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 Gustav Becker Decorated Art Nouveau Regulator Wall Clock Circa 1900 Antique Mahogany English 4 Pillar Precision Regulator Longcase Clock By LangtonSeth Thomas Regulator N0.2 Wall Clock In Good ConditionOld Wall-clock- Regulator Vienna Regulator With Weights Pulley Heigth 127 CmMilitary Gr Regulator 8day Fusee Walnut Bracket Clock Army Mess Officers ClockQuality Antique 8 Day Weight Driven Carved Mahogany Vienna Regulator Wall ClockRare Atkins Regulator 1800s Reverse Painted Federal Style Case Mantle ClockAntique Ansonia Gilt Regulator Mantle Clock Marquis 4" Porcelain Dial 19x9x9" 1885-1890 German Kienzle Vienna Regulator Wall ClockAntique 1800s Japy Freres Brass Mercury Pendulum Regulator Art Nouveau ClockOld Wall-clock- Regulator Particular Pieces MautheLarge Gustav Becker 8 Day Vienna 2 Weight Regulator Wall Clock--signed MovementLarge Reproduction Rail Road Regulator Chiming Wall Clock Antique-wall-clock- Vienna Regulator 19th Century *103 Cm Height *Antique Regulator Wall ClockAntique German Regulator Striking Wall ClockVintage Wood Schoolhouse Regulator Wall Clock-key Wind Pendulum Chime Works 1950Antique Two Weight Vienna Regulator Clock, Resoration, Nice!Vintage Seth Thomas Art Nouveau 4 Column 2 Lion Heads Regulator Mantle ClockOld Wall-clock- Regulator Particular Pieces *fhs * Franz Hermle & SohnAnsoni Crystal Regulator Open Escapement Brass/glass Striking Mantel Clock Japy Freres Glass Regulator Clock - Does Not Work Vintage Clock Movement For Grandfather Clock Or Regulator Clock All There W KeyLarge Vintage 30 Day Hotel Regulator Wall ClockAntique Waterbury Regulator Wall Clock2 Weight Vienna Regulator Clock Movement And Dial @ 1870 ProjectWaterbury Rosewood 8 Day Wall Regulator Clock @ 1890. Restored, RunningVienna Regulator 1 Weight Clock Movement Only @ 1870 GoodDea Wooden Octagon Regulator Wall Clock W/key Clock Does Not Work (609)Vintage Linden Clock Movement For Grandfather Clock Or Regulator Clock 8 DayEngraved Grand Sonnerie 3 Weight Vienna Regulator Clock, RestoreAntique Gilbert Calendar Regulator Clock Bezel W Glass -originalVintage No 420 Sessions Clock Co Regulator Mantle Clock Deco StyleAntique Seth Thomas No. 2 Regulator Wall Clock Hands Parts ProjectAntique Ingraham Wood Case Regulator Mantle Clock Heavy Brass DecorationAntique Circa 1900 Regulator Simon Wittner (pony Express System) Clock #40405aAntique Seth Thomas No.2 Wall Regulator Clock Seconds Bit Hand PartsAntique Brass Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Weight Parts RepairDa5751 Antique Korean Regulator Wind-up Clock Trade Mark "h" Wood Cabinet24k Gold Plated Vienna Regulator Or Free Swinger Wall Clock PendulumAntique German Ra Spring Driven Regulator Wall Clock Movement Dial PartsAntique German Regulator Wall Clock Case Wooden Crown Parts RepairAntique Gilbert Calendar Regulator Clock Bottom Door W Glass -original Antique Large Brass Backcock For Wall Clock/regulatorPair Of Antique Original Gustav Becker Vienna Regulator Clock FinialsAntique Ra Brass Wall Regulator Clock Pendulum Parts RepairAntique Ra German Wall Regulator Clock Pendulum Parts Repair