Types of CLOCK


Don't know your floating balance from your platform escapement?

Do you find time piece technical terms too con-fusee? Look no further!

Here, we give a little guidance which we hope will put you in the picture...

The Longcase Clock

A grandfather clock (also a longcase clock, tall-case clock, grandfather's clock, or floor clock) is a tall, freestanding, weight-driven pendulum clock with the pendulum held inside the tower or waist of the case. Clocks of this style are commonly 1.8–2.4 metres (6–8 feet) tall. The case often features elaborately carved ornamentation on the hood (or bonnet), which surrounds and frames the dial, or clock face. The English clockmaker William Clement is credited with the development of this form in 1670. Until the early 20th century, pendulum clocks were the world's most accurate timekeeping technology, and longcase clocks, due to their superior accuracy, served as time standards for households and businesses. Today they are kept mainly for their decorative and antique value.

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The Carriage Clock

A carriage clock is a small, spring-driven clock, designed for travelling, developed in the early 19th century in France, where they were also known as "Officers' Clocks". The first carriage clock was invented by Abraham-Louis Breguet for the Emperor Napoleon in 1812.


The Vienna Wall Clock

Vienna Regulator clocks were mainly produced between 1800 and 1900. The first were made in the Empire period between 1804 and 1814, in the city of Vienna in Austria, in a lantern style (Laterndluhr), during the empire period the cases were restrained in design, often with inlay and satinwood banding.

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The Tavern Clock

Another name for the large-dialled wall clock known as an Act of Parliament clock.

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The Portico Clock

A Portico or Pillar Clock (Shelf) clock usually refers to a French clock with drum shaped movement mounted between two or four pillars standing on a base, the exposed pendulum swinging between the pillars.


The Mantel Clock

Mantel clocks—or shelf clocks—are relatively small house clocks traditionally placed on the shelf, or mantel, above the fireplace. The form, first developed in France in the 1750s, can be distinguished from earlier chamber clocks of similar size due to a lack of carrying handles.

These clocks are often highly ornate, decorative works. They are most frequently constructed from any combination of ormoluporcelain, and wood. One of the most common and valued types of mantel clocks are the French Empire-style timepieces.

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The Ormolu Clock

Ormolu is known as gilt bronze in English and bronze doré in French. Although it is stunning, it is also highly durable. Craftsmen have used gilt bronze since antiquity. Examples are found throughout Eurasia, mainly in Chinese designs.

18th and 19th-century ébénistes, or French cabinetmakers, used this decorative technique for furniture, clocks, lighting, and porcelain mountings. 

Because of the strict regulations imposed by guilds, cabinetmakers could only attach the bronze mounts to the furniture, not produce them. Instead, it was the fondeur-ciseleurs (founders and finishers) that produced exceptionally intricate French ormolu designs. Citing health concerns, France restricted the use of mercury around 1830, but the gilders continued using the traditional process well into the 20th century.

Around 1830, legislation in France had outlawed the use of mercury for health reasons, though use continued to the 1900s.

“True” ormolu is a technique that involves mercury or fire-gilding. First, gilders used a mixture of mercuric nitrate to cover copper, brass, or bronze objects. Then, they applied a finely powdered mixture of high-carat gold and mercury to a bronze item. Next, the craftsman fired the object in a kiln, where extremely high temperatures vaporize the mercury, leaving only the gold finish. The results of this process produce highly luxurious, opulent, ornamental mountings for the world’s most well-crafted furniture and decorative objects.


The Lantern Clock

So called because of its frame's resemblance to a lantern. Other names have been used, including Cromwellian and bedpost clock, the former because the bell at the top suggested a Cromwellian helmet and the latter because of the four turned columns at each corner of the frame. The lantern clock was developed in England with similar versions in other countries, during the 17th century, and superceded the wrought-iron wall clock. Originally it was designed to hang from a hook on the wall and early specimens still retain their iron hook rings and distance spurs. The spurs were fitted into the rear pendant 'feet' to permit the clock to hang vertically and to alow space for the pendulum, which was adapted to lantern clocks by Ahasuerus Fromanteel I just before 1660. Previously, a large wrought-iron balance was the only form of escapement employed, and it was notoriously inaccurate. Verge escapements with short bob pendulums were used for lantern-clock movements until well into the 18th century, but with the introduction of the long 'royal' pendulum with a one-second beat, many conversions were carried out. About the time of these conversions lantern clocks were often arranged to stand on wooden wall brackets. With only a few exceptions, the lantern clock was fitted with one hand, but sometimes there was also an alarm mechanism.


The Skeleton Clock

A skeleton clock is any clock or wristwatch, though typically mechanical in nature, in which the parts that usually conceal the inner workings of the mechanism have been removed or significantly modified so as to display these inner parts.


The Ships (Nautical) Clock

Characterised by its thick case and often metallic appearance, this is a clock arranged to strike from one to eight strokes, at half hourly intervals, marking the divisions of the ship's watches.


...and some general technical terms you may have heard!

Fusee: Used in antique spring-powered mechanical watches and clocks, a fusee (from the French fusée, wire wound around a spindle) is a cone-shaped pulley with a helical groove around it, wound with a cord or chain which is attached to the mainspring barrel. Fusees were used from the 15th century to the early 20th century to improve timekeeping by equalizing the uneven pull of the mainspring as it ran down. Gawaine Baillie stated of the fusee, "Perhaps no problem in mechanics has ever been solved so simply and so perfectly."

Escapement: An escapement is a mechanical linkage in mechanical watches and clocks that gives impulses to the timekeeping element and periodically releases the gear train to move forward, advancing the clock's hands. The impulse action transfers energy to the clock's timekeeping element (usually a pendulum or balance wheel) to replace the energy lost to friction during its cycle and keep the timekeeper oscillating. The escapement is driven by force from a coiled spring or a suspended weight, transmitted through the timepiece's gear train. Each swing of the pendulum or balance wheel releases a tooth of the escapement's escape wheel, allowing the clock's gear train to advance or "escape" by a fixed amount. This regular periodic advancement moves the clock's hands forward at a steady rate. At the same time, the tooth gives the timekeeping element a push, before another tooth catches on the escapement's pallet, returning the escapement to its "locked" state. The sudden stopping of the escapement's tooth is what generates the characteristic "ticking" sound heard in operating mechanical clocks and watches. The first mechanical escapement, the verge escapement, was invented in medieval Europe during the 13th century, and was the crucial innovation which led to the development of the mechanical clock. The design of the escapement has a large effect on a timepiece's accuracy, and improvements in escapement design drove improvements in time measurement during the era of mechanical timekeeping from the 13th through the 19th century.


Escapements are also used in other mechanisms besides timepieces. Manual typewriters used escapements to step the carriage as each letter (or space) was typed. Historically, a liquid-driven escapement was used for a washstand design in ancient Greece and the Hellenistic world, particularly Ptolemaic Egypt, while liquid-driven escapements were applied to clockworks beginning in Tang dynasty China and culminating during the Song dynasty.

Detent: NOUN

  1. a catch in a machine which prevents motion until released.

    "a system of detents is used to ensure that gears are held in whatever position is selected"· "a detent spring"

    • a catch that regulates striking in a clock.

Mainspring: A coiled wire that provides the principal tension or driving power to keep the movement running in a spring-driven clock.

Platform Escapement: A plate carrying a sub-assembly which may be removed for attention without disturbing the main frame of the clock. The platform escapement of a carriage clock is an example.

Cylinder Escapement: Sometimes called the 'horizontal escapement', a form of which was patented by Thomas Tompion in 1695 and subsequently perfected by George Graham. It will be found in many platform escapements fitted to 19th-century, and later, carriage clocks, etc. 

Strike and Silent: Usually found in the arch of bracket clocks but also in some longcase clocks. Bracket clocks with verge movements were portable, and the owner, on retiring to bed, could take his bracket clock with him and turn the hand of the strike/silent dial to 'silent' so that he would not be disturbed by the clock striking while he was asleep. The strike/silent mechanism was only made possible by the introduction of rack striking at the end of the 17th century. Longcase clocks were not, of course, portable but silencing the striking mechanism at night is sometimes no less desirable.

Pendulum Clock: A pendulum clock is a clock that uses a pendulum, a swinging weight, as its timekeeping element. The advantage of a pendulum for timekeeping is that it is a harmonic oscillator: It swings back and forth in a precise time interval dependent on its length, and resists swinging at other rates. From its invention in 1656 by Christiaan Huygens, inspired by Galileo Galilei, until the 1930s, the pendulum clock was the world's most precise timekeeper, accounting for its widespread use. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, pendulum clocks in homes, factories, offices, and railroad stations served as primary time standards for scheduling daily life, work shifts, and public transportation. Their greater accuracy allowed for the faster pace of life which was necessary for the Industrial Revolution. The home pendulum clock was replaced by less-expensive, synchronous, electric clocks in the 1930s and '40s. Pendulum clocks are now kept mostly for their decorative and antique value. Pendulum clocks must be stationary to operate. Any motion or accelerations will affect the motion of the pendulum, causing inaccuracies, thus necessitating other mechanisms for use in portable timepieces.

8 Day/30 Day: A clock that runs for eight days/thirty days on one winding.

Floating Balance: A pin-pallet lever variant which appeared in the 1960s, the floating balance was designed to reduce balance-pivot friction. This was achieved by supporting the weights of the balance assembly by a balance spring of double helical form. Half right-handed and half left-handed. This double helical form maintains a constant distance between the pinning points while the spring winds and unwinds.

2 Train/3 Train: The series of gears and pinions that transfer power to the escapement.

Chapter Ring: A decorative ring on the clock face upon which the hours are indicated. A feature of many traditional style mantel clocks. Also a prominent feature of clocks with skeleton movements.