There are two basic types of mechanical clocks, those powered by weights and those powered by springs. Weight-driven clocks came first, used in churches and monasteries beginning in the 13th century. The heaviness of a clock’s weights powers its movement (the network of gears and pins that move the hands of the clock), which is regulated by the escapement. In 1650, pendulums were added to clocks to make them more accurate.

Weights were used on all manner of clocks, from grandfather clocks to regulators to wall clocks, including cuckoo clocks. In the United States, one of the earliest weight-driven clocks was made in the late 18th century by Simon and Aaron Willard, whose Massachusetts Shelf Clock, as it was known, was basically a smaller version of a tall-case clock, with a brass dial and a mahogany pedestal base. In 1802, Simon Willard would cement his name in horology history when he created the banjo clock.

Even more influential was Eli Terry’s 1816 pillar-and-scroll weight-driven shelf clock, which took its name from the vertical, finial-capped pillars on the sides of the clock, as well as the decorative scrolls at the top. Introduced in the early 19th century, Terry’s earliest model exposed the escapement and pendulum on the front of the dial; subsequent models hid these mechanical features inside with the rest of the clock’s wooden movement.

Numerous Connecticut clockmakers, including Seth Thomas, quickly copied Terry’s basic design. Thomas’s wooden-movement shelf and mantel clocks first appeared in 1817. These, too, had pillar-and-scroll cases, usually with a bucolic scene painted on the bottom third of the case below the clock’s face. Later in the century, another Connecticut clockmaker, Ansonia, manufactured an extensive line of weight-driven mantel clocks with elaborately painted china cases, along with weight-driven regulators like the General.

By the middle of the 19th century, springs had largely replaced weights as the primary means to power a clock. Movements were also upgraded. Once made of wood, the wheels and pinions were now made of tougher brass, which made their leaves, or teeth, less susceptible to chipping or breaking outright.


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]

Clockhistory.com

Clockhistory.com

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    

Howard Boston Weight Driven Banjo Clock No. 4Antique Original Waterbury No. 20 Regulator 2 Weight Wall Clock W/ HistoryOriginal Cherry Case Seth Thomas No. 2 Single Weight Regulator ClockFantastic 5 Foot Triple Weight Grand Sonnerie Vienna Regulator Wall ClockBeautiful Antique Gustav Becker German 2-weight Wall Clock- Walnut CaseAntique Early American Weight Driven Banjo Wall Clock For Repair Or PartsAntique Vienna Regulator Wall Clock Weight Driven3 Weight Cuckoo Style Castle Clock With Animated Buglers On Sides Of CaseAntique Triple Decker Weight Driven Clock Case Parts RepairEarly 1860 William. B. Lorton Weight Shelf Clock--new YorkLarge Gustav Becker 2 Weight 1885 Wall ClockRare Weight Driven Brass Clock Movement - Early Example W/ BackplateSeth Thomas Weight Driven Clock Movement With Bracket Early Piece No ReserveCuckoo Clock W. German Vintage,girl & Bird,weight,farmers Daughter Elope MusicalGerman 2 Weight Clock Movement, With Dial, For Parts Or RepairsAntique Seth Thomas Triple Decker Weight Driven Clock Movement Parts RepairVintage Regula Animated 3 Weight Cuckoo ClockAntique Weight Driven Og Clock Movement Parts Repair Antique Daniel Pratt 30 Hour Weight Clock Movement Wooden Gears. Vintage Antique Seth Thomas Adamantine Clock Movement Brass WeightAntique Triple Decker Weight Driven Clock Hands Set For Parts Repair3 Pendulum Weight Brass Shells For H.m. Grandfather Clock - "fancy" NewWest Germany Wood Gear Weight ClockAntique Triple Decker Painted Wooden Weight Driven Clock Dial Parts RepairAntique New Haven Clock Co Brass Time Only Movement With WeightAntique Weight Driven German Wall ClockGrandfather Clock Weight Shells, Brass, NewNew (set Of 3) Grandfather / Tall Clock Brass Weight Shells 2" (50mm) X 10.5"2 Replacement Clock Weight Shells 9-1/4 X 2-1/4 Brass Shells Only Howard Miller Antique Triple Decker Weight Driven Clock Key & Pendulum PartsLinden 2 Weight Free Swinger German Wall ClockNew Haven Weight Clock With Hour StrikeVintage Cuckoo Clock For Parts Or Repair !!! Single Weight Incl.Set Of 3 Vintage Cuckoo Pinecone 7" Clock Weight 1200 Grams UnmarkedMy Way Or The Highway Metal Sign Man Cave Gym Weight Room OfficeAll Wood Wall Clock With Single WeightHigh Quality Grandfather Clock Key Weight Regulator Crank Clock Parts Size 93 Weight Musical & Animated Carved Cuckoo ClockAntique Og Weight Driven Clock Hands Set For Parts Repair