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Antique Clocks Blog Home → Viewing post: "British Automaton Antique Grandfather Clocks"

British Automaton Antique Grandfather Clocks March 21, 2014

Daniel Clements –

It is really amazing that antique clocks with automaton features, have been built for many thousands of years. You can go back back as far as Roman times to get a mention, the engineer Vitrivius describing alarm clocks with a gong or trumpet feature. From the these primitive automaton’s I am heading for some of the earliest automaton features on antique grandfather clocks like the one below.

Please follow the links contained in the text below, to view the clocks on the Pendulum of Mayfair website.

This superb ‘8-day’ early 18th century burr walnut veneered antique grandfather clock with automaton, is by a Cambridge maker called John Lamborne, futher details of this special antique grandfather clock by John Lamborne can be seen by clicking on the link.

This clock dates from around C1720 and is a very rare example of an early automaton on a grandfather clock. The soldiers in the arch move and ring the bell when the clock strikes the hour. This automaton like some of the earliest automatons known works from the striking mechanism.

Clearly the heavy figures to the arch requiring the power driven from the weight of the clock when striking. An interesting feature on the dial of this clock, is the plaque by the order of the Patentee No. 5. This clocks feature automaton must have been patented.

When most people think of automatons they probably will first think of cuckoo clocks, these became fashionable in the 19th century and most examples manufactured were from around C1860, these types of clocks are still manufactured today. The earlest cuckoo clock can be seen around the mid 18th century but not many from this period still survive today. The automaton bird will again work off the striking mechanism of the clock.  It takes alot of power to drive this type of automaton and so most cuckoo clocks are only of 1 day duration.

I am now going to look at what most people will see or understand by automaton on antique grandfather clocks and that is automatons working from the pendulum. These type of automaton features swing back and forth with the movement of the pendulum, they can be directly off the pendulum or off the anchor which is driven by the pendulum. These automatons therefore work continualy and not just on the hour.

More details of this stunning C1790 automaton antique grandfather clock by Edwards can be found here, Edwards Automaton Antique Grandfather Clock . The automaton features a man chopping down the ‘tree of life’ , the axe moves back and forward as the clock ticks. Various other automaton features you can also find to the arch, I have seen see-saws, rocking swans, rarer badminton automatons like the one pictured below, adam and eve depictions, and probably the most common form of automaton on a clock was the rocking sailing boat or warship.

The British were clearly an important naval power and many owners like to have a depiction of a rocking boat to the arch, some depicting famous sea battles. The clock below respresents one of these very battles.

The clock above is a superb C1790 Scottish antique grandfather clock and more details again can be found but clicking on this link, Scott Edinburgh Automaton Grandfather Clock .

More details of this exceedingly rare automaton antique grandfather clock above can be found by going to, Grantham Automaton Antique Grandfather Clock .  This clock features an automaton game of Badminton, it is very rare and is again working from the pendulum / anchor. It is a glorious antique clock with wonderful mahogany veneers and of 8 day duration.

The clock above is a superb arched painted dial with ‘Adam and Eve’ automaton to the arch.  Adam and Eve depictings usually involve automaton arms holding the apple and sometimes even the serpent moving on the tree. This clock dates from C1780 and is in a lovely mahogany cabinet.

It is important to note automaton antique clocks of any sort, especially on pre C1800 antique grandfather clocks are rare. I have seen many examples that are faked and so care must be taken if purchasing one of these. I would only recommend buying from a dealer who will give you a money back guarantee that the clock is genuine.

We at Pendulum of Mayfair do this, rare features like automaton always add alot to the price and because it is relatively simple in some cases to add this feature on a standard clock, unscrupulous dealers will do this. I have seen many such examples on the market, so only buy from a long established expert like ourselves willing to offer a guarantee that the clock is genuine.

Daniel Clements Follow me on Twitter

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