As Western Civilization is beginning to enter its annual Holiday Season, with the associated crass commercialism and materialism, not to ignore, though, the ever-time and always worthy hopes for Peace on Earth and goodwill to all men and women. Did not mean for this to sound like a Hallmark Greeting Card.
Casual Shoppers and those more seriously looking at grandfather clocks and wall clocks and mantle clocks are facing an ever growing variety of choices.
More and more “cheap stuff” – not inexpensive, but cheaply or poorly made, are flooding the market with brand names one has never heard before but are named so that they somehow do have a ring of familiarity, and associated legitimacy, for prospective timepiece buyers. The grandfather clocks discount and sale category have been especially targeted with a flood of poorly made grandfather clocks and grandmother clocks, with many parts made of plastic and generally with battery operated quartz movements not attributed to any maker and not likely to last very long either. Oh, and don’t forget the instruction book. We get countless calls from individual aspiring horologists who just purchased one of the poorly made clocks (we won’t name the Stores, but several big-name chain store names keep coming up) and want the instruction booklet that was somehow not inside or with their clock. If we had it to send, we might actually do so as a courtesy, but in this case we are highly doubtful that these instruction books ever even existed in the first place.
Okay, so if a smart shopper stays away from the no-name cheap stuff, what else should they look at? Good name brands do make a world of difference both in knowing you are getting a quality clock and also knowing that someone will still be there to service the clock, or replace it if absolutely necessary. Some of the trusted names we carry and have had overall excellent experience with are Howard Miller Clocks, Ridgeway Clocks, Hermle Clocks, Bulova Clocks, Kieninger Clocks, Movado Clocks and more. While the movement and casing quality may vary within brand, they are generally reasonably highly consistent, and high-quality, across similar product segments within each line, e.g. traditional mechanical wood-cased grandfather clocks.
Sticking with grandfather clocks, there are 4 basic types of grandfather clocks when considering the movement types. First, and least expensive, are quartz or battery-operated movements. These have the advantage of being much lower cost, have volume control, no need to wind, auto night shut-off, and are usually found in smaller clocks. The disadvantages include the fact that the chimes are recorded and on a sound chip, and can vary pretty dramatically in sound quality, but really never as good as a mechanical clock where one hears the chime rods actually being hit by hammers. Second, are chain driven mechanical clocks, which usually have 8 day movements, and are wound by pulling down on each of the 3 chains to bring up each of the 3 weights (some clocks models have 2 weights and some only one). Many people are drawn to these clocks because they are the type they grew up with. The chime sound quality is good. The only real downsides are that the movements are not likely to last as long as a cable-driven grandfather clock movement (discussed next), and these clocks tend to have fewer “bells and whistles”, e.g. working moonphase dial, and automatic nighttime shutoff. Since the movements are physically smaller, they tend to be in smaller cases with less depth as well – so they can sometimes be the perfect fit for that special space .
Third are mechanical cable-driven grandfather clocks. These are the clocks that are wound in the dial-face with a winding crank key. For practical purposes (keep in mind there is a 4th clock movement type still coming), this is best, or at least tied for the best, type of clock movement. They can last several generations, have the ability to have multiple chimes, and these clock models have varying degrees of the “extras” or bells and whistles, including illuminated dials and amazing carved wood cases.
Fourth is the little-known tubular chime grandfather clock, where long hollow pipes, made of different metals, act as the chime rods. These clocks have a much deeper and louder gong sound. Very few people even know what they are. They are expensive to maintain, if for no other reason that few people know how to work on them.
This is a very general clocks shopping guide which can be used as a handy reference when looking for grandfather clock discounts and grandfather clocks on sale. If you go for one of the name-brand clocks, one can be fairly certain that they are getting their money’s worth.
More to come on this horological subject.