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    

Vintage Pam Advertising Lighted Wall Clock Chris Craft Boats Electric Light AdAntique Sessions Advertising Wall Clock Pierces Lignite Floor VarnishOriginal Antique Gilbert Columbia Model Wall Clock For Parts Repair Rare Antique Wm. L. Gilbert Janeiro 8-day Wall Clock C. 1900 WoodLarge 1 Weight Regulator Wall Clock 53" HighVintage Pam Advertising Lighted Wall Clock Indian Motorcycles Electric Light AdVintage Pam Advertising Lighted Wall Clock Pabst Beer Sign Electric Light Ad PbrAntique Slender Signed Gustav Becker 2 Weight Vienna Regulator Wall Clock C1880Antique Sessions Regulator No. 4 Wall Clock 8 Day Time Only Looks & Runs GreatVictorian Fusee Wall Clock, Shepherds, Shambles, York. Lovely Original ConditionSeth Thomas Wall Clock Time Only Weight Driven. 34"tall. Needs Work. New Pic Ad Antique Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Movement, Pendulum. Weight, Pulley, KeyAntique 1800s Fancy Carved 47" Serpentine Vienna Regulator Wall Clock CaseVtg Mid-century Atomic Sunburst Starburst Wall Clock Wind Up GermanyVintage Hastings Filters Sign Lighted Wall Clock Auto Parts Gas Station WorksOld Wall Clock Shaped Dutch Saarlander Clock With Moon Phase Warmink WubaGorgeous Antique Junghans Spring Driven Wall Clock Approx.1910Antique German Keyhole Spring Driven Wall Clock Approx.1900Antique-wall-clock-regulator 19th Century * Black ForestRare Original Gilbert Janerio Wall Clock C. 1901Vintage Pam Advertising Lighted Wall Clock Norton Motorcycles Electric Light AdCrosley Lighted Vintage Advertising Electric Wall Clock-nice!Carved Antique 22" Jughans 118 Vienna Regulator Wall Clock N/r*antique-wall-clock- Regulator 1920th Century *Old Wall Clock Regulator Particular Skeleton Clock Made In West Germany Rare 18thc Early South German Zappler Polychromed Wood Faced Wall ClockVintage Neon Glo- Dial 22 Inch Wall Clock Advertising "bulova" Missing Back&top Gorgeous Antique German Wall Clock Quarter Hour Strike Very Good ConditionOld Wall Clock Dutch Zaandam Zaanse Wall Clock Very Rare Particular With 2 BellOld Wall Clock W&h Sch Movement J Lee ? Market Place Heywood Restoration Project***antique & Beautiful Westminster Wall Clock 3weights *anker* - Fhs**Mid-century Modern Vintage Danish Elgin Starburst Sunburst 30" Large Wall ClockOld Wall-clock Regulator Franz Hermle & Sohn *fhs*Old Wall Clock Regulator Particular Skeleton Clock Made In Germany Old Wall Clock Dutch Zaandam Zaanse Wall Clock Warmink Wuba 62 Cm HeigthGerman Vintage Jauch Tripple Chime Wall Clock W/ Beveled Glass 30 3/8" N/rOrig. Vintage Atomic Starburst Westclox Wall Clock Teak Mid Century RunningOld Wall Clock Dutch Clock Friesian Folklore Of Frieseland*150 Cm*xxl***antique & Beautiful Westminster Wall Clock 3weights *hermle* - Fhs**Antique Wall Clock Comtoise 19th Century In Brass Repeats The SoundsWall Clock Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Original Schwarzwald *regula *Vintage Waterbury Library 8 Day Wall ClockWatch Dealer Showroom Display Wall Clock Patek Philippe 0001b 5120 Nos Mint Old Wall Clock Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Original Schwarzwald **regula** E. Ingraham Walnut-stained Banjo Wall Clock (no Reserve)!!!Old Wall Clock Dutch Zaandam Zaanse Wall Clock Orologio FhsAustrian Carved Solid Oak Wall Clock Circa: 1900Antique-wall-clock- Vienna Regulator 19th Century 97 Cm Height *Neolite Soles And Heels Shoes Vintage 50s Electric Advertising Wall Clock 12" Vintage 1970's Wood Omega Watch Wall Clock Woodgrain Dealer Sign Working BatteryRegulator Antique Wall Clock Movements,.2 For 1 MoneyOld Wall Clock Black Forest Cuckoo Original Schwarzwald *regula*Vintage Mid-century Modern Atomic Sunburst Electric Wall Clock General ElectricOld-wall-clock- Regulator *fhs* Franz Hermle & Sohn*made In Germany*Vintage Original Large Postal Telegraph Hammond Synchronous Wall ClockSeiko Melodies In Motion Wall Clock Qxm491brh 18 Different Melodies, Volume AdjHamilton Regulator Wooden Wall ClockVintage 1960sverichron Sunburst Wall Clock Star Burst Retro Atomic Huge 31" Bin Nice Gustoff Becker Wall ClockUnique Antique Seth Thomas Wall Clock