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    

Antique Ansonia Elysian Gilded Crystal Regulator Clock, Open Escapement MovementAntique Gustav Becker Complete Wall Clock Movement 2 Weights Vienna RegulatorAntique Waterbury Pennsylvania Railroad Train Station Depot Regulator Wall ClockAntique C 1890 Seth Thomas Drop Octagon Regulator Wall Clock Victorian Oak YqzAntique Gebrueder Resch Remember 1 Weight Wall Clock Vienna Regulator 1890'sVienna Type Regulator Wall Hanging Clock Single Weight Pendulum Wind Up Antique Gustav Becker 19th C German Regulator Victorian Horse Top Wall Clock YqzGeorge Jones Pinwheel Regulator Clock Movement Only @ 1870 Original Large Antique French Samuel Marti Gilt Brass Crystal Regulator Clock ... NrFancy 1890s New Haven Bronze & Beveled Crystal Regulator Mantle Clock No ReserveAntique-wall-clock- Regulator 19th Century **George Jones Pinwheel Regulator Clock Gridiron Pendulum Only @ 1870 OriginalAntique 1894 Regulator Pendulum Tombstone Clock - Original And Works Great! Antique French Japy Freres Crystal Regulator Clock Large George Jones Pinwheel Regulator Clock Case Only @ 1870 ProjectAnsonia Antique Symbol Extra Crystal Regulator ClockRare Antique Gilbert Consort Calendar Regulator Wood Long Drop School Wall Clock3 Weight Vienna Regulator Clock Movement With Gongs And Porcelain Dial Seth Thomas Crystal Regulator Pendulum 48n Movement Mantle Shelf Clock BeautifulAntique German Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Movement Dial Parts Repair Antique German Regulator Wall Clock .nice!!!Antique German Regulator Wall Clock Case Parts Repair19c.antique Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Weights Pair Etched Floral Motive BrassOld Wall-clock- Regulator **junghans**Kienzle Ra Vienna Regulator Wall Clock1890 Mercury Pendulum For Crystal Regulator Or Other Table ClockAntique Oak 2-weight Regulator Wall Clock--8-day Time & Strike--needs WorkMercury Pendulum From French Crystal Regulator Clock @ 1890 LargeE Ingraham Huge Antique Calendar Regulator Wall Clock 100% Original Runs Great!George Jones Pinwheel Regulator Clock Weight Only @ 1870 OriginalGeorge Jones Pinwheel Regulator Clock Key Only @ 1870 OriginalClock Pendulum For Crystal RegulatorAntique Wall Clock German Clock Regulator 1920th Century *Antique Gilbert No 3042 Regulator Wall ClockRare Antique Austrian Gustav Becker Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Working L@@kAntique Oak Waterbury Regulator Wall ClockQuality Regulator Clock Movement Weight Driven Unknown MakerAntique French Crystal Regulator Clock By Japy Freres & Cie. Unusual Heavy CaseJunghans German Free Swinger Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Mauthe Kinzle EraAntique E N Welch Regulator Clock Running ConditionOld Wall Clock Regulator Particular Clock In Wood ***urgos Made In Germany***Pony Express Regulator A Wall Clock Circa 1900Complete Waterbury Brass Crystal Regulator Clock Case With BezelAntique E.n Welch United States Hotel Saratoga Ny Ogee Wood Wall Regulator ClockVintage Regulator Chiming Wall Clock Working!2 Old Antique Vienna Brass Clock Weights Wall Weight Part Regulator Not Matching1906 - Waterbury Clock Movement 8-day From Store Regulator - Antique Brass German Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Pendulum Parts RepairAntique French Brass Crystal Regulator Clock, Japy Frerez Medal Of HonorAntique Running "owari" Japanese School House Regulator Wall Clock. **1890's**Antique Gilbert Regulator ClockAntique Vienna Regulator Two Weights Wall Clock Branded Gb 128cm 1 Old Antique Large Brass Clock Weight Wall Regulator Vienna Weight Part 7.3 LbsSeiko Regulator Mid-century Wall Clock-pendulum-30 Day--workingLot #1 Unique Antique Vintage Keys Clock Skeleton Gas Valve Regulator Lock NrRegulator ClockComplete Kassel 31 Day Regulator Wall Clock - Non WorkingAntique Ansonia Wall Regulator Clock Movement Parts RepairAntique Wall Clocks Regulator Good Antique 18 Inch Pendulum For German Regulator Clock

Recent News: Regulator Clocks

Source: Google News

Tiffany scenic leaded window and lamps, plus Howard & Davis and Seth ...
ArtfixDaily, May 12th

PITTSFIELD, Mass. – A one-of-a-kind Howard & Davis astronomical regulator clock and a rare Seth Thomas No. 20 standing regulator clock with Grande Sonnerie strike and repeat could both reach or surpass $100,000 at a cataloged antique auction ...Read more

'Miracle guy' bucks trend of throwing things away
Belleville News-Democrat, May 2nd

Leanna and her husband, Steve, a farmer, took Don an 1830s regulator clock that had stopped running. He found and installed the necessary part. Don also repaired two cameras and a weather radio for the Clarks, but the clock meant the most. “It's about ...Read more

The end of an era, May 2nd

Our regulator clock that had been left behind steadfastly ticked away in its now broken case. The bathroom had the same ceramic soap holder (chipped eternally) of 20 years ago. Nobody had bothered to remove the copper gas heater above the bathtub ...Read more

Antiques & Collectibles: Seth Thomas regulator clock a timeless favorite
Press of Atlantic City, March 6th

Question: What can you tell me about an old oak wall clock left in an office building I recently ac-quired? It is 37 inches long, 16 inches wide and 5½ inches deep with a brass pendulum and weight. Its metal dial is painted white, has Roman numerals, a...Read more

Ashland resident donates clock to historical society
News Item, February 15th

The regulator clock, a more accurate version time-wise of a standard pendulum clock, was rewound about every eight days with a key, which was stored in the case. The glass cover over the lower half of the clock showed "P.H. Loeper, Leading Jeweler...Read more

E. Howard & Company No. 47 wall-hanging astronomical regulator soars to a ...
ArtfixDaily, December 5th

PITTSFIELD, Mass. – An E. Howard & Company No. 47 wall-hanging astronomical regulator clock – one of only three examples known and so rare it doesn't even appear in the E. Howard catalog – soared to a record price of $356,950.00 at a clock and watch ...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