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Clocks – UK / USA

It is Ryder Cup weekend again. Great sporting battles between Europe and America at golf come to a head. These are friendly sporting battles but lets not forget the close ties between our great nations.



Exporting clocks

In the 17th and 18th century clock manufacture was the UK’s greatest export. The Clockmaker’s Company was formed as one of the UK’s oldest learned professions by Royal Charter in 1631. This started two centuries of UK dominance in this field. It was just before this in 1620 that the famous Mayflower set sail for America.

The Mayflower Boston Journey

The Mayflower has a famous place in American history. It is a symbol of early European colonization of the future United States. This ship set off from Plymouth, England to arrive at the now Plymouth, Massachusetts. It is the same reason why Boston, Massachusetts is called so today. John Cotton, a Puritan,who served as a Minster of the church in Boston, Lincolnshire England fled persecution. He moved to Massachusetts in 1633 as a leader of the settlers already there and some of his own people. He was instrumental in founding and naming Boston, Massachusetts.

American Clockmaking

Clock makers from the UK arrived in America, William Davis for instance is one of the earliest clock makers in America. He arrived in 1683 from the UK. Many of the oldest clocks on US public buildings were made by UK clock makers. These had fled for mostly religious reasons. New England had thus developed and the English community was strong here as thousands emigrated to the emerging America.

Ban Importation of Clocks

During the 18th century many English clocks were still imported to the US. One of the first things the new independent government did in US was to ban the importation of clocks. It is still the case though that many of the earliest American clock makers were English. They still imported dials etc from the new painted dial works (set up in 1771) in Birmingham, England and movements from the UK.

Rise of American Clock making

The rise of the American clock making industry from about 1850 to 1920’s coincided with the decline of the same in the UK.  Generally as quality went down and mass production rose, the US factories now churned out clocks better than anywhere else. Many famous 19th century American companies were set up, many of them in Conneticut. The Ansonia Company was founded in 1851 and thrived until its decline in the 1920’s. There was the Gilbert Company in the second half of the 19th century The famous Seth Thomas Company and many many more. The Waterbury Clock Company is one I will finish with.

Waterbury Clock Company

This company started in 1857, eventually became the Time Corporation, that made Timex watches. As a collector, I am only really interested in the first 200 years of clockmaking. Items were then handmade and were alot higher quality. There are always exceptions though and we have a clock made by the Waterbury Clock Company. This I believe is a one off, made for Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin. Its movement is of good quality and shows little signs of wear. It is a really rare and interesting example. This is pictured below. I suppose it also shows the strong Irish / American links that existed during the 19th century.


Visit our shop in London, if you love 18th century antique grandfather clocks like me. We have a large selection of genuine fantastic examples all fully restored. These clocks will keep ticking for generations to come. If you consider the painstaking hours in the manufacture. They represent amazing value for money by todays standards. Remember London was the centre of clock making from 1631 to the start of the 19th century century, some outstanding pieces were produced. 80% of our clocks from our shop in London, Pendulum of Mayfair Ltd,  are still exported to America. Owning your piece of history is easier than you think. We use a specialist antique shipping company that ships antique clocks to you door. Please visit our website for more information