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Antique Novelty Clocks


I have featured previosuly many antique clocks from the 17th/18th and 19th centuries. As you probably know I am not a big fan of most 20th century clocks. There are still some fun clocks made during this period though and I will focus on a few here. The clocks I will be discussing here are so-called novelty clocks.

Art Deco Clocks

You will see from the picture above there are lots of things you can collect that are really fun and interesting. We have a selection of bicycle clocks, one of these even has a barometer in the back wheel. You can occasionally see such items on your travels. As with anything collectible you will probably expect to pay from about £500 to £750 for a nice example dating from the beginning of the 20th century.

You will notice candle clocks, oil lamp clocks and clocks where the eyes tell the time in the case of the dog. Clocks in the the form of a policeman, where the helmet is the alarm bell. There is an unusual petal clock, where the centre of the flower is the time and the mechanism is in the plant pot.

Collecting fun clocks

I hope you agree these are all very interesting and highly collectible antique clocks. Such items are increasing in value. If you start collecting and form a nice collection your money will be well invested. Our business can will advise in this regard.

Personally when I was young I used to collect Art Nouveau Balloon clocks. I have amassed a large collection of these over the years. My passion started when I was about 13 and have loved antique clocks all my life. I grew up in a family antique clocks business with its own in house antique clock restoration department. I had to either love antiques or hate them.


The more you understand about antique clocks, the more you love them. My advice is to start collecting when you are young. Learn from those willing to give you good advice and soak up all this information like a sponge. It is really rewarding now giving back to others all I have learnt over the years and I hope you continue to enjoy my blog.

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Vienna or German Wall Clock ?

The term ‘Vienna Regulator’ wall clock is commonly used to describe a narrow weight driven wall clock. All these clocks seem bundled together in one big group. This is wrong in my opinion. There should be a clear differentiation between a true ‘Vienna Regulator’ clock and the later ‘Vienna Style Regulator’ wall clock or properly described as a ‘German  Regulator’ wall clock.

Austrian or German Wall Regulator Clocks

Vienna regulator wall clocks are very special and an original example can be very expensive. These clocks were manufactured throughout the 19th century, but most were made from about C1800 to C1850. These clocks were  hand made and of very fine quality. These clocks are also very simple and very elegant. As the value of clocks like this are high many of these type of clocks coming onto the market in recent years are copies. Only buy an early Vienna wall clock from a specialist antique clock dealer. They should give you a money back guarantee that it is genuine and fully restored.

Quality decreases as clocks get more modern

German wall regulators can still be nice clocks. I particularly like the first 10 or 20 years they were made from about C 1860. After C 1880 these clocks become very ornate and the quality tends to decrease. These clocks were made in factories specifically set up to produce them. With the typical German efficiency, lots of these clocks were produced. The value is alot lower than the earlier Austrian handmade examples.


How to tell the difference?

I often get asked how do you tell if I have got a German wall regulator or an earlier Austrian example. The easiest way you can tell the difference is that German weight driven wall clocks often have an imitation second hand to the dial. Austrian wall clocks did not normally use this feature, unless the clock could actually beat seconds. A seconds pendulum means the pendulum will need to be about 1 meter long.

Is it a true seconds indicator?

If you timed the period of 1 rotation on a German wall clock of the so called seconds hand, it will take about 40 seconds. It was in effect just a gimmick, put on the dial just for looks. The Austrians were purists and did not do this. An example of a true Austrian Vienna wall clock will a proper seconds hand is pictured above. You will notice the clock is very long. You will also see two examples below.A German wall regulator and an Austrian vienna regulator. See if you can see which one is which from my reasoning above.

Daniel Clements




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How to spot fakes – a brief guide

Buying Clocks Advice

So you have finally managed to take the plunge and purchase your antique clock. There are many antique clocks available on the market but not all are original examples. There is nothing worse than spending lots of hard earned money on something that you later find out to be not what you originally thought. Regularly you will only find out something is amiss when someone knowledgeable visits your home. I have had to break bad news when asked for my comments on many occasions.

When buying an antique clock to purchase from someone you can trust. Finding someone like this is never easy. Try and find someone who is long established and are specialists in this field. Maybe they will offer you a money back guarantee. You should then have peace of mind.

Some restoration will have been carried out on all antique clocks. This should be sympathetic restoration though and not major surgery. I have devised some basic things to look out for below.

Genuine London Antique Clock C.1770

Look. Smell. Feel.

  • Probably the most common part of an antique grandfather clock to have been replaced is the base of the clock. Clocks used to stand on cold, damp floors, and many bases simply rotted away or were attacked by the dreaded woodworm. Clearly the bottom feet or plinth is an acceptable part of restoration but not the entire base section. Easy signs of new bases are when the wood does not match the trunk door. If the figuring of the wood and colour is different be-ware.

    On London and south country clocks the backboard should be old and full length. If the backboard is rotted at the bottom and stops way short of the bottom, this is something to be careful of. If the backboard has rotted away, how much of the base has been rebuilt? In North country clocks, backboards can be made in two pieces from the later part of the 18th century.

  • Style Issues

  • Movements have sometimes been replaced. Make sure the case style corresponds to the makers location. i.e. London mahogany clocks do not have swan neck pediments but dome or pagoda tops. You can look at some good reference clock books for information on what clock cases should look like for different areas of the country. Each area of the UK in the 18th century had a distinctly different style of cabinet feature. For instance London clocks do not use simple oak cases but these are either veneered in walnut, ebony, mahogany or decorated with chinoiserie.
  • Look for Spare Holes

  • Does the dial belongs to the movement? Are there any spare holes in the front plate where another dial has been ? If the clock has a brass dial, this is attached directly to the front plate. Not by means of an iron false plate. (as used on white painted dial clocks) The winding holes on ‘8-day’ clocks are well placed within the centre of the dial These do not spoil the engraving or chapter ring.
  • Dial Features

  • If the clock is an ‘8-day’ example that the clock has a second hand. 99% of all ‘8 day’ clocks should have a second hand to just below the 12 0’clock position. If there is an obvious reason why a second hand cannot be fitted like a ‘penny moon’ feature then this is OK. As a rule though ’30Hr’ clocks do not usually have second hands, and so if the clock has had a later ‘8-day’ movement fitted this is why you should wonder why there is no second hand.
  • Does the age of the movement corresponds to the age of the cabinet? All dials have dating features, for instance inside quarter divisions, type of spandrels. You can date these very easily with good reference books. English walnut cases date from the 17th century up to about 1760. Mahogany cabinets date from about 1750 onwards. Oak cabinets tend to run straight through the 17th and 18th and 19th century’s.
  • Any Packing Under Seatboard?

  • Look for any obvious packing under the seat-board that cannot be accounted for? If the seat-board is old and warped ? A small piece of packing may be necessary.
  • Prior to 1820 all English antique clocks movements should strike on a bell and not a gong. Gong striking is popular around C1900.
  • Look for rub marks from where the weights and pendulum have banged over the years. If you see 1 smooth rub on inside under trunk door and your clock has 2 weights, this is not a good sign. If there are marks on backboard far away from where pendulum is hanging, and the clock is keeping time. Ask what would have caused these marks.

    If the pendulum feather has been changed for a stiffer example, the pendulum height can change slightly This should only be a slight change.

  • Fitting Issues?

  • Investigate whether the dial fits the mask correctly and there are no large gaps. The size of glass should be similar to the size of the dial.
  • Is the face made from 1 piece of brass? This brass prior to C1800 will be cast brass and so thick and thin. The arch section of the dial should be from the same section of brass. If a square dial is later converted to an arch dial case, this is why some dials are made of two pieces.
  • Carved Cases?

  • Finally I have never seen an original fully carved pre C.1820 Longcase clock. The Victorians loved later carving GIII clocks though, and so beware buying one of these examples. Later carving would dramatically effect the clocks value.
  • Conclusion

    I wish you luck in your search. Buying from a recognized antique clock dealer may be slightly more expensive but you will get peace of mind. You should aim to get a money back guarantee that your clock is a genuine antique and a fully working example. It is easy to spend your good money buying a clock with a chequered history. Please take your time and not rush into a decision you will later regret.

    As they say an antique clock is for life and not just for Christmas. In our business we say, hard to find easy to sell. Original examples will provide you will years of pleasure and a good solid investment, Pendulum of Mayfair only sells top quality examples.

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    Are Antique Clocks Free From Capital Gains Tax ?

    I have been asked many times about the state of the economy at the moment as regards antique clocks. The market at the moment is very strange. We seem to be doing well on all high value items and clock sales are very quiet on the less expensive goods. To anyone listening to this they will probably ask me the question, well why is it this way?

    1. The first answer probably relates to people and/or businesses investing in antique clocks. Antique clocks are for tax purposes described as a ‘wasting asset’. This means they can be classified on business accounts as plant/machinery. Therefore their purchase can be set against tax. Personal possessions that are wasting assets. These can also be exempt from Capital Gains Tax. The tax man therefore at the moment can not touch clocks.
    2. My second answer relates to stocks/shares and low return on savings. At the moment wealthy and middle income customers are becoming increasingly frustrated with these low returns. They are deciding to purchase antique clocks for their home. At the moment there is a return on savings and investments. They would rather spend their money on items that give them pleasure. These can form equally good investments themselves. It is important you buy your antique clock from a reliable and trustworthy source. These will give you a money back guarantee that it is genuine and fully restored. Be careful when buying in auction as this is not the case.
    3. Intrinsic labour costs

      Antique grandfather clocks have so much intrinsic labour costs built in. As a result, they will continue, in my opinion, to form a good investment. They were built to last and labour costs at the time were very low. These past generations produced some wonderful clocks. We treasure these today, many can be viewed at our online antique store.


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    Buying an antique clock

    If you’re looking to invest in an antique clocks it’s likely that you’ll require some guidance when considering your purchase.  To ensure you get the best quality antique clock at the most appropriate price, it will be helpful to take the following into consideration:

    1. What sort of price do you want to pay for the antique clock you are thinking of buying.  Consult an antique pricing guide to give you an idea of the price brackets you are looking at.
    2. Does the dealer offer a guarantee of authenticity?  An antique clock with such a guarantee is worth more.
    3. Is the clock’s movement in good working order?  You will pay more for a working antique clock, however if you were to buy a non-working clock the difference will probably not be as high as getting it repaired after the sale.
    4. Does the antique clock have any distinguishing marks, such as a signature or label that connects it to a well-known manufacturer or clock maker? Antique clocks are worth more with these marks but beware of forgeries so ensure you get a written guarantee from the dealer.
    5. Set aside a decent amount of time to find your perfect antique clock at the perfect price.  Rushing to buy will often result in you paying over the odds for your antique clock.

    Pendulum of Mayfair have years of experience to draw upon and we are happy to answer any of your queries when you are thinking of buying an antique clock.