Time to Talk About Antique clocks
Updated: Feb 27
Antique clocks are in high demand for their beauty and craftsmanship as well as their historical and scientific significance. Experienced antique buyers and clock enthusiasts alike choose them for their decorative appeal and their fascinating inner workings. Inside and out, antique clocks attract attention and are in demand.
Often purchased for their rarity or condition, antique clock collectors range from those who own hundreds of them to the buyer who is looking for just the right timepiece. Fine antique clocks are a good financial investment and make a beautiful addition to your home décor. Whether you are looking for the perfect antique grandfather clock to showcase in your home or rare clocks for investment, it’s best to start with the basics and learn what you can before jumping into the market.
What is an Antique Clock?
A clock must be no less than 100 years old to be considered antique. If it is less than 100 years old, it is considered vintage. Antique clocks have internal mechanics that are subject to regular settings and a routine care schedule. Often it is the handcraftsmanship of the inner workings that attract more enthusiasts than the ornate outer appearance.
How to Set Your Antique Clock
Adjust the pendulum
Wind the clock
Antique clocks were modeled after some of the first clocks but were meant to be portable and, therefore, more practical in use. The oldest surviving clock is the faceless clock dating as far back as 1386 at Salisbury Cathedral in the United Kingdom. It was restored in 1956 after faithful service for more than 498 years and over 500 million ticks.
Are Antique Clocks Valuable?
A clock that is confirmed with the presence of a clockmaker’s trademark or insignia engraved on the clock’s movement can be valuable. If it is the known style of a specific maker but not confirmed by a marking, it will most likely be valued less. As with most antiques, if it is rare and in good condition, it can be very valuable.
5 Factors in Valuing an Antique Clock
1. The older, the better – but it must be at least 100 years old.
The Egyptians had their sundials and the Greeks had water clocks, but the antique clocks currently on the market are more of the mechanical variety. Clocks, as we know them today, originated in medieval Europe. The dials that indicate the hour and minute were made by Christian monks who required clocks to regulate daily prayer and work schedules.
The most coveted antique clocks on the market today are from the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries that still have their inner workings intact. The most popular makers are E. Howard & Co., Walter H. Durfee, Waltham Clock Company, and Simon Willard. These makers represented some of the most desirable timepieces of all time.
2. The antique clock will be worth more if it is a rare find.
There are certain clock styles that are more common, such as the antique mantel clock. However, unique decorative carvings and hand-cut pieces may still be valued higher even though the style is common. Similarly, antique grandfather clocks are not rare and, due to their size, they do not command a high price. Collectors also find them difficult to house.
3. Supply and demand are alive and well in valuing antique clocks.
If there is no market for a particular type of antique clock, it dramatically affects its value. The antique clock can be over a century old but still virtually worthless because the market is flooded with them. In the case of an authenticated Black Forest antique cuckoo clock, this type may be common, but collectors actively seek them, driving up the value.
4. A working antique clock is worth more than one with broken parts.
Collectors always look at the overall shape and appearance of a beautiful clock. Even ordinary pieces in extraordinary condition are worth more than those with damage or flaws. Reconditioning and unprofessional repairs can decrease the value of an antique clock, so be aware that the clock has its original paint, glass, and appropriately functioning inner workings.
3 Categories of Condition
5. The antique clock market can be very unpredictable.
It is almost impossible to determine if an antique clock will be valuable in the long run. Volatile markets and demand for a specific model also factor into the pricing of antique clocks. The clock’s features play a significant part in determining the global value of the model – the higher the demand, the more valuable it will be at any time.
What are the Most Expensive Antique Clocks?
Rare antique clocks are still all the rage with collectors. While everyone has mass-produced pieces, collectors look for the unique, highly collectible types that can be worth millions of dollars. There are three that serve as examples of antique clocks that sold for millions of dollars.
Most Expensive Antique Clocks
1795 Sympathique clock $6.8 million
1736 – 1795 Chinese Ormolu clock $4.0 million
1693 Thomas Tompion clock $2.0 million
Are There Different Types of Antique clocks?
The most collectible antique clocks are found within four category types. These represent clock types that may be more common than others but, due to unique features or circumstances, have continued to gain favor with most clock collectors. The clock types range from ornate to simple and have each had their effect on the history of timepieces at one time or another.
Main Types of Antique Clocks
1. Antique grandfather clock
2. Antique wall clock
3. Antique mantel clock
4. Antique cuckoo clock
1. An antique grandfather clock is a stately piece.
You know if you have been in the room with an antique grandfather clock. The tall, imposing structure would have loomed over you, back against the wall or in a corner, loudly signaling the top of each hour and tick-tick-ticking each second in between. These weight-driven pendulum clocks are ornately decorated with detailed etching and carvings into the wood frame and face.
Owning an antique grandfather clock can be a significant investment. Often passed down as a family heirloom, this versatile timepiece has a few styles to consider before choosing to invest, financially or emotionally. It is helpful to know that while there are a variety of ornate details, there are three common styles of grandfather clocks to consider.
3 Common Styles of Antique Grandfather Clocks
2. Use an antique wall clock to draw attention in a smaller space.
An antique wall clock is perfect for smaller spaces. With a clock face framed by wood, there are a variety of styles of antique wall clocks that range from simple to ornate. Because of the selection of styles of this smaller clock, you can find one that best complements your home décor and fits the intended space.
Late 18th- through 20th-century antique wall clocks are highly desirable because of their tasteful design and sense of the past. Easily displayed, antique wall clocks are an easy addition to any home décor. There are a few types that are more valuable than the others, so here are a few to look for.
Popular Antique Wall Clocks
French Cartel clocks
Grafton wall clocks
Banjo wall clocks
3. You will love the portable practicality of an antique mantel clock.
The antique mantel clock was designed to be portable, practical, and aesthetically pleasing. This type of clock is also made of metal and can be ornately decorated with gold and other embellishments. The antique mantel clock is not just for a mantel but can be a fixture in your home décor on a table, bookshelf, or any other piece of fine furniture.
Significant Periods for Antique Mantel Clocks
1836 Electroplating Method
1896 Importation Rule
1850 Black Mantel
An efficient way to authenticate an antique mantel clock is to examine the materials. Certain materials were not available within a certain time period, helping to trace the origin of many early designs. The earliest mantel clocks in France were made of bronze and brass, while American-made mantel clocks popular from 1820 – 1905 were made of wood.
4. The curious and captivating antique cuckoo clock is an amazing timekeeper.
Much like the antique grandfather clock, you know when you are in the captivating presence of an antique cuckoo clock. It is hard to walk away until you have seen the full cycle of pomp and circumstance, figurines and other creatures moving in and out of the timepiece at prescribed intervals. The antique cuckoo clock certainly brings life and personality to any space.
Hand-carved and painted in the Black Forest region of Germany, antique cuckoo clocks have been around for centuries. If they are authentic, they can last a lifetime. Ornate and unique, there are a few types of antique cuckoo clocks that stand out more than others.
Types of Antique Cuckoo Clocks
Traditional carved cuckoo clock
Shield cuckoo clock
Railroad station or Bahnhausle clocks
Modern cuckoo clock
Can I Value My Own Antique Clock?
It is not a good idea to value your own antique clock. Sentimental value or personal importance may impede your judgment, or you may in fact, have a rare treasure in your home. Either way, it is recommended that you seek the advice of a trusted expert before making any decisions regarding the sale of an antique clock. Ask around – quality antique dealers are well known by their positive reputation.
It is a common mistake to factor current value based on what was paid for the clock. Clocks can increase in value; however, you may be overestimating what it is worth due to the fact that you overpaid for the clock in the past. A trusted expert is the wisest when it comes to current valuation and potential to sell. Developing a relationship with a vendor who has a passion for antique clocks will be the best investment of time you ever make.
Where Can I Buy an Antique clock?
Advertisements for antique clocks of all types and sizes are abundant in online searches. Tempting though they may be, this is a tricky market to navigate online. In order to explore the timepiece for maker’s marks or overall condition, it is important to look at the piece in person and in the company of a trusted individual.
This is where a good relationship with a trusted expert comes in very handy. Whether you are looking to buy or sell an antique clock, get informed advice. Antique clocks are highly sought in the antique market, making them valuable consignment items. A reputable antique mall is an excellent place to start your search and find an individual knowledgeable in antiques.
Visit Your Local Antique Mall
An antique mall contains endless aisles of treasures and rare finds, including antique clocks. When you take the time to explore your local antique mall and make friends with knowledgeable vendors, you dramatically increase your odds of finding exactly what you are looking for – buyer or seller, these vendors can help. Often if a vendor does not have the antique clock you are looking for, they know where to find it and can make arrangements to acquire it for you.
When you are seeking a unique shopping experience with high-quality goods and exceptional customer service, head directly to the America’s Antique Mall near you. Every time you visit, it feels like a whole new experience. Treasures abound, and the ever-changing inventory continues to reveal one-of-a-kind items that put a smile on your face.
Visit. Shop. Explore. The vendors at an antique mall are in on the hunt with you. Searching for the antique clock of your dreams while sharing their passion for all things antique with anyone who will listen and has fallen in love, just like they did. It’s a new store every time, so visit often. And even if it’s not the antique clock you are looking for, if you love it, buy it – you’ll find room for it somewhere!