Seth Thomas (1785-1859) began his clockmaking career in 1807 as an apprentice to renowned clockmaker Eli Terry. In 1810, he bought Terry’s Connecticut factory and began making tall clocks with wooden movements.

Thomas added wooden-movement shelf and mantel clocks in 1817. The first of these had pillar-and-scroll cases, usually with a scene painted on the bottom third of the case below the clock’s face. Around 1830, antique Seth Thomas mantel clocks were frequently framed in carved mahogany.

Brass movements replaced wooden ones in 1842 (wood was phased out entirely in 1845), which was also the first year that Thomas made mantel clocks with ogee cases—the style was produced until 1913.

Though an innovator when it came to production techniques and business, Thomas was rather conservative when it came to the appearance of his clocks. So, after his death in 1859, Thomas' sons were quick to introduce new clock styles—from handsome wall clocks to regulators to spring-driven clocks to clocks with calendars.

Of the calendar clocks, the Seth Thomas antique wall clocks for kitchens were particularly popular. One early double-dial calendar clock made shortly after the founders’ death had a rosewood-veneer case that came to points at the top and bottom to earn itself the nickname of "Peanut." Walnut kitchen clocks were produced from 1884 to 1909.

One of the toughest competitors for U.S. clockmakers in the second half of the 19th century were the French, whose clocks cased in onyx and marble were all the rage. In response, U. S. manufacturers made clocks that resembled those of the French, except instead of marble, they made their cases from less expensive iron or wood.

Thomas responded to the French challenge with its own line of marble clocks (1887 to 1895) and iron clocks finished in black enamel (1892 to 1895). But the Thomas response that i...

Adamantine was a veneer developed by the Celluloid Manufacturing Company—Thomas licensed the veneer because it could be produced in black, white, and a variety of patterns to replicate the look of wood, onyx, and, most importantly, marble. The Seth Thomas Adamantine mantel clocks were popular enough to remain in production until 1917.

Another trend from the late 19th century was the practice of naming a clock after international cities. Thomas did that, too, using names like Milan, Genoa, and Naples to evoke the style of a particular clock. Thomas also had a City Series of clocks named after U.S. cities. The Atlanta clock, for example, had a rosewood case with gilt details and a glass door that had been etched in a leaf pattern. Even Utica got its own clock. The City Series was produced for roughly 40 years.

Thomas clocks were also named after presidents (Lincoln, Garfield) and royalty (Victoria). Others were named after universities, from Cambridge to Cornell.

In the 20th century, Thomas introduced its first tambour clock in 1904. The low, wide profile of these mantel clocks made them perfect above fireplaces. Chime clocks followed in 1909, and electric clocks were added to the company’s catalog in 1928.

Of the pre-war, 1930s Thomas clocks, the Art Deco alarm clocks (wind up or electric) made of a colored plastic called Catalin are highly collectible. Unlike Bakelite, which was opaque due to its fillers of sawdust or carbon, Catalin is transparent, which made it easy to mix with dyes to produce rich colors. It could even be marbleized, which, for Thomas, recalled the company’s Adamantine clocks produced just a few decades earlier.

Key terms for Antique and Vintage Seth Thomas Clocks:

Ogee: A type of molding whose profile resembles an S-shape curve.

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    

Oak Seth Thomas #2 Type Regulator Clock----bradley Woodworks-canadaAntique Seth Thomas Arts & Crafts Wood Inlay Sonora Chime Mantle Clock W/ Key Antique Seth Thomas Adamantine Niphon Mantle Clock Rare Works No Reserve 1899 Antique Vintage Seth Thomas Mantle ClockAntique 1950 Seth Thomas "northbury" Mahogany Westminster Chime Mantel Clock Seth Thomas 1890 Mahogany Inlaid Bee Hive Mantle ClockLarge 10 1/4" Antique Brass Plated Seth Thomas Ships Maritime Clock 8 1/2" Dial1890 Seth Thomas Arch Top Bracket ClockAntique Large 16” Seth Thomas Dodecagon Gallery Clock Marine 8 Day Lever Moore-mccormack Lines Seth Thomas Ship's Internal Bell Maritime Clock 6" DialSeth Thomas Highly Carved Victorian Parlor Clock--built In Alarm1941 Seth Thomas U.s. Navy Mark I Clock WorksVintage Art Deco Bakelite Seth Thomas Clock Rd 1931Vintage Seth Thomas De Maelzel Paquet Metronome Piano Time Keeper Seth Thomas 19j 19 Jewels Henry Molineux Pocket Watch Model 2 Running Great 18sAntique 1905 Seth Thomas Adamantine Mantel Clock + Period Bonner Horse TopperAntique Seth Thomas Adamantine Mantle ClockRare Seth Thomas City-series (saint Paul)Antique Seth Thomas Adamantine Mantle Clock Mfg. Date July 1896...unique ColumnsVintage Antique Seth Thomas Chelsea Ships ClockVintage Seth Thomas Ship's Clock On StandSeth Thomas Antique Vintage Nautical Ship Clock 7" W/ Key Works! Maritime Bell Early, Eli Terry? Seth Thomas ? Pillar & Scroll Shelf Clock Parts / RestoreAntique Rare Seth Thomas 1900 "sparta" Adamantine Horse Figural Mantel Clock Antique Seth Thomas Mantle ClockAntique 1867 Clock Seth Thomas Plymouth Hollow Round Top Shelf Rosewood VeneerAntique Seth Thomas Navy Ships Clock ---needs RepairAntique Seth Thomas Mahogany Westminster Chime Cathedral Clock # 72 parts Repair Antique Vintage Seth Thomas Mantle ClockSeth Thomas Rare Black Dial Adamantine Mantle Clock Antique 1890 Seth Thomas Schoolhouse Clock In Good Working OrderOld Antique Seth Thomas Mantle Shelf Clock Movement Clock PartsAntique Seth Thomas Ships Clock 7"Vintage Seth Thomas West Minster Chime Mantle Clock / KeyAntique Seth Thomas Regulator Mantel Clock - Brass Case - For RestorationLot Of 8 Waltham Elgin Hampden Seth Thomas Pocket Watch Movements Parts/repair Antique 25 1/4" Seth Thomas Ogee Og To RestoreVintage Seth Thomas Brass Nautical Clock With 2 Key Winders Model 1004 Corsair-wAntique Seth Thomas Og Weight Driven Clock Case Parts RepairOriginal Vtg Antique Usa Seth Thomas Alarm & Strikes Chimes Clock WorkingSeth Thomas Sunburst ClockAntique Fancy Overlay Dial And Bezel Door With Glass Seth Thomas Mantle Clock Early Seth Thomas 9" Cottage Clock, 30-hr. Time & Alarm Movement, Ca. 1858Vintage Seth Thomas Shelf Mantle Clock Vintage Seth Thomas Electric Clock Parts RepairAntique Waterbury Seth Thomas New Haven Mantel Clock PartsSeth Thomas Adamantine Mantel Clock 1900 VintageVintage Seth Thomas Tambour Style Mantel ClockAntique Seth Thomas 17 Jewel 18s 2 Tone Pocket Watch In Coin Silver Case @1895Seth Thomas Ships Clock W/ Second Hand Works Fine Antique Seth Thomas 89 Mantel Shelf Clock Movement Parts RepairAntique Seth Thomas Adamantine Mantel Clock Case Parts RepairAntique Seth Thomas Og Weight Driven Clock Case Parts RepairAntique Seth Thomas Weight Driven Triple Decker Clock Movement PartsVintage Seth Thomas Mark I Deck Clock 8 Day Ships Clock Movement Dated 6-43Vintage Seth Thomas Us Navy Boat Ships Clock Movement PartsSeth Thomas Steeple Mantle Key Wound Vintage Works Chimes Solid Not AntiqueSeth Thomas Corsair 5.25" Barometer 1504 By Taylor'80 Seth Thomas/hermle A402-005 Westminster 2 Jewel 8 Day MovementAntique Seth Thomas Mantle Clock Movement 4-1/2 Working