Glossary of Antique Clock Styles
Wall or shelf clocks that display advertising somewhere on their
clock dial or case.
A clock with moving parts that displays the actions
of a person, animal or object.
A clock that needs winding approximately once per
year. Though anniversary clocks, also known as “400-day” clocks,
existed as early as the 17th century, it wasn’t until 1829 that an
American inventor patented a special type of pendulum that required
very little power, making small 400-day clocks possible. Called a
torsion pendulum, it consists of a thread suspending a weight which
rotates horizontally in both clockwise and counterclockwise
directions. Often placed under a glass dome, these clocks gained
popularity in the 1880's when European factories produced many of
them. An American importer copyrighted the name "Anniversary Clock"
in 1904 to promote giving clocks as gifts that would be wound on the
anniversary of a birthday, wedding, or other annual event.
A shelf clock powered by changes in atmospheric pressure
and temperature which supplied continual winding power to the
movement, keeping the clock running for long periods of time without
A shelf clock with a case shaped like the hot-air
balloons of the late 18th century.
A wall clock with a case like a banjo. The shape derived
from a new type of clock patented by Simon Willard of Roxbury,
Massachusetts, in 1802. Originally known as the "Improved" or
"Patent" Timepiece, it became known as a banjo clock in the 20th
century. Lots of reproductions exist.
Popular from the late 1840's to the early 20th
century, this shelf clock features a case whose sides curve upward
and meet at a peak, reminiscent of a beehive.
Black Mantel Clock
Especially popular in the late 19th and early
20th centuries, this rectangular shelf clock features a black case
made of marble, slate, onyx, or painted iron. Often makers painted a
wooden case to imitate black marble or onyx. These styles and
A shelf or wall clock with a case in the shape of a
human figure or animal whose eyes blink, rotate or move in unison
with the clock escapement.
What the British call a shelf or table clock. The term
originally referred to early clocks that had to be set high on a
bracket or shelf, allowing its long weights ample room to drop.
A wall, shelf, or longcase clock that shows the date,
often including the day, month and year or any combination.
Double-dial calendar clocks are usually wall clocks with a round
calendar dial, placed separately under the time dial.
An 18th century version fo the modern "travel alarm"
clock, the spring-driven carriage clock, standing four to five
inches tall, was easily carried when traveling. The small, upright
rectangular case typically has a brass frame with four glass sides
and top and a carrying handle. Many have alarms and/or striking
work. The French made these in abundance from 1850 to about 1890.
China or Porcelain Clock
A shelf clock with a case made of pottery
or porcelain. One company usually made the case while another made
the works. When there’s a case manufacturer's mark, it’s usually on
the bottom or back of the case.
All these terms refer to similar, but distinct,
Empire-influenced styles of American shelf clocks developed in the
early 19th century. The basic form has a rectangular case with a
door in front flanked by two often gilded or ebonized columns. The
door has a clear glass panel in the top section and a
reverse-painted glass or mirrored "looking glass" bottom section.
Variations include cases with a decorative splat above the dial,
called a "column and splat" or "transitional" clocks, and ones with
a three-section front which might include a painting and a mirror
are known as "triple decker" clocks.
Column & Splat Clock
See Column Clock.
Crystal Regulator Clock
An upright, rectangular shelf clock dating
from the 19th century, featuring glass panels on each side,
completely exposing the interior. Originally, crystal regulators had
extremely accurate movements with a compensated pendulum consisting
of two small glass vials filled with mercury. With the rise in
popularity of these clocks, American and German companies produced
cheaper, less accurate clocks in the same sty;le, but with imitation
mercury pendulums which were really just polished metal cylinders.
A wall and sometimes a shelf clock which houses a small
wooden cuckoo bird that emerges from a small door at the top to
announce the hours and half hours with its "cuckoo" call, usually
accompanied by a gong. A German invention of 1730, these became
popular between 1850 and 1875. Commonly weight driven, some cuckoo
clocks have elaborately carved wooden cases. Modern reproductions
often have molded plastic cases and quartz movements.
A spring-wound or electric wall-mounted clock with a dial
enclosed by a simple wood or metal surround that’s usually circular
but can be hexagonal. Designed to be easily read in public places,
such as schools, factories, offices and railway stations.
Drop Dial Clock
A dial clock with a trunk extension that houses a
pendulum. The trunk usually has a door with a glass window, allowing
the pendulum¹s movement to be easily adjusted and seen. People often
call this type of clock by other names, depending on shape of the
dial case and the length of the trunk. These include octagon or
round drop, short or long drop. American drop trunk clocks, often
called "Schoolhouse" clocks because of their widespread use in
schools, were just as common in post offices, saloons, and other
Drop Trunk Clock
See Drop Dial Clock.
A shelf clock featuring a statue or figure of an
animal or person as part of its case design. Often the persons
portray figures from myths or of historical significance.
A wall clock with a circular dial and a circular
drop trunk, giving its case the appearance of a figure-eight.
See Dial Clock.
A matched set, usually three pieces, consisting of a
clock standing between two vases, open-top or covered urns, figures,
candlesticks or candelabra, that people placed on a fireplace
An inexpensive American shelf clock, produced in
large quantities after 1875, which often sat on a shelf in the
kitchens of lower and middle class homes. Usually made of oak or
walnut; with highly ornate press-molded and incised wings and tops
from which they got their "Gingerbread" nickname.
A shelf clock with a pointed top case, in the style of
Gothic architecture; often accentuated by rosettes, tracery, or
other Gothic style ornamentation.
The popular term for a floor-standing, longcase
clock, derived from a song composed by an American songwriter around
1875. The song begins with the words: "Oh my grandfather's clock was
too tall for the shelf so it stood ninety years on the floor. It was
taller by half than the old man himself, though it weighed no a
pennyweight more..." and ending with the lyrics: "the clock stopped,
never to run again, when the old man died." The term "grandfather"
clock has been used ever since to refer to longcase clocks.
A shorter version of the "grandfather" or longcase
clock that stands 60 to 70 inches tall.
A shorter version of the "grandmother" clock
that stands 42 to 54 inches tall.
See Gingerbread Clock.
An English weight-driven shelf clock style dating from
the early 17th century. One of the first clocks with a movement and
external structure made predominantly from brass instead of iron or
wood. Although the clock’s shape looks like a lantern, the
derivation of the name probably comes from the French word "laiton,"
meaning brass. The earliest lantern clocks had striking mechanisms,
but clockmakers added alarms later in the 17th century. Some lantern
clocks had pendulums, and could be hung on the wall.
Longcase Clock, Long Clock
A floor-standing clock, first made in the
mid-17th century, with a weight-driven movement housed in its hood
or upper section, which required a long case to allow the weights to
drop an adequate distance.;. Also called a Tall Case Clock or a
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