A close relative of our standard timepiece of choice nowadays is the antique wall clock. Its design is the result of demand for a clock that was functional, easy to read, and did not encroach on living space. So the wall clock was born. Early models are characteristically large – that is long, wide and deep. Many fine examples were built and exported from Germany, Gustav Becker being a sought after clock maker from the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. These clocks are always pendulum weight driven, and as such will require you to reset (that is to provide a gentle swing, and raise a suspended weight) about once a week. By all accounts they are able to keep time amazingly well, losing no more than a minute a week. The largest models are up to 5 feet long, and a foot wide – this is a large unit indeed, and requires a lot of wall space, not to mention very sturdy hanging brackets! Smaller clocks were produced by clockmakers and may be no more than 12 inches long. Prices will vary depending on size and condition, but expect at least $350USD for a small plain clock, and above $1000 for a larger more decorated one. I have found antique wall clocks selling for $2500, this being a massive German hanging cabinet built of walnut and glass. These old wonders are usually built to chime on the hour.
The long case clock was perhaps the first clock to enter the home. It is by far the larges of the ones discussed so far, and not all homes will be able to physically find room for one. Long case clocks are best known affectionately as “grandfather clocks”, those tall and imposing contraptions greeting guests in formal late Victorian houses. Firstly, the sheer size has a purpose: these clocks operate by the pendulum (swinging weight) principle, and a large swinging weight requires a certain minimum clearance, vertically and horizontally to be able to describe an arc. This is why the case of the clock is so tall – or long, if you want. The tallest I have come across stands no less than 8 and a half feet (you read correctly!) and is a late 1700’s Dutch design by Ary Van Winden of Rotterdam. It sold by the way for about $14,000USD.
Expect to pay at least $2000 for a smaller, serviceable grandfather model, and easily twice that for something even slightly fancy.
The beauty of a long case is the history you buy. These things were the first home clocks, and you can easily find examples coming from 1780, or even slightly older – restored to amazing full working order.
There are other antique clocks that I have not covered here – I could go into detail about cuckoo clocks or water clocks, but I believe this gives you the basic information to begin your search. I suppose the beauty of an antique clock lies in the superb craftsmanship, quality from an era where things were made to last. And of course, the incredible fact that something 100 years, or even 200 years old can still function so perfectly. As far as antiques go, they don’t come much more useful than this.