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Skeleton Clocks

I am sure I am not alone in thinking the ticking of antique clocks holds some mystical or mesmeric fascination.

Time in Motion

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.

Visible Movements

By their very name these movements were stripped out down to the bone. Making their full workings of the clock 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

Beautiful Movements

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.

Inverted Y frame Skeleton Clocks from France

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. 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.

19th century fashion

As the 19th century developed two train or striking skeleton clocks were produced. Also skeleton clocks that depicted well known buildings. Three train skeleton clocks were produced. The music copied some of the bell sounds from building clocks at the time. Clearly with two train or especially three train movements it gets harderand 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. This shows 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. This 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 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