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 Gilbert #10 Weight Drive Wall Clock Regulator In Gorgeous WalnutIngraham Wall Regulator Clock Made For Western Union Pressed Oak Case WorksAntique Wall Sessions Solid Oak Railroad Regulator Clock-all Original-runs GreatAntique-wall-clock- Regulator 19th Century **Antique 19th C Seth Thomas Office #5 Lobby Gallery Regulator Wall Clock Rare 23"Antique-wall-clock- Regulator 19th Century Vienna Clock *junghans *Antique French Medaille D'or Crystal Regulator Clock Real Mercury Pendulum RunsGood Quality Antique German Vienna Regulator Clock Movement & Gridiron PendulumRegulator Fabrick Germania Antique ClockAntique Regulator Freischwinger Wall Clock Cantilever Marked Friedrich Mauthe Old Wall Clock Regulator Particular Clock In Wood ***made In Germany***Antique-wall-clock- Regulator 19th Century Vienna Clock****Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Excellent Small Antique German Hac Vienna Regulator Striking Wall Clock C190039" 1894 Vienne Regulator Clcok Austria "joh Modl" Wein Wall Clock Fine French Regulator Mercury Clock Retailed By Bigelow & Kennard BostonVintage Franz Hermle Trend Clocks By Sligh Regulator School House Pendulum ClockGerman Wall Clock Finials Case Parts Freeswinger Free Swinger Vienna RegulatorAntik Wall Clocks Regulator Carl Mazeck Deutesches Reichs PatenAntik Wall Clocks Regulator KienzleAntique Gilbert Crystal Regulator Clock Pendulum No Reserve!Fine Striking Black Forest Fms Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Eagle Crown C1900Vintage Regulator A Wall Clock Vg Working CondAntique Wall Clock German Clock Regulator 1920th Century *Vintage Wall Clocks Regulator Fhs Antik Wall Clocks Regulator Fms Original 19jhrOld Wall Regulator Lg Shelf Mantle Clock Barrel Pendulum Clock Parts Antique Working Dufa Largo Gong German Regulator Wall Clock Circa 1920's - 30'sAntique School House Regulator Wall Clock For Parts Or Repair; Sold As IsWaterbury Regulator Wall Clock Antique Pendulum Oak Store All Original!Recreation Of 1870s Double Doric Regulator Wall Clock - Store Display ModelFree Regulator Clock Advertising Broadside G. A. Hosmer Co. Buffalo, NyAlaron 31 Day Regulator Wall Clock With Brass PendulumVintage Westminster Chime Quartz Regulator Oak Wall ClockAntique Ansonia Beat Scale, Regulator Wall Clock (566c)New! Infinity Instruments Large Oak Regulator Chiming Pendulum Wall Clock-r3416Antique Store Regulator Clock Pendulum Marked On The Back 1839Antik Wall Clocks Regulator Marked Kienzle

Recent News: Regulator Clocks

Source: Google News

Texans' Clock Collection Sells in Massachusetts
Maine Antique Digest, August 6th

A William Hardy observatory regulator clock made in London circa 1825 stalled at $55,000 (est. $70,000/90,000). Cheney suggested that the European dealers potentially interested in this clock were “saving ammo” for upcoming horology auctions in Europe...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

Massive gift keeps nation's last clock school ticking
East Oregonian (subscription), February 27th

Among the dozens of clocks placed around the room were vintage cuckoo clocks, a Westminster mantel clock from 1900 and a Vienna regulator clock from about 1870. Richard Courtney stood near a grandfather clock made in Paddington, England, in 1860...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

Spencer Family Making Up For Lost Time After Return Of Family Clock
Siouxland Matters, December 24th

But the family's jeweler regulator clock has been keeping time for them for much longer than that. And as the clocks inside Nelson Jewelry count down the hours until Christmas, among them stands a new addition with a long family history. "It started in...Read more

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

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 auction held Nov...Read more

E. Howard & Co. No. 47 wall-hanging clock could fetch $200000-$300000 at Nov ...
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