Grandfather clocks

Howard Miller Floor Clocks

09.10.10

Floor Clocks are more or less synonymous with grandfather clocks.  Howard Miller Clocks, for many years, as have other major clockmakers, preferred the term floor clocks to grandfather clocks.  If one looks at the catalogs of major makers like Hermle Clocks, Ridgeway Clocks, Howard Miller, and others, Floor Clocks are the preferred term for free-standing clocks.

The basic definition of a grandfather clock or a floor clock or longcase, or tall-case clocks, are standalone weight-driven clocks, which also have a pendulum, frequently with a round brass pendulum bob.  Some grandfather clocks may not have weights if they are spring driven.  Also, the doors to the grandfather clock covering where the pendulum and weights are housed, may have a glass door or a solid opaque wood door.

Grandfather Clocks with one weight are almost always time only.  A grandfather clock or floor clock with two weights are generally time and strike.  A very small percentage of these made in the early 1900s, and in more recent years, may have chimes as well.  In general, most all Floor Clocks or Grandfather Clocks with three weights also have chimes, such as the Westminster Chime, Whittington Chime, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy or Schubert’s Ave Maria Chime.

Depending upon the clock and the chime, it may strike quarterly or hourly.  Mechanical Westminster Chimes almost always chime quarterly, with progressively more of the chime played on each quarter hour, and the full chime played on the hour, and then striking for the number of times to tell the hour it is, such as 8 times for 8 o’clock.

A grandmother clock, which we usually define as one being approximately 8- inches in height or shorter, is also a Flor clock.  Even smaller are Granddaughter Clocks, generally 60 inches or shorter, and last year 1-800-4CLOCKS.com actually introduced a new kind of clock called a Grandson Clock™.  It is important to note that clock experts will not agree on the precise criteria for defining a grandfather clock or grandmother clock etc. in one category vs. another.  With ten experts, expect 15 opinions, at least!

The history of Floor Clocks and Grandfather clocks are essentially identical, being introduced in approximately 1650 in Britain and Western Europe.  The early grandfather clocks in the 1700s and 1800s frequently came in 2 distinct categories, among the many other variations between them, regarding the length of time that the grandfather clock will run on one winding.  Today, as well as throughout grandfather clocks history, 8 Day mechanical movements were the norm for high-end clocks, whether chain-driven or cable-driven floor clocks.  It used to be that many now antique grandfather clocks had 30 hour movements.  These were generally purchased by wealthy individuals for the live in help, so they could have their own grandfather clocks, but were not quite as good, for obvious reasons.  Today, when evaluating an antique grandfather clock, an informed buyer would want to know whether the mechanical floor clock movement was a 30 hour movement or an 8 day movement.

Digital atomic grandfather clocks or floor clocks?  We sure hope we are able to offer one or many styles to customers some time very soon.

Hope this history and the definition of grandfather clocks and the definition of floor clocks was and will continue to be a useful resource.

Page 1 of 11