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    

Inlaid Triple Weight Wall Clock - Pitched Roof Grand Sonnerie Vienna Wall ClockAntique Fusee Wall Clock Victorian Drop Dial Railway Station School RestoredAntique 19th C Fusee Mahogany Round Office / School Wall Clock Key , PendulumSeth Thomas Wall Clock Rare Antique-vtg Ingraham Oilzum Oil-gas Station-store Display Wall Clock-shellOld Wall Clock Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Schwarzwald With Clarion And 2 MelodiesSeth Thomas Ball-top Eclipse Wall ClockRegulator #2 Grand Trunk Railroad 8 Day Wall Clock Excellent To MintGustav Becker Walnut 3 Weight Veinna Regulator Wall Clock Case ProjectE N Welch Antique Early Large Office Drop Wall Clock Looks/runs Great!Superb Antique 19thc French Solid Ormolu Bronze 8 Day Striking Cartel Wall ClockAntique Victorian Vienna Wall Clock Austrian Weight Driven Regulator 8 Day C1890Vtg 60's Animated Eyes Electric Kit Cat Klock Wall Clock Allied Mfg Rare OrangeRare Vintage Tv Radio Service Lighted Wall Clock Ge Electronic Tube AdvertisingVintage Starburst Sunburst Wall Clock Elgin Atomic Eames Era Mid CenturyAntique American Inlaid Wall Clock - Full Glazed Drop Dial 8 Day Usa Wall ClockAntique Single Fusee Drop Dial Wall Clock, Mother Of Pearl Inlay Rosewood Case, Vintage Robert Shaw Lux Atomic Mid Century Modern Starburst Sunburst Wall ClockAntique *lenzkirch* Wall Clock Movement For Parts Or Repair **not Working**Antique German Junghans Spring Driven Wall Clock Approx. 1900Rare Vintage Elgin Starburst Atomic Wall Clock W/original Tag Booklet TlcOld Wall Clock Dutch Zaandam Zaanse Wall Clock Orologio Reloj Uhr Xl Clock 63 CmOld Wall Clock Junghans Pendulum* About 1900 * Designed And ManufactdEarly English Fusee Wall Clock - Ormolu Case Dial Signed Wm Gunn WallingfordOld Wall Clock Black Forest Cuckoo Original Schwarzwald*made Germany Old Wall Clock Dutch Zaandam Zaanse Wall Clock Orologio Reloj Uhr Xl Clock 62 CmRare Seth Thomas "world" Model Wall Clock - Rare Large Movement Time & StrikeGorgeous Antique German Spring Driven Wall Clock Approx. 1890Seiko Melodies In Motion Wall Clock With Christmas Music, Elvis & More! [unique Specimen] Antique German Gustav Becker Wall Clock Door Made Of BrassAntique German Wall Clock Regulator At 1880 / 1900Old Wall Clock Black Forest Cuckoo Original Schwarzwald*made Germany Regula Miniature Mechanical Wind Swiss Wag On The Wall Clock Signed LuzernGe General Electric Telechron Vintage Bakelite Large Wall Clock Industrial 1940sAntique German Freeswinger Wall Clock Approx. 1900Vintage Elgin Mid-century Modern Atomic Starburst Metal Wall Clock WorkingBlack Forest Large Cuckoo Wall Clock With Music BoxCalendar Clock Beautiful Antique German Wall Clock Regulator At 1900 As IsOld Wall Clock Dutch Zaandam Zaanse Wall Clock Orologio Reloj Uhr **Mackenzie-childs Courtly Check Round Handpainted Steel Enamel Wall Clock New $72Vtg 1960's 70's Welby Sunburst Wood Metal Wall Clock Mid CenturyLow Reserve Good Small Size Antique German Vienna Striking Wall Clock Circa 1900German Anno 1750 Sawtooth Gravity Wall ClockAntique Seth Thomas Wall Clock In Round Wood Case Mechanical No Key WorkingGustav Becker Wall Clock Antique Crio Song SilesiaSnap On Tools Wall Clock E. Howard & Co. Regulator No. 70 Brass Wall Clock Movement**old Wall Clock Shaped Dutch Saarlander Clock With Moon Phase 'Antique Ingraham Regulator Wall Clock, Very Early 1900sVintage Working Tiger Cat Plastic Wall Clock By Spartus Hot Rod Rat RodSnap On Tools Collectors Vintage Wall Clock -15 InchRed Retro Electric Wall Clock Kitchen/bar – Warren Telechron Ashland Ma Art DecoVintage Ca 1930's Telechron Model 2f01 Art Deco Kitchen Style Wall Clock WorkingVintage Working Kit Cat Klock Hanging Wall Clock No TailGerman 'schmeckenbecher' Vienna Regulator Wall ClockVintage Antique Ingraham Electric Kitchen Wall Clock Model Mk35Dealers Patek Philippe Calatrava Showroom Display Wall ClockVintage Lux Scottie Dog Animated Pendulette Novelty Wall ClockAntique Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Case Parts RepairSeiko Laurette Melodies In Motion Wall Clock Qxm297brh New In Box With Batteries