Pendulum of Mayfair - Antique Clocks & Furniture

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Antique Clocks Blog Home → Viewing post: "Antique Skeleton Clocks"

Antique Skeleton Clocks July 7, 2014

I am sure I am not alone in thinking the ticking of antique clocks holds some mystical or mesmeric fascination. Watching time in motion was also a fascination of our forefathers. It was with the technological advances in the glass making industry, that movements could be housed surrounded by simple glass domes. These domes were essential to cover these mechanical time masters, dirt and dust always needs to be kept to a minimum in all mechanical devices. In Britain from the start of the 19th century clock makers produced some lovely, highly visable clocks that were called skeleton clocks. By their very name these movements were stripped out down to the bone so to speak so that the full workings of the clock were on show. Up to then most movements had been hidden away from view. Such beauty should be admired and on show and not hidden away. The birth of the skeleton clock appeared from C1820 and continued throughout the 19th century in England.

Lovely Early 19th Century Fusee Skeleton Clock

Lovely Early 19th Century Fusee Skeleton Clock

As you can see from the antique clock above, the clock has been designed to show off the quality of the movement as much as possible. The plates that support the wheels were made as delicate as possible to show off the wheel work. The dial is made up of the separate parts, the hours ring, seconds ring and minutes ring. These would normally be on a solid brass silvered dial but this would of hidden the movement, and so individual rings are made for each separate time aspect. In France at the time skeleton clocks were also being made, they tended to use inverted Y frames for the posts, whereas more elaborate structures tended to be used for English skeleton clocks.  At the start the inverted Y frame can be also seen on the some English examples but this soon changed to more elaborate designs. Also the superb fusee was used on the English clocks, this is by far the best means of time-keeping for a spring driven clock.

Superb twin fusee English Skeleton Clock C1860

Superb twin fusee English Skeleton Clock C1860

As the 19th century developed two train or striking skeleton clocks were produced, and also skeleton clocks that depicted well known buildings. When three train skeleton clocks were produced the music within copied some of the bells from building clocks at the time. Clearly with two train or especially three train movements it gets harder and harder to see the individual wheels inside, the simplicity has gone and I suppose these are produced more as a statement of the clock makers talent, showing  just how complex these movements could be. The quality workmanship being highly visable but more as a wow overall feature.


Single Fusee C1860 Skeleton clock

Single Fusee C1860 Skeleton clock

Skeleton clock dome removed

Skeleton clock dome removed

Further details of this single fusee skeleton clock above can be found on our website below.

The production of fine skeleton clocks lasted throughout the 19th century and probably peaked in the years after the Great Exhibition of 1851. In the period from 1860 to 1880 many lovely skeleton clocks were manufactured. These were sometimes on ebonized bases, walnut, mahogany or rose-wood bases or sometimes on marble bases. By around C1900 not many skeleton clocks were produced, fashions has changed from the slightly more elaborate designs of the Victorian period to the more simple Edwardian era, which is such a shame. These lovely clocks were then seen mostly in kit form through the 20th century and far poorer examples produced. With the clocks we sell, we like to stick to higher quality  5 or 6 spoke wheel work. The more rudamentary late examples in kit form tend to be just robust 4 spoke wheel work and very simple design plates.

Daniel Clements



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