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Silvered Brass Dial Clocks



 1771 Clock by Cranmer of Birmingham
1771 Clock by Cranmer of Birmingham

A couple of years ago I wrote an informative post on painted dial grandfather clocks. Their history and development. I have written this piece in conjunction with that post as the two really go hand in hand. Right I hear you all ask, well how are they connected?

Engraved Brass Dials

The rise of the white dial grandfather clock dials in Birmingham made the brass dial manufacturers sit up and take notice. This new technology could easily take over and this was centered in Birmingham. Dial painters would really have a monopoly over the supply. The clock makers who had specialist engravers and relied on the brass cast dials clearly had to do something. The white dials were pretty and they served a purpose of being easier to read the time on the clocks face.

A challenge to the white dial dominance

White dials with blued iron hands were really easy to read, even from a distance. The clock above is so significant as it is dated 1771 and is an all over brass silvered dial clock. The painted dials were recorded as starting in pretty much the same time as silvered brass dials. It is probably of a great deal of significance that the clock above was made in the same town as where the white dials started production in Birmingham. I believe Mr Cranmer has his ear to the ground so to speak.

First of its kind

He developed the dial above as one of the first of its kind, to compete with these new painted dials coming on the market. You will notice the unusual painted scene to the arch and the slightly strange thick engraving to the dial.  Further examples of silvered dial white dial grandfather clocks. These can be found on our website of Pendulum of Mayfair or by clicking here: Pendulum of Mayfair Ltd.


London silvered brass dial clock by Tatnell C1790
London silvered brass dial clock by Tatnell C1790

Tatnell London clock

You will see a later more standard London silvered brass dial clock by Tatnell of London. With an all over silvered brass dial, the dial is cast brass in the 18th century. this is then made to look like silver by rubbing with a white powder called silver chloride. This leaves deposits of silver on the dial. It gives it its silver look. In most cases the dial is then lacquered to make it slightly harder wearing. Generally though a silver coating on the dial will wear over time and needs re-silvering every generation.

Temporary Solution to White Dial Dominance

In the 20 years after the development of the painted dial grandfather clock dials sales boomed. The sales on the other hand of the standard grandfather clock dial decreased. The brass dial with chapter ring and spandrels started to become less popular. Up to 1790 as a result of the development of the silvered brass dials sales were running about equal. After C1790 though the sales of white dial continued at a pace. By C1820 you were looking at a market that was dominated with painted dial clocks. The painted dial manufacture set up in other places around the country. Not just in Birmingham. The brass dial clocks were on the decline. The silvered brass dial saved the production for 20/30 years. The decline of brass dials and rise of painted dials had taken hold.