Grandfather clocks

Grandfather Clocks History Past-Present

10.07.13

Some grandfather clock history and clocks history never gets old.  Just look at the stories of Simon Willard, Aaron Willard and Benjamin Willard.  An article written in 1936 is still as informative and interesting to a clocks historian as one written today.  Grandfather Clocks enthusiasts are sure to minimally find this interesting.

Richmond Times-Dispatch
May 24, 1936

Grandfather Clocks, Some Genuine Old-Timers Still Tick Off Hours or Chime Timely Melodies, Proof of Care Their Makers Used

Many things had been discussed by the little group seated behind the plate glass window of a Franklin Street store. And that isn’t exactly true either. Many things had been broached, but the discussion was almost wholly a monologue by the host, a veteran of many a trek into the hinterlands of the antique country and a recognized authority on early American antiques. Now and then a listening member would throw a few words into the conversation, more to keep the oratory flowing than for any factual use, until at last someone uttered those well-worn last words: “What time is it getting to be?”

Subconsciously glances were directed toward the tall dominating grandfather clock against the far wall. Then they fell back to modern wrist-watches and there was a concerted start–for watch and clock pointed to the same hour. No one mentioned it, but there was a subtle sort of mental agreement that it was all “just a coincidence.” But it wasn’t. That old grandfather’s clock was still keeping time, and correct time. “How come?” I lingered to question the antique dealer. And thereby came this tale, a story of famous old American clocks and clockmakers.  It seems that– when Simon Willard was 13 years old he made his first “grandfather” clock. When he was 82 he made the large clock in the Capitol at Washington. He was born in 1753, lived to be 95 years old, and left behind him some of the best and most beautiful clocks that have ever been made.

Simon Willard had no grand ideas about organization, sales promotion and production. He did all his work in the space of four rooms. It is good to think that Simon’s clocks, which were made by hand and with infinite care and solicitude, command a higher price today than those made by Aaron Willard, his brother, who opened up a factory and turned out watches and clocks by the hundreds.

Side by side in a Richmond, Virginia antique shop may be seen a grandfather clock made by Simon Willard and one by Aaron Willard. To the connoisseur with blood in his eye the clock made by Simon is much the finer. To the casual onlooker both the clocks are rare examples of early American grandfather (or long case) clocks.

A Simon Willard “Grandfather” clock (left), which is still in first-class condition. The case is very handsome with its curved fretwork on top. Phases of the moon and the days of the month are both given. Simon Willard made his first Grandfather clock at the age of 13.
A Simon Willard shelf clock (right). The Willards’ called these clocks, which were made as early as 1784, timepieces, because they did not strike. The works are made of brass.

 

Benjamin Willard, who started making clocks in 1764, was the father of Aaron and Simon, and the first of this famous Massachusetts family to engage in clock-making. In the Boston Gazette for February 22, 1771, he advertised, “Musical clocks playing different tunes, a new tune every day in the week, and on Sunday a Psalm tune. These tunes perform every hour.”

Reliable Clocks Kept Puritan Sabbath

And such is the reliability of a Willard clock that there is no single record of a Puritan Sabbath being violated by week-day tunes. Likewise, the beauty and workmanship which went into the clock cases of Simon Willard is not the only reason these clocks bring good prices wherever antiques are sold: The clocks run and they keep good time.

Simon Willard was an inventor of genius, but that did not keep him from being a thrifty American. He thought that clocks ought to be good and that they ought to be cheap enough for an American to own one, and at the same time have money enough left for a house to put it in. He advertised little, relying on his clock papers (and his clocks) to put across his ideas. One of these clock papers tells his story:

A Simon Willard ‘Grandfather’ clock (left), which is still in first-class condition. The case very handsome with its curved fretwork on top. Phases of moon and days month are both given. Simon Willard made his first at age 13. A shelf (right). Willard called these clocks, were as early 1784, timepieces, because they did not strike. The works were brass.

“Simon Willard, at his Clock Dial in Roxbury Street, manufactures every kind of clock work, such as large clocks for steeples, made in the best manner. . . . Clocks that will run one year without winding up, with very elegant cases, price 100 dollars. . . . Elegant daytime pieces, price 30 dollars. Timepieces which run 30 hours and warranted, price 10 dollars. . . . Chime clocks that will play six tunes, price 120 dollars. . . . Gentlemen who wish to purchase any kind of clocks are invited to call at said Willard’s Clock Manufacture, where they will receive satisfactory evidence that it is much cheaper to purchase new than old and second-hand clocks. He warrants all his work–and as he is ambitious to give satisfaction–he doubts not of receiving public approbation and patronage.”

Willard Originated the “Banjo” Clock

Although Simon Willard knew the worth of his clocks, it is doubtful if he dreamed of the approbation and patronage they would receive less than a hundred years after his death. He set out to make serviceable clocks that thrifty Americans could buy with a clear conscience. What would he say if he could happen in today on some sale of rare antique clocks and see his paragons of thrift and mechanical perfection sold for prices for four figures? And the purchasers, descendants, perhaps, of those thrifty New England customers of his, glad to get them at that price and paying for them with a smile?

Aaron Willard turned out his clocks by the hundred. The clock at right is mahogany with inlay. The other clock is by Nathaniel Edwards of Acton, Mass.

In 1802 Willard brought out his patent timepiece, which was later called the banjo clock. It was a prodigious success. No improvement has since been made on the original design. The story goes that such accuracy did Willard have in his hand and eye that he habitually filed the teeth of his cogwheels without marking them; and that when someone asked him why he didn’t stamp his brass with markers, he replied that it was unnecessary–his wheels were accurate. And Simon Willard was right! One proud owner of a Willard order clock says that it has run within 30 seconds of accuracy for a month.

Simon Willard died during the turbulent year of 1848. He had retired from business in 1839 and sold his tools and the good will of the business (together with the privilege of putting the name Simon Willard on the dials) to Elnathan Taber, his best apprentice. Simon Willard Jr. took these clocks and sold them at his shop in Boston.

It was this son, Simon Jr., who made the astronomical clock now in the observatory of Harvard University. His astronomical regulator was standard time for all railroads in New England.

Since the first grandfather clock appeared in England in 1681, clockmakers in this country and abroad have given them thought and consideration, so that now, when the antique hunter goes clock hunting, there is every style, every wood and every price at his disposal for this useful and beautiful ornament.

Clock Collecting Across Generations

06.10.13

I’m also pleasantly surprised that my daughter and son have shown some interest in clocks as well.  Initially they had not shown much interest in the grandfather clock idea, but I’m hoping that all these new clocks will help spark an interest, or at least all the exposure to my interest in clocks over the years will make them both a little sentimental about clocks as well.  Almost everyone who comes to my house comments on the fact that there is a clock anywhere you look, although now I’m trying to replace quantity with quality.

I have an old regulator wall clock with the original glass panel advertising Calumet baking powder that used to hang in a store that my grandparents owned.  This was one of two matching clocks, and I found this one in their barn with the wall clock movement missing.  I refinished the case and fit a key-wound pendulum movement from Klockit in it.  I guess that’s the only one that has some meaning or history to it.  I’ve had it hanging in my bedroom for the past 15 years which is nice except when I sleep somewhere else — on vacation, for example — and then it’s too quiet without the tick-tock sound I’m used to hearing.

I’ve also just discovered the novelty clock section of your website and the interesting Rhythm Clocks, so I’ll be looking at those much more closely.  Originally I was single-mindedly focused on grandfather clocks, and then wall clocks, that I haven’t even looked at everything else you offer.

You already definitely have me as a loyal customer.  I can’t promise I’m going to buy a grandfather clock every year, but I did a fair amount of research before I first contacted you, and was already impressed with your selection and prices; now you can add customer service to that as well.  And that’s pretty much the holy triumvirate of the retail business.

My parents own a hardware store, and my grandparents owned a dry goods store and a department store simultaneously, so I appreciate what it takes to deliver good customer service, and I prefer to give my business to a family-owned business that is well run.

Special thanks to a great grandfather clock and wall clock customer who actually wrote the above in an email to us.  The inter-generational aspect of the story, among others, made us believe this would be of interest to some of of grandfather clocks blog readers.

Regulator Wall Clock Calumet for Calumet Baking Powder

Clocks Index

06.04.13

Consumers of all industrial and personal use items have heard of and to some degree follow the Consumer Confidence Index.  People on Wall Street and Economists all look at the Index of Leading Economic Indicators.  Manufacturers and economists alike look at the Consumer Price Index, or CPI, as among other things as a  bellwether for signs of potential inflation on the horizon.  Well here and now we would like to introduce the Clock Index.

Clocks by their nature are organizational creatures, whether they are the heartbeat of the home as a grandfather clock that all can hear and tell the time of day.  Wall clocks throughout the nation, and the World, tell people in homes what time of the day it is, and in offices can be even more integral to the workings of an organization with everything from the start of day, to meetings, to lunchtime, to coffee breaks, to quitting time can all be measured and watched by looking at a wall clock near you.  We have had many customers purchase atomic wall clocks for precisely the reason that they do not want employees discussing or arguing about whether it really is 5 o’clock or whatever the quitting time is, or not.  They see atomic clocks as productivity enhancers.

So should our Clock Index be more than the types of clocks we offer, such as grandfather clocks, mantle clocks, wall clocks, atomic clocks and much more, and should they are highlight the makers, such as Howard Miller Grandfather Clocks, Hermle Floor Clocks, the Ridgeway Grandfather Clock Collection, Kieninger Wall Clocks, Hermle Grandfather and Mantel Clocks, Americana Grandfather Clocks, or should the Clock Index take a completely different wither micro or macro view of the work of clocks.  Should it perhaps include the history if clocks, including the history of grandfather clocks, grandmother clocks, wall clocks and more, or should it highlight the current clock makers like Howard Miller Clocks, Kieninger Clocks, Hermle Clocks, Ridgeway Clocks and more, or should it include some well-known but no longer extant manufacturers of clocks such as Sligh Grandfather Clocks, Bulova Grandfather Clocks, Seth Thomas Clocks including the famous Seth Thomas Grandfather Clocks, Seth Thomas Wall Clocks and Seth Thomas Mantel and Nautical Clocks, among many others.

If one goes father back in clock history, simply 25 years and earlier, there an be thousand of clock makers and tens of thousand of clock and watchmakers around the globe going all the way back to the late 1600s to the present.  The horological history is rich and well documented in many places, and the Clock Index could be the focal point for bringing much of it together.

There are also membership associations such as the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors (NAWCC) and the American Watch and Clock Institute (AWCI) which are by themselves repositories of vast amounts not only of timepiece expertise and teaching, but also of clock and watch history from the golden days to the present.

Any thoughts individuals may have about the clock history, the current clock and timepiece market more broadly, and how a clock index might fit into all of that and be of most use to grandfather clock, wall clock and mantle clock shoppers, as well as to those studying clock history, would be most welcome to give us their time and thoughtful input.

Grandfather Clock Index

 

Granfather Clocks

05.20.13

The most common misspelling by far of grandfather clocks is granfatherclocks.  So much so there is even an online grandfather clocks store called granfatherclocksonline dot com.  A few years ago we at 1-800-4CLOCKS were lucky enough to be able to register the domain name granfather clocks dot com.  We are not sure if there is a specific origin to how the term for Floor Clocks or Longcase Clocks or Tall Case clocks or Hall Clocks came to be known by many as granfather clocks instead of grandfather clocks.  Our best guess is that when saying the word grandfather clocks or grandfather clock out loud, the letter d can tend to be or sound more or less silent, at least the way many people, including clock collectors, say it.  A search on Google for granfather clocks yields as of this writing over 1.1 million search results, which is pretty amazing in and of itself for grandfather clock shoppers to contemplate.

Many clocks terms may not only be misspelled, yet also have different names describing more or less the same thing.  There are grandmother clocks in addition to grandfather clocks, with grandmother clocks being summed up as simply being shorter than your average grandfather clock.  While writing this post, we first just checked to see how many Google search results there are for Granmother Clocks vs Grandmother Clocks, and somewhat surprisingly to us, there are almost 1 million results.  So we then just before typing this registered the domain name granmotherclocks.com.  Our best guess is it may lead ultimately to a couple of hundred more visitors per years who are real grandmother clock and grandfather clock shoppers, and are looking to find both high-end grandfather clocks and grandmother clocks on sale as well as grandmother clock discounts.

We are also trying to figure out how to make the best use of Pinterest to show what clocks we sell are the clock variety we offer.  Try visiting the site here, and feel free to pin away with us whether it is your favorite granfather clock or one of your favorite grandfather clocks

http://pinterest.com/source/1-800-4clocks.com/

1-800-4CLOCKS Grandfather Clocks on Pinterest

Art Deco Treasures

05.17.13

In one of the season’s most anticipated sales, Christie’s Paris will auction pieces the legendary Armand Albert Rateau crafted for the Duchess of Alba

Celebrating the Masterpiece London art and antiques fair with designer Elissa Cullman

05.16.13

Design’s boldface names gather in New York to toast this summer’s best art and antiques fair, Masterpiece London

Grandfather Clock Buying Guide

05.16.13

We like to think of our 2 blogs www.ClocksBlog.com and this blog www.GrandfatherClocksBlog.com as the ultimate guide to comparing grandfather clock brands and THE Grandfather Clock Buying Guide, helping consumers to understand the different grandfather clock styles, including traditional vs contemporary grandfather clocks and grandmother clocks, knowing at least some of the differences between the best grandfather clock brands, understanding the features that may or may not be in a grandfather clock, including the grandfather clock chimes, knowing who are the best makers of mechanical grandfather clock movements, understanding the different types of grandfather clocks movements – whether it be quartz chain-driven, cable-driven or tubular chimes, and understanding the more recent and older and ever-changing history of grandfather clock manufacturers and grandfather clock makers.

This is a very tall grandfather clock order, yet we believe we have here a veritable treasure trove of information that would be useful for anyone in the market for a grandfather clock.  Whether you are thinking about purchasing an antique grandfather clock, a vintage grandfather or grandmother clock, or whether you are trying to understand the marketplace in general and whether to buy a new grandfather clock, we at 1-800-4CLOCKS are there for you both with these blogs, with many grandfather clock resources available on our website at 1-800-4CLCOKS.com, and we are always only a toll free phone call away at 1-800-4CLOCKS, and are delighted to talk with anyone who is serious about being in the market for a grandfather clock or grandmother clock, not to mention mantle clocks, cuckoo clocks, wall clocks, atomic clocks, and so much more.

We spend a lot of time to delving into the history of grandfather clocks themselves, the evolution of the major grandfather clock brands and how that has changed over time, and continues to be ever-changing.  We attempt to demystify the many features offered on many grandfather clocks, including illuminated dials, automatic nighttime shut-off, working vs faux moonphase dials and so much more.  The grandfather clock chimes are another key element that any thoughtful grandfather clock buyer will want to understand completely, and we address not only the different mechanical grandfather clock movement makers, as well as triple chime grandfather clocks vs single generally Westminster Chimes Grandfather Clocks, and when and where one might expect to see some of the less common grandfather clocks songs or chimes such as Beethoven’s Ave Maria or Schubert’s Ode to Joy.

Understanding the differences within and between grandfather clock brands, such as Howard Miller Grandfather Clocks compared to the Hermle Grandfather Clock collection, or Ridgeway Grandfather Clocks, Kieninger Clocks and Americana Grandfather Clocks.  All have pros and cons, and many have big differences even within their own grandfather clock line.

We even include some of the most popular posts about grandfather, grandmother, wall, mantle, cuckoo, atomic and other clocks on our main website, which we term the Best of, like Greatest grandfather clock Hits of music, for posts that our customers and readers have found especially useful.  We have one post on our grandfather clock blog which is titled Moving Grandfather Clocks, and that page is the single most visited page on our website.  We warrant the advice for what you as a customer pay for it, which is nothing, yet we have never had a negative comment or even any suggestions for changing this grandfather clock blog greatest hit of all time.

Any grandfather clock or other timepiece subjects you would like us to cover?  Just make a Comment to this post, or send us an email, or feel free to call us toll-free.  If you want to become a grandfather clock blog contributor, that is something to which we are also always open.

We Aspire to Become As Authoritative Buying Guide for Grandfather Clocks, Wall Clocks and Mantel Clocks as Consumer Reports is in General

Collective Design Fair debuts in New York, showcasing 20th- and 21st-century treasures

05.09.13

A new design fair showcasing 20th- and 21st-century treasures debuts in New York City

Tick Tock Tick Tock

05.08.13

How loud is the ticking sound of the grandfather clock?  Do you have any clocks that make less of a sound?  Do any of your grandfather clocks tick louder?  What about your new and antique wall clocks?  Will the ticking be so loud that I or my spouse or my family or my guests will not be able to sleep?  What about the sound of the chimes?  Can they be shut off?  What about an automatic nighttime shutoff feature I’ve heard that certain clocks have.  Does this mantel clock have that auto night shutoff?  What about your antique mantel clocks?

Do you have any alarm clocks that are really really loud?  Do you have any tabletop clocks or desktop or carriage clocks that don’t make any ticking sound?  I need a REALLY loud alarm clock to wake up.  How loud is your loudest?

From ticking to chiming to alarm clocks, the vibrancy or loudness of the tick tock or tic tok or toc sound is important to many clock shoppers, whether they are looking at Howard Miller Grandfather Clocks or the Hermle Grandfather Clock Collection — or Ridgeway Clocks, Americana Clocks or Kieninger Clocks, the questions of chiming quality, volume and ability to change, tick tock tick tock volume and the ability to lower or sometimes raise, and the frequent question of whether there is such a thing as a silent wall clock, mantel clock or grandfather clock movement, or on occasion, is there a  way to make the tick tock louder, even much more loud.

LED Clocks, including are soon-to-be-introduced GiganticClocks, make no sound, and with some of them having numerals which are 3 inches and larger, as well as alarms and calendar functions for day of week and the date, these clocks are sure to meet an unmet need, both in more public areas where the large and glare-free numerals can be seen 24×7, and also by anyone with a vision issue or any stage of their lives where memory would be aided by having these other easy-to-read (compared to other clocks on the market) displays.  We also have one LCD Clock which not only has the same super-large numerals and other informational fields (e.g. calendar day of week and date of month, temperature and more), but is also an atomic clock, also known as a radio controlled clock, which is incredibly accurate, theoretically according the the USA Government Agency NIST and many scientific experts, accurate to one-Billionth of a second per year!  While not the case for our large easy-to-see black-on-white LED Atomic wall and mantel clock, which uses batteries, the LED Clocks require an electricity source, with an outlet either immediately behind it, or to be wired and plugged in to a standard electrical outlet, either covered by tubing or simply out in the open.

When one thinks of modern day quartz watches vs the still highly desired and significantly more expensive watch brands like Breitling, Omega, Rolex, Movado, Patek Phillipe, Audemars Piaget, Vacheron Contantin and on and on, there is still no shortage of admirers for the “old-fashioned” craftsmanship where people are willing to pay thousands of dollars more, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars more, when a watch that will keep time as or more accurately can be had easily for under $100. Additionally people can now see the time on their computer, or iPhone 5 or Samsung 4 or other smartphone, and more and more may still be adding iWatches or SmartWatches that are or are rumored to soon be hitting the market, and no doubt increasing in capabilities and quality over time.  It is somewhat reminiscent of the old Dick Tracy cartoon character and his then futuristic watch which allowed him to communicate.

iWatch Would Trample Dick Tracy’s 2-Way Communicator in Today’s Market

Dick Tracy’s 2-way communicator wristwatch would probably not make it to market given the capabilities that appear to already be out there and coming very soon.  Maxwell Smart’s shoe-phone, on the other hand, may still have a chance at gaining some market share if it were to be introduced today.  Call it maybe.

Following what we will term the wristwatch paradigm, we see a long-term and continuing demand for mechanical grandmother clocks, grandfather clocks, mantel clocks, cuckoo clocks, and regular and large wall clocks and gallery clocks.  Brands that continue to offer both dynamic contemporary clock designs as well as more traditional designs for these kinds of clocks true to the traditional ways of making timepieces will still find a market for people who are seeking to keep an element of the traditional as a part of their home and workplaces.

Grandfather Clock Made in USA

05.05.13

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.

Grandfather Clock Made in USA

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