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 Vienna Regulator, 2 Weight Wall Clock Lenzkirch Very NiceHuge Vintage Seth Thomas Teak Sunburst / Starburst Wall Clock Retro 1960s/1970s1930s Vintage Atlas Tire - Battery Advertising Working Wall Clock; Lighted SignEarly London 30hr Hooded Wall Clock 4 Inch Dial+ Movement C1760Antique Vienna Regulator, 2 Weight Wall Clock, Gustav Becker, Very NiceVery Rare Vintage Bronze & Mahogany Oriental Style Fusee Calendar Wall ClockAntique Vienna Regulator 1 Weight Wall Clock, Gustav Becker Rare, Very Early S/nQuality Antique Cuckoo Clock , Wall Clock Antique E N Welch Wall Clock Sembrich T&s Mahogany Original Finish "no Reserve"Stunning Beautiful Vienna Regulator Wall Clock 2 Weight OriginalUltra Rare & Genuine Dealer Display Tag Heuer Monaco "gulf" Wall Clock Rare Dent Fusee 9 Inch Dial Striking Wall Clock, Gallery ClockAntique 1889 Seth Thomas Calendar Wall Clock For Parts Or RepairBeautiful Gustav Becker Serpentine Wall Clock- Walnut Case- 1880Antique Vienna Regulator 2 Weight Wall Clock, Perfection, OriginalRare Vtg Advertising Westinghouse Wall Clock Television Radio Sign Light WorksLarge Size Gut Beil Free Swinger German Wall Clock- Signed Movement-1890 GermanyAntique Gustav Becker Free Swinger Wall ClockGorgeous Antique Gustav Becker Balcony Free Swinger Wall Clock At 1910Antique 41" Weight Driven Wall Clock Parts RepairOld Wall Clock Comtoise Big Clock In Brass Westminster MelodyVintage Nos 1950-60's Bulova Lighted Advertising Store Display Wall Clock W/boxAntique Seththomas Long Drop 2 Wind Time Only 30 Day Wall Clock Runs For Resto Gorgeous Antique French Repeater Repetition " Odo " Wall Clock At 1900Beautiful Antique German Wall Clock With Bronze Ornaments- 1890 GermanyVintage Rotating Neon Wall Clock Advertising Seeburg Speakers (jukebox)Large (20 Inches) Round Fire Station Oak Wall Clock, Vintage Mid-century George Nelson Howard Miller Asterisk Wall Clock Duck Unlimited 15" Neon Light Wall Clock Man Cave Workshop Blind Tin Sign S OrBeautiful Antique German Two Weight Wall Clock At 1880Vintage Seth Thomas Maritime Ship Wall Clock Captain's Nautical W/ Bell Beautiful Antique German Black Forest Carl Werner Wall Clock At 1900Antique 30" Oak Ingraham Calendar Regulator Wall ClockAntique ~ Ingraham ~ Wall Clock ~ For Parts Or Repair !Original 1970s Krups Wall Clock Panton Op Pop Art Bauhaus Danish Modern60sBeautiful Striking New Haven Carved Wall Clock Circa 1885Rare Huge Antique Bundy Key Time Recorder Wall Clock For Parts Or Restoration Arthur Pequegnat Canadian Time Wall Clock Time Only WorkingBeautiful Antique Gustav Becker Two Weight Wall Clock At 1920Superb Antique C.werner Balcony Freeswinger Wall Clock Approx. 1900Antique Nautical Seth Thomas Brass Ship's Wall Clock With Bell! Chimes!! Rare!!Beautiful Antique Kienzle German Wall Clock- Porcelain Dial- 1890 GermanyVintage Waltham Banjo Wind Up Eagle Picture Wall ClockVintage Quality Howard Miller Wall Clock No. 143 Triple Chime Key Wind MovementOld Wall Clock Shaped Dutch Saarlander Clock Dial Engravied With Moon PhaseGorgeous Antique W.a.m.d. Keyhole Wall Clock Approx.1900Big Couble Dial Oak Hanging Railroad House Wall Clock, Thirty Day, 45 Inch TallAntique Swiss Du Chateau Colonial Bracket Mantel Wall ClockAntique Large 42" Oak Self Winding Clock Co New York Glass Front Wall ClockVintage Lux Mfg Co Syrocowood Scottie Dog Wall Clock With Key Antique Ingraham Calendar Wall Clock "northwestern" For PartsVintage Anno 1750 Sawtooth Wall Clock Germany As IsBeautiful Antique French Comtoise Wall Clock With Date- 1850 FranceAntique Sessions Working Oak Regulator Wall Clock With Day CalendarAntique 19th C. French Morbier / Comtoise, Wag On Wall Clock W/ Repeater Strike.Vintage Champion Spark Plugs Electric Advertising Lighted Wall Clock....works! Antique German Nice Gustav Becker Heavy Case Vienna Regulator Wall Clock 1890'sBeautiful Sounding Junghans Music Wall Clock- 1890 Germany- Stamped PendulumAntique Fusee Wall Clock Gallery Advertising English Original Finish No ReserveOld Waterbury Wall Clock, Ogee Pediment, Ornate Top, Inlay