Grandfather Clock shoppers, like clocks shoppers in general, are increasingly focused on where grandfather clock cases, grandfather clock movements and other parts are made, as in Country of Origin. Like many industries, Made in America has taken on an increasingly important question not only in assessing the quality of the item, but also in keeping jobs in the USA. Additionally, in recent years, many stores including some of the biggest retailers in the Country, have increasingly been importing cheaply made things, we call them, that resemble high-quality grandfather clocks but in fact are anything but that. Thin wood, fake wood, assembly, poor quality clock movements not only for timekeeping but even more so for chiming, are luring in more and more ultimately dissatisfied customers who find that after they have put together these non-working cheaply made monstrosities, they don’t look or work as advertised, and may not work at all. Even worse, there is frequently no telephone contact number or even maker listed on the box.
Given the flood of imports and the move to buy American, grandfather clocks shoppers need to be smarter and better informed than ever when deciding on a new grandfather clock, grandmother clock, mantel clock or wall clock. Cuckoo clocks too! Having said that, the high-end grandfather clock market has had and has many players, each with their own history and approach, and those approaches to making and manufacturing grandfather clock cases and grandfather clock movements have evolved over time.
Probably the safest way to begin your grandfather clock buying experience is to limit your choices to certain high-end brands, in which we would include the Howard Miller Clock company, Ridgeway Clocks, Hermle Clocks, America Grandfather Clocks and Kieninger Floor and Grandfather Clocks. There are other makers, but we believe these companies are both the best and offer the best grandfather clock values to customers worldwide. Even with that, there can be and are many differences within the grandfather clock models offered by each individual clock maker.
Most all high-end grandfather clock movements, whether tubular chime grandfather clocks, or grandfather clocks playing the Westminster Chimes, Schubert Ave Maria Chime, Beethoven Ode to Joy, or the more classic Whittington and St Michaels Chimes, or bim-bam chime, all of the high-end grandfather clock movements of any real quality and made in any large quantity are made in Germany by Hermle Clocks and Kieninger Clocks. At this point in time, we would not recommend purchasing any grandfather clock or grandmother clock unless it was made by one of these two makers (there would be some exceptions for a very few ultra-high-end grandfather clocks with movements made in extremely small quantities).
So now we move to the grandfather clock case. Hermle Clocks, a German maker, has recently started making some of its best grandfather clock models right here in Virginia, USA. Hermle still makes other grandfather clock cases in Germany, and some yet still other Hermle models, while also very high quality, have their grandfather clock cases sourced from the Far East. Unless you talk with a Dealer like 1-800-4CLOCKS, you will be clueless as to which is which. It is also important to talk to a knowledgeable person at any clock store, because some people working there at any one time may know little or nothing about the differences between brands, much less within brands.
For Grandfather Clocks, most all of Howard Miller Grandfather Clocks and Ridgeway Grandfather Clocks have cases made in Michigan, USA, and use a German movement, typically by Kieninger Clocks. Most all Kieninger Grandfather Clocks are made to order in Germany and the cases and movement are from Germany, as with many Herlme Grandfather Clocks. Americana Grandfather Clocks are such an interesting story and have such a creative approach behind them, and we feel offer great value and some amazing models of grandfather clocks, that we are happy to discuss any particular Americana Grandfather Clock over the phone at 1-800-4CLOCKS (1-800-425-6257), option 1.
Of course the only measure of the quality and workmanship of a grandfather clock can and should not be the country or countries of origin. But is is one important part, and can help explain why certain grandfather clock makers have gone to different modes of production in their continuous effort to provide the most desirable grandfather clock models possible to the public at large.
Most all mechanical new and antique clocks, including a basic cable-driven or chain-driven grandfather clock, have a movement that is driven importantly by a pendulum swinging back and forth. The very definition of a grandfather clock is one in a freestanding case that is both weight-driven and has a pendulum moving in beat from side-to-side.
Nowadays, many clocks offered by even the highest end manufacturers like Howard Miller Clocks and Hermle Clocks and the Ridgeway Clock Company also offer quartz-driven clocks, including grandfather clocks, grandmother clocks, wall clocks, mantle clocks and even cuckoo clocks that have a clock pendulum that is quartz or battery driven and yet the pendulum on the clock still simulates the movement of a mechanical clock, frequently with the help of a magnet based mechanism.
There are certain mechanical clocks, particularly antique carriage clocks and some antique mantel clocks and antique wall clocks that have what is known as a platform escapement, and these great movements do not require or use a pendulum to help the clock run. In the case of carriage clocks, this is a space saving device. These clocks tend to be also of excellent quality, with the only drawback being that it can be harder to fix or replace a platform escapement movement, especially if the balance staff is broken. These mechanical clocks are similar to pocket watches in that regards. And not surprisingly, for both antique clocks and antique pocket watches, replacement parts can be hard to find and require a special skill on the part of the timepiece repair-person.
Another interesting facet of pendulum clocks is whether the pendulum is visible to anyone viewing the clock at a time other than winding. Many new and antique grandfather clocks quite purposefully have a glass door in the front so that the pendulum as well as the weights of the clocks can be readily seen. Not uncommon, especially with antique clocks, is to have a solid door where the viewer or owner will not see the pendulum or weights driving the clock mechanism. Many of the older antique grandfather clock pendulums and weights are actually in our view quite ugly, and there is a good reason not to make them visible.
Interestingly, not only on new grandfather clocks and new grandmother clocks, but also on mantel clocks and especially on wall clocks, being able to view the pendulum and weights are very much part of the design, whether the clocks are mechanical or quartz-driven. Worthy of note if looking at a new quartz grandfather clock, is that while the pendulum’s movement may simulate that of a mechanical grandfather clock, the weights will almost always be for decorative purposes only and will not move either up or down.
One interesting side-note about pendulum grandfather clocks is that one innovation which has taken on some momentum, and which we are strongly urging grandfather clock makers to make more available, minimally as an optional additional feature, is having a crystal center of the pendulum bob. This is one innovation we at 1-800-4CLOCKS.com plan to make much more widespread either with or without the grandfather clock makers. A grandfather clock pendulum of this type adds a very special sparkle to the home in which it lives. with that sparkle adding to the grandfather clock as the heartbeat of the home.
Pendulum Grandfather Clocks by Howard Miller Clocks