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    

German Gustav Becker Grand Sonnerie 3 Weight Vienna Regulator Clock 44.5 In TallAntique Oak Waterbury Wall Regulator ClockPratt & Sons Rosewood Wall Regulator Clock @ 1865 Original Atkins?Antique 19thc Lenzkirch Mahogany 8 Day Twin Weight Vienna Regulator Wall ClockSub-miniature Vienna Regulator Clock @ 1830s Original Rare***old Wall Clock Regulator Clock * Meister Anker* 112cm**French Mahogany Bronze Calendar Regulator Clock Empire Column Gilt Ormolu PillarAntique 1 Weight-vienna Regulator Clock-ca.1890Antique Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Case Parts RepairAntique Ansonia Crystal Regulator Mantle Clock Case ,marquis Model ProjectAntique Ansonia Regulator Mantel Clock. For Parts, Repairs, Or Restoration. Sessions Clock, Antique Store Regulator #1, Circa 1908 Runs Great Antique German Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Movement Dial PartsGerman Bowler & Burdick Anniversary 400 Day Crystal Regulator ClockAntique Gilbert Regulator Shelf Mantel Clock No Ansonia Seth Thomas New Haven Antique Jewelers Regulator Clock Movement, Dial, Pendulum, WeightAntique French Crystal Regulator Clock 8-day, Time & Strike By Japy FreresAntique, Oval, French Crystal Regulator Clock By Marti 8-day, Time & StrikeLot Of 2 Antique Brass Vienna Regulator Weight Driven Wall Clock Weights PartsKienzle Walnut Beveled Glass German 1900 Regulator Wall ClockGustav Becket Ra Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Circa 1890Old Wall Clock Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Original Schwarzwald Regulator 8 DayCirca 1902 E. Ingraham Clock Co. 'western Union' 8 Day Regulator Wall Clock, Striking Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Circa 1890Ansonia Clock Co. Crystal Regulator Mantle Clock Dial OriginalAntique Original Ansonia Crystal Regulator Shelf Clock PendulumAntique Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Pendulum Parts RepairVienna Regulator Clock KeyAntique Original Pair Of Gustav Becker Veinna Regulator Wall Clock Weights Veinna Regulator German Wall Clock Movement Parts Repair Daile 3 WeightsIncomplete Antique Junghans Two Weight Vienna Regulator Clock Movement & MountAntique Hac German Minature Vienna Regulator Wall Clock - Rare Double DoorsAntique Column Wall Regulator Wall Clock Color--reverse Painted Front Door Glass24k Gold Plated Vienna Regulator Or Free Swinger Wall Clock PendulumKorean Chinese Wall Clock Movement Vintage 31 Day Regulator Hands Time & StrikeMatching Set Of 3 Weights For Vienna Regulator Clock Gustav Becker?Regulator Wall ClockAntique Regulator Wall Clock Junghans Gustav Becker Mauthe Fhs Metal Hand Set***nos*** Seth Thomas Regulator Electric Mantle Clock!!!1978 Hamilton Regulator 31 Day Oak Wall Clock Western Electric Service Award Quartz Regulator Clock Antique Vintage Water Steam Heat Valve Regulator, Clock Key