulator 19th Century Xl Large Clock Height 107 CmWall Clock Vienna Regulator 19th Century Gustav Becker FreischwingLow Reserve Antique German Hac Vienna Regulator Striking Wall Clock Circa 1900Howard Miller 8 Day Large Regulator Wall Clock In Pristine Condition 1895 German Fms Wall Clock Working - Noreserv Antique Mauthe Vienna RegulatorAntique Wall Clock Regulator 19th Century Vienna Regulator KienzleAntique Sessions Wall Clock Regulator Time & Strike Circa 1910 Runs No ReserveAntique "e. Howard & Davis" Regulator No. 5 Banjo Clock CopyAntique Oak Box Drop Dial Wall Clock German 8 Day Striking Regulator Wall ClockOld Wall Clock Regulator Commodor 31 DayAntique Ansonia Crystal Regulator Clock Mercury Pendulum Top Grade Shield MotifVintage 1918 Thermostat Clock Minneapolis Honeywell Model 40 Tp Heat Regulator German 8 Day Box 1 Weight Regulator ClockAntique Wall Clock Vienna Regulator 19th Century Gustav Becker With Bell Antique S Marti Oval Glass Crystal Regulator ClockLarge 1-2-3 Weight Regulator Mahogany Clock CaseAntique New Haven Clock Company Mantel Mantle Clock-crystal RegulatorOld Particular Wall Clock Regulator EurobellA Nice Gustav Becker Spring Driven Vienna Regulator Clock MovementMajestic Pediment For Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Or Furniture . Mahogany.Excellent Antique Vienna Regulator Striking Wall Clock Horse Crown Circa 1890sVienna Weight Regulator Clock Case Only Original @ 1890Waterbury Clock Co Regulator Clock Hands8 Day Striking Regulator Drop Dial Wall Clock - Antique Walnut Inlaid Wall ClockAntique Wall Clock Regulator Junghans 1890/1920Ansonia Crystal Regulator ClockAntique Clock Ingraham Calendar Movement Large Regulator Store Office SchoolhousRare Antique 8 Day Waterbury Vienna Wall Store Regulator Clock Works-movement !!Replacement Repro Seth Thomas Weight Driven Regulator Clock Movement Parts  Hamburg American German Antique Large Regulator Wall Clock Looks & Runs Great!Vintage 1919 Thermostat Clock Minneapolis Heat Regulator Co.Vintage 31 Day Regulator Wall Clock- Nice Bim Bam MelodyA Vienna Regulator Weight Driven Clock MovementFerris Wheel Falling Ball Gravity Driven Brass Case Regulator Clock - No WindingUrgos Brass Crystal Regulator Clock No Reserve!Horse Top Ra Vienna Regulator Style Wall Clock No Res!Linden 31 Day Railroad School House Regulator Wall Wind Up Pendulum Chime ClockAntique Vienna Regulator German Wall Clock Movement Parts RepairGerman Gustav Becker 3 Weight Grand Sonnerie Vienna Column Regulator Wall ClockBeautiful Antique French Oval Crystal Regulator Clock Very Nice Crystal Regulator Clock CaseAntique Wall Clock Regulator Art D31 Day Manner Of Vienna Regulator Key Wind Walnut Wood Case Clock ~ Rod PendulumAntique Solid Elm Octagon Schoolhouse Office Calendar Regulator A Wall Clock Antique Oak School House Regulator Wall Clock Case Parts Repair