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    

Top Quality Vintage Franz Hermle 9 Glass Laterndluhr Vienna Regulator Wall ClockAntique Gustav Becker Big Burly 8" Dial Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Early 1900'sAntique-wall-clock- Regulator 19th Century Vienna Clock *junghans *Antique Wall Clock Vienna Regulator 19th Century ** Junghans **Antique Oak Sessions Regulator Wall Clock Runs WellAntique French Crystal Regulator Clock Bronze Porcelain Dial Beveled GlassAntique From Berlin German Pfeilkreuz Hau Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Early 1900Ansonia Crystal Regulator Shelf Clock Open Escapement For Parts Or FixSeth Thomas 1893 Antique 8 Day Key-wound School House Regulator Clock Fine Ansonia Crystal Regulator Jupiter Visible Escapement ClockStunning Original Antique Large Vienna Regulator Wall ClockAntique Vienna Regulator Clock Austrian 1880-1885 Original Working!1890th Antique German French Clock Regulator Horse ViennaAntique Gustav Becker 2 Weight Regulator Wall ClockReally Nice Atkins Clock Co. Circa 1860 Antique Wall Regulator Clock - Runs GoodAntique Wall Clock Vienna Regulator 19th Century *omnia*Antiques Vienna Regulator Junghans Wall Clock Extra Large 145cm Excellent Striking Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Horse Decorated Crown Circa 1900Vienna Regulator Wall Clock 2 Weight Movement Vienna Clock Movement Nice Spare Crystal Regulator Clock-seth Thomas - Beveled Glass-enamel Dial W Arabic #’s Antique Gilbert Wall Clock Regulator Great Looking Old Clock Country Store StylAntique Seth Thomas Schoolhouse Octagon Wall Regulator Clock With Original PaintAntique Regulator Mantle ClockAntique German Vienna Regulator Clock 1900 Working OrderVintage Regulator Wall Clock Working Unknown Maker With Chime Wooden White Dial Vienna Regulator Wall Clock 2 Weight Movement Vienna Clock Movement Nice SpareAntique Walnut Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Case Wonderful Turned PilastersFrench Crystal Regulator Open Escapement Clock Movement Nr!French Old Mantle Regulator Clock Movement Brass Nr!Large Antique Regulator Clock Movement 8 Day Spring Driven Westminster ChimeVintage German Ra Regulator Wall Clock Parts RepairAntique German Regulator (vienna) Clock MovementFancy Antique French Brass & Crystal Regulator Mantel Clock - WorksOld Wall Clock Regulator *** 31 Day *** Orologio Uhr Regulator Wall Clock By Verichron, Mechanical Wind Up For PartsVtg Verichron Regulator Schoolhouse Wood Chime Wall Clock 1 Key Wind 31 Day 21.5" Vintage 31 Day Chime Regulator Oak Pendulum Wall Clock With Key Works!Vintage Seikosha Regulator Clock Japan For Parts RepairIngraham Regulator Wall Clock Working Westminster Chime Rare Vintage Wall Clock W/ Chimes & Pendulum: Dorset 31 Day Regulator

Recent News: Regulator Clocks

Source: Google News

Dot on the Map: Nashville church members care about history
Joplin Globe, November 24th

A Regulator clock quietly ticks on the wall of the sanctuary, its swinging pendulum tracking the passage of church members' lives. Until recently, each December they cut a 15-foot pine tree from the woods, nailed it to the floor and children decorated...Read more

Paradise celebrates the return of the clock
Clark Fork Valley Press, November 20th

Once the ceremony commenced Dave Colyer brought the regulator clock to the front of the crowd, accompanied by a drum roll from those in attendance. Colyer and Stephens then placed the clock on a display stand to a round of applause from the ceremony's ...Read more

Old clock's return signals a new era for Paradise School
The Missoulian, November 15th

Judy Stephens, who stumbled on an antique Sessions Regulator clock in Kalispell that had once kept time in the Paradise School for decades, helped bring the clock home this week. Stephens and others hope the clock will return to a prominent place in...Read more

Piece of history headed back home to Paradise
KPAX-TV, November 14th

Fortunately, another almost identical clock - one with more local historical significance - was donated to Central School several months ago, which meant it was time to send the Sessions Regulator clock back home with the Paradise Elementary School ...Read more

Rare Antique & Collector Clocks, Plus Watches Will Be Sold In A 2-Day Auction ...
PR Web (press release), November 14th

J. Soldano · J.J. Beals · James Doutt · Japy Freres · Jewelers Regulator Clock · Junghans · L'Epie · L.F. & W.W. Carter · Lenzkirch · Limited Edition · L'Marti et Cie · Mantle Clock · Mirror Clock · Mystery Clock · National Calendar Clock Co. New Haven...Read more

Historic school clock changes hands
Daily Inter Lake, November 12th

Judy Stephens holds a 1900-era clock as members of the Paradise School Preservation Committee accept the Sessions Regulator clock from the Northwest Montana Historical Society at the Museum at Central School in Kalispell on Wednesday. The clock ...Read more

E. Howard & Co. No. 47 wall-hanging clock could fetch $200000-$300000 at ...
ArtfixDaily, September 11th

PITTSFIELD, Mass. - Horological history might be made on November 22nd when an exceedingly rare E. Howard & Company No. 47 wall-hanging astronomical regulator clock comes up for bid in an antique clock auction at Fontaine's Auction Gallery located ...Read more

This E. Howard No. 68 floor standing astronomical regulator clock brought a ...
ArtfixDaily (blog), December 3rd

(PITTSFIELD, Mass.) – An E. Howard & Company No. 68 floor standing astronomical regulator clock descending over the course of many decades from the original family sold for $277,300 at an antique clock auction held Nov. 23 by Fontaine's Auction Gallery ...Read more