Wall clocks represent the largest category of antique clocks and are among the earliest forms of clocks designed for the home. Throughout the years, walls clocks have been produced in an enormous range of styles, from Rococo to Biedermeier, Arts and Crafts to Art Deco, cuckoo to Coca-Cola.

Some of the first wall clocks were the cartel clocks of 18th-century France. Housed in elaborate cast-bronze or gold-leaf-on-wood frames (cartel is French for frame), these wall clocks often featured Roman numerals on white dials surrounded by gilt garlands, figurines, and cherubs.

The cuckoo clocks made in Germany’s Black Forest are another venerable wall-clock form, particularly the house-shape ones made in the 19th century and attributed to Friedrich Eisenlohr.

Picture clocks from the same century, mostly from Austria, inserted clocks into paintings. In many cases, the paintings would depict village scenes—the hands of the real clock would be strategically placed on the painting so that they were positioned on the exterior of, say, a church steeple. Vienna was also a center for regulator wall clocks, which were among the most accurate clocks of their time.

Wall clocks in 19th-century America evolved from these forms, as well as from English wag-on-the-wall clocks, whose weights and pendulums dangled and swung for all to see below the clock’s case. The most famous and sought-after antique American wall clock is Simon Willard’s banjo clock, which was so named for its resemblance to an upside-down banjo.

In the early part of the century, every American clockmaker worth his salt made a banjo clock. They were typically cased in mahogany and frequently had brass ornamentation on their sides to suggest frets on a banjo’s neck. Some were crowned with eagles, others were anchored by boxes that were decorated with paintings of everything from harbor scenes to grand estates. Still other variations replaced the banjo shape with that of a lyre.

The gallery clock was another popular type of American wall clock. Unlike the banjos, which had long cases to hide the clock’s pendulum, these were almost all dial, with hardly a...

Schools got their own design, the so-called schoolhouse clock, first appearing sometime between 1850 and 1860. Similar to a gallery clock but with more framing—usually wood—around the dial, schoolhouse clocks had short cases below their faces, often with a small pane of glass to reveal the pendulum inside.

Mirror clocks were a very popular form of American wall clock, and hard to find today given their fragility. Typically the dial would occupy the top quarter or third of the clock’s rectangular case, with the bottom section devoted to a mirror, behind which swung the clock’s pendulum. Frames ranged from plain birch to gilt pine.

Double-dial wall clocks from makers such as Jerome and Ingraham were another 19th-century favorite. In most cases, a clock giving the hours and minutes would fill the top section of the case, while hands pointing to the date, month, and/or day of the week filled the bottom. In some of these clocks, tumblers with the printed names of the days and months ("Monday," "January," etc.) poked through the dial, giving these antiques an almost digital appearance.

By the 20th century, many of these wall-clock styles were being mass-produced by Seth Thomas and others. With the advent of electrical wall clocks, manufacturers began adding neon to their products and making their clocks out of plastic, steel, and chrome.

For advertisers, electric clocks represented an exciting new way to pitch products to customers. Coca-Cola and Budweiser were some of the first companies to make advertising clocks, as were gasoline companies and manufacturers of radios and other consumer-electronics devices.

While advertisers chose not take full advantage of the miniaturization of clockworks (dials needed to remain large so that products could be promoted), designers did. One of the best and most collected clock designers of the 20th century was George Nelson, whose clever and even humorous Mid-century Modern sunflower, ball, and starburst wall clocks give new meaning to the phrase "wag on the wall."

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 George D Hatch 1850 Weight Driven Banjo Wall Clock Runs GreatAntique Waterbury Pennsylvania Railroad Train Station Depot Regulator Wall ClockVintage George Nelson Howard Miller Ball Wall Clock Rare EamesRare Antique Austrian Gustav Becker Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Working L@@kAntique Gebrueder Resch Remember 1 Weight Wall Clock Vienna Regulator 1890'sE Ingraham Huge Antique Calendar Regulator Wall Clock 100% Original Runs Great!Ithaca Double Dial Calendar Wall ClockAntique Seth Thomas Wall Clock See Details Antique Oak Waterbury Regulator Wall ClockRare Antique Gilbert Consort Calendar Regulator Wood Long Drop School Wall ClockHoward Miller Model 613-153 Key Wound Pendulum Westminster Chime Wood Wall ClockAntique Gilbert No 3042 Regulator Wall ClockAntique Junghans Spring Driven Wall Clock Approx.1900Antique Kienzle Spring Driven Wall Clock Approx.1890Antique Ansonia Gallery Railroad School Wall Clock Square Mahogany 30 DayAntique Oak 2-weight Regulator Wall Clock--8-day Time & Strike--needs WorkRare Gorgeous Antique Heavy German Lenzkirch Two Weight Wall Clock At 1898 Beautiful Antique German Wall Clock Antique-wall-clock- Regulator 19th Century **Ansonia Queen Elizabeth Golden Oak Wall ClockVintage Schatz Ships Bell Wall Clock - With BarometerBeautiful Antique German Wall Clock At 1880Hughe Beautiful Vintage Dutch Zaanse Wall Clock BurlwoodAntique German Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Movement Dial Parts Repair19c.antique Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Weights Pair Etched Floral Motive BrassAntique Seth Thomas Ball Top Eclipse Wall Clock 8 Day With Alarm Gingerbread Retro Vintage 60's French Yellow Formica Kitchen Wall Clock Made By BayardVintage 14" Ge Red Dot Eye Indian Motorcycle Wall Clock Model 1h1412 1940-50sMaola Electric Wall Clock 15" DiameterAntique Gustav Becker Silesia Wall Clock Key Wind German Serial # 638882Antique Vienna Regulator Two Weights Wall Clock Branded Gb 128cm Gorgeous Antique Junghans Keyhole Wall Clock Approx.1900Antique Oak Ingraham Regulator Wall ClockAntique German/austrian Wall Clock, Late 19th/early 20th Century Wall Clock In Brass Type Comtoise *s.b.s -feintechnik-josef Burger-made GermanyVintage Dutch Sallander Zaanse Wall Clock Moon Phases Vintage Mid Century Modern Seth Thomas Electric Starburst Wall Clock-works-15" Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 40th Anniversary Dealers Showroom Wall ClockWonderful 8 Day Antique Wall Clock Rare German Slimline Walnut Case Clock C1890Junghans German Free Swinger Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Mauthe Kinzle EraNew Chopard Mille Miglia Dealer Showroom Wall Clock Limited Edition Absolut RarRonde Solo De Cartier Dealers Showroom Wall Clock DisplayVintage Waterbury Key Wind 2 Tone Wood Case Wall ClockVintage 1950's General Electric Telechron School Postal Wall Clock 10" Works UsaGeochron Original Kilburg Edition Global Time Indicator - World Wall ClockSeiko Charming Bell Melodies In Motion Wall Clock Qxm109srh Plays 6 Tunes32" Antique Chelsea Banjo Wall Clock With Reverse Painted Glass, Mt. VernonAntique Gustav Becker Silesia Wall Clock Key Wind German Serial #623368Seth Thomas Wall Clock Regulator Nice German Made Ethan Allen Key Wound 8 Day Striking Bell Skeleton Wall ClockOld Wall Clock Dutch Zaandam Zaanse Wall Clock Orologio Reloj Uhr Antique Wall Clock German Clock Regulator 1920th Century *Antique Wall ClockAntique 19th C. German Kienzle Running Free Swinger Wall Clock. ***no Reserve***Vintage Howard Miller Weight Driven Lucite & Brass Wall Clock By George NelsonNew Cartier Dealer Showroom Wall Clock Limited Edition Absolut RarZaanse Friesian Wall Clock With Moonphase And Handpainted DialLarge Vintage Original Cuckoo Clock,black Forest Wall Clock Germany 8 Day Vintage Telechron Electric School Wall ClockOld Vintage Russia Ussr Cuckoo Wall Clock Majak -МАЯК