The Complete Guide To Buying An Antique Alarm Clock

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The Complete Guide To Buying An Antique Alarm Clock

Looking for the ideal antique alarm clock can be a fun process, but picking one without having done the proper research can be a costly mistake. Antique alarm clocks have been a popular with collectors for centuries, and there are many different styles and types to choose from. Learning about the history of antique alarm clocks, as well as understanding the characteristics of the many types of antique alarm clocks that are available, can make a buyer more aware of the evolution of these important time pieces. Features, manufacturers and other information are also keys to helping buyers making the purchase process fun and easy. This guide will help provide a basic understanding of the key aspects needed to make an informed purchase of an antique alarm clock.

History of Antique Alarm Clocks

Ancient time keeping devices, such as the hourglass and the sundial, were in use for hundreds of years before the first mechanical clock was created. These devices could track the passage of time with reasonable accuracy. In the 13th century there was a wave of mechanical clock building in Europe. Within the next few decades many towns and ecclesiastical institutions built clocks to signal the time for prayer, and eventually clocks found their way into everyday use in homes. In the 15th century the first adjustable alarm clocks came into use. These clocks used pins that were placed on the desired hour and would ring briefly to signify the time. However it wasn't until 1847 that French inventor Antoine Redier patented the first adjustable mechanical alarm clock.  Antique alarm clocks are still highly sought after for their unique characteristics and historical charm.

Discover Antique Alarm Clocks

Antique alarm clocks can provide a number of benefits that their digital cousins lack. Most antique alarm clocks that were made prior to the 19th century were handmade by skilled craftsmen with a level of quality and skill that can’t be replicated in mass production. As these clocks have self-sustaining mechanisms and are often wound by hand, they do not rely on electricity for power. Many antique alarm clocks were also handmade with great attention to design, which can offer a very contrasting look to many of today’s alarm clocks. As with all antique purchases, choosing wisely can help a buyer invest in an item that will continue to increase in value.

Parts of Antique Alarm Clocks

Antique alarm clocks have a variety of parts that can help a potential buyer understand exactly how they work and which pieces need the most care. The following pieces may be considered the most important.




The protective housing that surrounds the many moving parts within the clock. The case can be simple or elegant depending upon the style and cost of the piece.


The face of the clock where the numbers are printed.


The escapement or movements of the clock is the mechanism inside that actually drives the timekeeping elements. It is often a tightly wound main spring.


The hands of the clock indicate the correct time on the dial.

Gongs, Bells, etc

The source of noise that signals the changing of the hour, although sometimes that can ring at smaller time increments.

Main Spring

This ribbon of steel can be used to both wind and power the clock.

Alarm Setting

Many antique clocks feature tiny holes on the hours that a pin can be placed in to set a desired alarm, on more modern clocks this may be replaced with a setting found on the back of the casing.

Types of Antique Alarm Clocks

Alarm clocks come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with the range of types and designs increasing steadily since the 1500s.  A true antique alarm clock can have all the functionality of more modern models whilst offering a more historical design.





Big Ben

These modern looking clocks are mostly steel and ring by crashing against two bells placed outside the case.

Modern design and the most accurate timekeeping possible.

May be on the borderline between antique and vintage. The first Big Ben was produced in 1909. Post war models are definitely considered vintage.


These wall hanging clocks come in a variety of styles which are meant to be hung in a place of prominence.

Take up very little space and can add style to any hallway or room.

Be sure to place any wall clocks on a secure wall that is not prone to vibrating.


These small clocks are known to rest above fireplaces, which gave it its name.

Small and often ornately designed, these clocks were produced in high quantities all around the world and can have built in alarm times.

Avoid any made in the 1800s as mass production led to a sharp drop in quality.


Also known as tallcase clocks, these long clocks are one of the most well-known styles.

Extremely accurate clocks that provide an old world charm to any room.

Often very noisy so need to be placed accordingly.

Factors to Consider When Buying Antique Alarm Clocks

While purchasing an antique alarm clock may simply feel like a matter of preference, a buyer should consider a few factors before making a purchase including:

  • Make sure that any clock purchased is in good working order and don't be scared of minor damage. Any antique clock will probably have its fair share of scrapes and markings, and this doesn’t mean it is necessarily in a bad state of repair. Small marks can contribute to the charm of these pieces for what they are.
  • Will the style of clock share the style of a buyer’s home? Some clocks may seem like a great fit but may actually clash with the style of room they are placed in.
  • Distance. Consider transportation as clocks have delicate working parts and need to be treated accordingly.
  • What kind of alarm is best? Not all antique alarm clocks have the same alarm sound. Some alarms might suit a deep sleeper and some may be better for someone who has an easier time getting up in the morning.

Typical Features of Antique Alarm Clocks

Antique alarm clocks provide a great many features that can help a prospective buyer choose the piece that is right for them. Consider the following factors before purchasing any antique alarm clock.

1. Hand crafted reliability

Any clock produced before the 19th century will most likely have been handcrafted by a skilled European clock maker. These pieces can last generations and have a certain elegance that may be lacking in their machine-made cousins.

2. Can often be considered works of art

Antique alarm clocks offer beauty and style, and can be bought purely for their aesthetic appeal.

3. Completely eco-friendly

Unlike most modern clocks, antique alarm clocks are spring-powered. This means that an antique alarm clock will not only save on electricity, but also prove impervious to blackouts and power outages.

How to Care for Antique Alarm Clocks

To keep a clock running smoothly and accurately it is important to learn how to care for it. To avoid corrosion, keep metal clocks in a low humidity atmosphere, while wooden clocks should stay in slightly higher humilities to keep from drying out. Keep antique alarm clocks wound as this will prevent the spring and inner mechanisms from becoming damaged - do this weekly, or as specified by the clock, to avoid any undue stress. Regular dusting is also important to keep the face looking clean and presentable. Make sure that the clock is on solid footing; shaky ground can lead to incorrect time keep and internal damage. Have your clock looked at by an expert every five years to catch small problems and prevent wear and tear. Small but regular checks and maintenance will help an alarm clock work for years to come.

Popular Manufacturers of Antique Alarm Clocks

Finding the right antique alarm clock is an important process, which can be helped by knowing the most popular clockmakers over the eras. Each country had their own premiere clockmakers and being aware of them can help buyers understand the value of any clock. Most clockmakers simply added alarm features to pre-existing styles, while others were specialists of the medium.

  • Westclox
  • Antoine Redier
  • John Arnold
  • William Potts and Sons
  • Franz Ketterer
  • Richard of Wallingford
  • Jospeh Knibb
  • Peter Heinlein
  • Richard Donisthorp
  • Samuel Coster

Finding Antique Alarm Clocks on eBay

Once you determine the type of antique alarm clock you want to purchase, visit the Antiques portal on eBay, click on Antique Clocks, then `Alarm Clocks´ and start searching item listings. The Categories list on the left-hand side of the eBay page helps to narrow the search.

Searching for Antique Alarm Clockson eBay

Search eBay listing titles for specific words when shopping for antique alarm clocks. For example, to find a wooden antique alarm clock, type ‘Wooden Antique Alarm Clock’ into the search box, and then click the Advanced button to customise the results. Also visit eBay’s Search Tips page for more advice on searching for antique clocks with keywords. If you can’t find the exact antique alarm clock you want, try shopping eBay Stores.


Antique alarm clocks are a beautiful way to add elegance and style to any home. Searching for the perfect piece is an interesting process that can be made easier by understanding a few key bits of information. Learning the history and styles of antique alarm clocks before making a purchase will lead to a much richer buying experience. Learning about manufacturers and parts can help find hidden gems, while proper maintenance techniques are a must for any potential clock owner. Once you have collected this information, you can buy an antique alarm clock safely and securely on eBay.

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