Your Guide to Buying an Antique Clock

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Your Guide to Buying an Antique Clock

Looking for antique clocks may seem like a matter purely of personal preference, but it has many more facets that buyers should be aware of. Antique clocks have been a staple of collectors for centuries and can seem somewhat intimidating to potential buyers. This guide should reveal any pertinent information a prospective buyer may have. Learning the history of antique clocks as well as the many types available will increase understanding of the evolution of these important time pieces. Proper understating will also enable correct maintenance that will help to prevent future damage. The features, manufacturers and other information are also key to finding the perfect clock, all of which are outlined below.

History of Antique Clocks

The first timepieces used were the hourglass and sundial. These devices could track the passage of time with reasonable accuracy despite their limitations. The first recorded ‘clock’ was a weight driven clock built at Dunstable Priory in Bedfordshire, England in 1283. Within the next few decades, clocks were built across Europe, usually signaling the time for prayer as opposed to tracking each hour. The popularisation of these clocks led to the standardisation of time as we know it, into a twenty-four hour day. In the 1600’s two further developments occurred. Firstly, most clocks could now track minutes easily. Secondly, the sale of clocks outside of churches became more common as time keeping time became more important in society. This also led to the first portable wind up clocks. In this period the pendulum clock was invented. These were the most accurate clocks by far, and became extremely popular. The demand became so great that pendulum clocks became highly regarded pieces of furniture. In the 1800s mass production of clocks began and homes became filled with beautiful, stately clocks at a more reasonable price. These clocks remain some of the most valuable and sought after antiques in the world and can make a wonderful addition to any home

Discover Antique Clocks

Antique clocks provide a great variety of benefits that modern digital and analogue clocks lack. Before the mass production of clocks in the 1800s, all clocks were handmade by expert clockmakers. This means that any clock made prior to the nineteenth century was crafted with care and skill to survive well into the future. Clocks from this period also have the advantage of still being considered works of art. The veneers and decorations found on a grandfather clock made in the 1700s are of a quality almost unheard of in subsequent years. This look has only improved with age and can provide a sense of grandeur and history to any home. Possibly most importantly of all, antique clocks present buyers with a sound investment. The value of these clocks continues to rise, as demand increases yearly. A family that adds a grandfather or cuckoo clock to their home is sure to see its value increase with each passing year; it is also often a talking point among visitors. Antique clocks continue to show their value as the years progress and are well worth investing and, both financially and as a timeless addition to a home.

Parts of Antique Clocks

Though there are many different kinds of antique clocks available, there are a few pieces that any prospective buyer should familiarise themselves with in order to have a deep appreciation of their new purchase. These pieces can also be in need of replacement and knowing their function and use is very important.




The protective housing that surrounds the many moving parts within the clock. The case can be simple or elegant depending on 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 element of the clock. Depending on the style this can be  a spring, pendulum or any other piece.


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

Gongs, Bells, etc

The source of noise that signals the changing of the hour.

Main Spring

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


Drives the time keeping element of the clock while keeping near perfect timing.


These heavy metal pieces can be found of certain clocks. They hang from a chain and are used to regularly wind the clock.

Types of Antique Clocks

Since the invention of the modern clock many different styles have become popular with manufacturers. Each type of antique clock has its own advantages and considerations that must be examined to ensure that they are perfect for the buyers in question.






This 19th century wall mounted piece drew its name from its trunk’s resemblance to a banjo.

· Unique design prized by collectors.

· Does not actually strike on the hour and is technically a timepiece and not a clock.


These portable clocks are notable for their box shape and handle.

· Portable and able to portray multiple dials for cycles of the moon, time and more.

· Requires constant winding and can be considered less reliable as a result. Cost can vary widely based on style.


This ornate wall hanging of German design clock houses a little cuckoo bird that signals the changing of the hour.

· Beautifully carved and extremely popular.

· The best quality clocks will carry the Bavaria stamp.


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.

· Mantel clocks made in the 1800s were mainly mass production and may not be of as higher quality as their predecessor.


Also known as tallcase clocks, these clocks are probably the most well known style in history.

· Their use of pendulum escapement means they are extremely accurate and made to last decades.

· Many styles available and the mechanisms can often be noisy.

Factors to Consider When Buying Antique Clocks

While purchasing an antique clock may simply feel like a matter of preference, there are a few things that any prospective buyers should consider when making their decision:

  • Consider what condition the clock is in. Some antique clocks have been poorly maintained and have not told the correct time in years. These sometimes need only minor repairs to return to working order, but some may not be beyond repair. Be sure to know the exact condition of any clock before purchase.
  • Will the style of clock share the style of a buyer’s home? Some clocks may seem like great fits but actually clash with the style of room they are placed in. Always consider how a massive grandfather clock or ornate mantle clock may clash in a room designed in a less classical way.
  • Stay within budget. The most important thing to do when making a large purchase like this is to make a budget and stay within it. It’s okay to pay a little more or less than what you expected, but certain clocks can be a huge hit to a bank account.
  • Distance. Consider how far a newly purchased clock has to travel and consider transport arrangements. Clocks are very delicate and need to be treated with respect and care.

Typical Features of Antique Clocks

Certain features on antique clocks separate them from their more modern counterparts in very important ways.

1.  Hand crafted reliability

Any clock produced before the nineteenth century was handcrafted by a growing network of clock makers throughout Europe. The care and detail afforded to these pieces keeps them functioning well after machine made clocks have broken down.

2.  Can often be considered works of art

Modern clocks are sometimes made with only functionality in mind. Antique clocks on the other hand put time and effort into making them into works of art that now can be found gracing the halls of museums and art galleries.

3.  Completely eco-friendly

One of the most obvious features in antique clocks is their lack of reliability on electricity. Antique clocks will keep on ticking as long as they are maintained, or wound. These clocks will keep functioning at all times, leaving no environment footprint at all.

How to Care for Antique Clocks

Caring for an antique clock is vital to keep it running smoothly and accurately. Metal clocks should be kept in low humidity to avoid corrosion, while their wooden counterparts prefer a high humidity atmosphere to keep from drying out. One of the most important things to remember is to schedule regular windings to keep the gears from receiving undue stress. Do this weekly to avoid any damage. Regular dusting is also important to keep the face from damage. Make sure that the clock is on solid footing; shaky ground can lead to incorrect time keep and internal damage. It would also be wise to schedule professional maintenance at least every five years for repair and preventative care. These practices should keep any antique working well for years to come.

Popular Manufacturers of Antique Clocks

Finding the right antique clock may mean finding the most well-known clockmakers from history. Each country had their own premiere clockmakers and being aware of them can help buyers understand the value of any clock. Some noted names are listed below.

  • William Clement
  • George Graham
  • John Arnold
  • William Potts and Sons
  • Franz Ketterer
  • Richard of Wallingford
  • Jospeh Knibb
  • Peter Heinlein
  • Richard Donisthorp
  • Samuel Coster

Finding Antique Clocks on eBay

Once you determine the type of antique clock you want to purchase, visit the Antiques portal on eBay, click on Antique 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 Clockson eBay

Search eBay listing titles for specific words when shopping for antique clocks. For example, to find a Smiths Endfield Wooden Mantel clock, type ‘Smiths Endfield Wooden Mantel 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 clock you want, try shopping eBay Stores.


Antique clocks come in many shapes, sizes, designs and materials, so the choice can seem vast. However, this guide should help any potential collector should be more prepared to get the exact model they’ve been looking for. Once you have collected this information, you can buy an antique clock safely and securely on eBay.

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