4.05 – Architecture of the Case

Last Update: 07-25-2022 @ 03:03

4.05 – Case Architecture

The general architecture of the clock case is the fifth point of view. It is an important one. Indeed, Geometric Shapes, Architectural, Furniture or Decorative Arts Shapes, Everyday Objects or Animal Shapes, or even Other Clock Cases, inspired clockmakers.

4.05.1 – Geometric Shapes

Clocks, over time, have adopted standard geometric shapes:

4.05.2 – Architectural or Furniture Design Shapes

Architectural elements from buildings or furniture inspired the case manufacturers and clockmakers. Also, the style of the period in which they lived and older styles influenced them. – Architectural Building

Architectural buildings and religious art fascinated clockmakers and cabinetmakers, especially from the Middle Ages and the Greco-Roman periods. Asian or East European buildings and Japanese and Chinese decorative arts also made their way to their minds. Their clocks indeed reproduce scale models of these buildings with coordinate decorations. Here are some examples: – Architectural elements – The Arch or Ark

The ark (or arch) in architecture occupies a prominent place in appearance, style, and structural utility. The first syllable of the word architecture is arch. The arch is the basic structure of the vault. It is the semi-circular structure of an opening. It supports the load of what is above it. The arch dates back to the dawn of time. The Etruscans invented it, but Persians and Greeks took control of its development. Then, the Romans were the first builders to appreciate the arch’s qualities. They developed their full potential to build vaults and domes in all kinds of construction, bridges, aqueducts, portals, monumental buildings, etc. There are many examples of arches. Think of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, built in the 19th century. See Wikipedia for more details.

Cabinet makers of the 18th-century clocks developed clock cases having the shape of an arch opening. Here are some examples: – The Columns

Every era since the 12th century had its column style. As a smooth, twisted, fluted, or gilded cylinder, the column served as the support for a higher structure. A column rests on a base or pedestal higher than the simple base. A marquee tops the column. Embedded in the structure, columns become backed columns or half-columns. The columns are ubiquitous in some antique American shelf clocks, especially black mantle clocks. Therefore, many of their cases have Classical Greek (Doric, Ionic, Corinthian), Roman (Tuscan and Composite), Gothic, Baroque, or Renaissance columns. Look at the next slides and popups to see examples.

Here are some examples of clocks with columns: – The pediment

The pediment is the crowning of a building or furniture. It may take different forms: circular, paneled, broken, triangular, interspersed, etc. In the image below, look at some examples applied to clock cases :

Types of clock pediments. – The Strut

Tanks to the strut, clockmakers could make thin clock cases held at an angle. Indeed, the square is attached to the top of the back of a clock case, usually by hinges, and the bottom part opens at an angle to hold the clock.

4.05.3 – Furniture Shapes

Clock case specialists, who were often cabinetmakers, were also inspired by the style of furniture in vogue in their day. Here are a few examples:

They also borrowed from the furniture style:

Also, some clocks have been placed on a piece of furniture that accompanies and highlights it. They became an integral part of the furniture. We called them pedestal clocks. Other clocks have been integrated into a piece of furniture, such as a coffee table or a buffet. Therefore, they added to it another function, as in the examples that follow:

4.05.4 – Stylistics Elements from the Decorative Arts

The manufacturers of cases have introduced on or next to the clock elements from the decorative arts, such as statues, candlesticks, and cassolettes, the latter from Egyptian art. They appealed to well-known founders and sculptors who produced bronze figures to lay on clocks, particularly in France. Here are some examples

4.05.5 – Shapes Inspired by Objects

Everyday objects inspired the clock manufacturers. Their cases imitated musical instruments such as banjo and lyre, bird cages, honeycombs, balloons, drums, figurines, lighthouses, towers, even measuring tapes, etc. Here is a list of some of the objects that inspired the clock manufacturers:

4.05.6 – Shapes Inspired by Animals

Furthermore, animals have been an inexhaustible source of inspiration for clockmakers. The lion often appeared as a decorative element, especially in black mantle clocks. The elephant, the dog, and the cat became clocks by integrating a movement and a dial into their body. The horse was an ornament, on or next to the clock case. Finally, as illustrated, some clock historians gave the name of an animal’s back for a certain type of clock.

4.05.7 – Inspired by the Clock Case Itself

Finally, the clock cases themselves served as an inspiration to the clockmakers. Thus, the top of long-case clocks became in England short wall clocks, cheaper to produce because requiring less material and less workforce.

Next: 4.06 – Case Materials

Home » 4.00 – Taxonomy of Clocks » 4.05 – Architecture of the Case

Here is a clock in a square case with a front door, with a Seth Thomas movement with two barrels used to operate the door of a safe or vault in a bank. The clock movement has an electromechanical relay connected to the external brass couplings on top of the box, attached to the safe or vault door. The dial has two parts, one for the day, one for the night.

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Here is a small Swiss bedside alarm clock, a Swiza. Note its cylindrical shape. The case is made of brass. Note also the marbled front, the top is also marbled and a small part just below the base. You think it may be a piece of real marble or onyx. After all, Swiza is a luxury brand.  Disappointment, once the case opened, it was rather a beautiful imitation painted on pieces of light metal, probably aluminum.

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Here is a small alarm clock with six sides in transparent bluish plexiglass, branded Linden Black Forest, made in West Germany, before the fall of the Berlin Wall, which allows to date it between 1945 and 1990. Linden is an American trademark of the Cuckoo Clock Manufacturing Co. of New York, named later Linden Cuckoo Clock Manufacturing Co. in the 1950s. The company then began producing other clocks than cuckoos with the name Linden. Later on, the Colibri group bought the company but retained only the Linden brand. Subsequently, Colibri ceased operations in 2009 and took them over in 2011 under the name Alliance Time, which owns the Linden brand, but mainly sells its clocks under Seth Thomas, a brand it also owns, as Colibri acquired it in the 1990s.

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This New Haven clock in its original state, with a walnut frame with eight sides, a metal dial, and a second’s hand, is attractive because it was on the wall of the office of the Erie Canal in the 1860s. The Erie Canal is part of the New York State Canal System, which stretches 363 miles from the Hudson River in Albany to Buffalo, where it flows into Lake Erie.

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This 10-sided Seth Thomas, late 19th century, viewed on eBay, was probably a factory or government building clock, given its size of 16 inches in diameter. Its operating time was 30 days, given the type of two-barrel movement found in the square timer clock shown in Note the second’s hand.

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On sale on eBay, it is a variant of the previous clock but with 12 sides, with the same movement.

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This travel alarm clock by Elgin, made in Germany, is typical of the oval shape clock.

(Image by Susan Holt-Simpson – Unplash Free of Rights)

This modern table clock from the 1980s, a Seiko Quartz with a round flat battery, has a pyramid shape. It is also a fine example of a Skeleton clock because you can see its movement. This clock has the distinction of having functional old-fashioned wheels and gears. Its pyramidal dome is made of Plexiglass™.

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Strictly rectangular clocks were trendy in the 18th and 19th, especially in the United States. These were called OG or O’Gee clocks because of the shape of the moldings surrounding the door. It had two parts, the top for the dial and the bottom for a glass that showed the pendulum or an inverted image (tablet). Represented, a 1900 O’Gee-type Waterbury with rosewood on and around the door, and the rest of the case is walnut except the back, which is probably fir, as was customary at the time.

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In the second half of the 18th century, appeared in England, the round wall clock called “Dial Clock” whose diameter was about 12 inches (30 cm). It was like a tavern clock that lost its long part to keep only the round dial. A square case behind the circular dial contained the movement, often a fusee movement, replaced later by a standard mainspring. A wooden frame more or less wide surrounded the dial. These clocks were trendy in public buildings because of their large diameter. The Americans adopted the shape and called them “Office Clocks.” Here is a Seth Thomas Chatham (1909-1910) of large diameter (16 inches), probably from a factory or public building. Note the oak border and the large brass bezel. The same model was available in 12-inch format. It’s a timepiece whose ticking is very audible. A small door below the movement case gives access to the pendulum. Round wall clocks are still very popular in office or manufacture spaces.

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A convex glass, challenging to represent, covers each side of this famous Swiss-made Omega sphere clock with a watch movement.  

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Photographed by the author in an American Antique Mall, this vintage battery clock made in China is typical of the category.

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The Figure 8 clock was introduced by Howard Clock Watch Co. about 1870. Howard’s Figure 8 (left picture) was elongated and resembled the Girandole clock. Subsequently, the two different diameter circles, the largest containing the dial and the movement, and the smallest one showing the bob, came closer. Two rosettes, characteristic of the style (center photo), framed the two circles. Finally, Figure 8 was also used for the door of a Doric clock, as seen in the right photo.

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An unusual shape means any clock that does not have a strict geometric form, a form inspired by architecture, a form borrowed from everyday objects or nature, etc., which we cannot correctly name. Here’s what I’m saying. This one, of unknown brand, is typical of the art-deco style, but its black slate plate that rests on a pink marble plate does not correspond to any category of shapes.

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This type of clock is characterized by its resemblance to a cathedral, like this clock case from the collection of the Canadian Museum of History.

(Image : Photo no 75-1298, D2004-08892 published with the permission of the Canadian Museum of History)






This Seth Thomas Larkin from 1895, with its wave-shaped top and its four Corinthian columns, and this E. Ingraham with six side columns from 1906, are fine examples of the Greek Temple style, typical of the so-called Black Mantel clocks, primarily American, from the late 19th and early 20th century.

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E. Ingraham designed a clock in 1843 inspired by a Gothic steeple. Brewster and Ingraham first manufactured this type of clock with 30-hour or 8-day spring movements. Very popular in the mid-19th century, they were imitated by several companies, such as Waterbury: illustrated, a steeple clock of the 1880s, with a wake-up mechanism; rotating the roulette in the middle of the dial adjusted the wake-up. 

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Inspired by the Taynitskaya Tower located on the south side of the Kremlin in Moscow, The Fabergé House designed this clock in the 1910s to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. It is made of pink rhodonite, a rare and precious stone, jade, rock crystal, lapis lazuli, and brass.

(Image from The Cleveland Museum of Art authorized under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication)

This porcelain clock has the shape of a Chinese pagoda, reminiscent of traditional temples. At the top sits a cat. On each side, satyrs seem to hold the roof. The front scene represents a couple in the garden, a typical European scene of the time. Johann Gottlob Kirchner designed the clock manufactured by the Meissen Porcelain Manufactory of Germany in the early 1730s. It is part of the collection of the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York.

(Image authorized under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication)

The arch (ark) clock appeared at the end of the 18th century. Fashion continued in the 19th century or even beyond. Shown are two so-called semi-circular arch clocks: left, a Seth Thomas Prospect No. 2 from 1913, in mahogany with inlays of marquetry around and under the dial. It is in its original state, just the patina of time. The varnish has tiny cracks, which is typical for clocks of this age. The varnishes of the time had nothing to do with the quasi-mirror finishes of today’s polyurethanes.
To the right is a mahogany clock by George B. Owen from 1893. It has an arch whose hanger rests on two square blocks that are the tops of a semi-column on the surface of the case that rests on the clock’s base. Owen’s company built several clock models before becoming general manager of W. L. Gilbert Clock Co.

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This clock is typical of Lancet arch clocks inspired by the Gothic style of the Middle Ages. This one is a Vincenti and Co. from the last half of the 19th century, one of the great French clockmakers. The inlays at the top and bottom of the clock are gilded brass, as is the dial. It has a round movement typical of French clocks.  Silver Medal Vincenti 1855 is engraved on this one.

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A clock whose shape resembles a Gothic arch, trendy in England in the 13th century, reappeared as Lancet in the first half of the 19th century. Elias Ingraham, a renowned cabinetmaker and a prolific clock manufacturer from Bristol, Connecticut, introduced it in America around 1840 under the Beehive name. Fusee-like spring movements patented by Kirk equipped these clocks, with brass springs patented by Joseph Shaylor Ives, Joseph Ives’ nephew. Subsequently, brass movements with steel springs were fitted, such as this one, a W. L. Gilbert from the 1870s in its original state except for the bottom glass, where usually is an inverted image. The dial is painted on an embossed metal sheet.

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Elias Ingraham was granted a patent in 1860 for a two-sided slant top clock about the same size as a cottage clock. The  Doric Trade Mark graphic appeared on the labels placed at the bottom of the case. This E. Ingraham clock from 1871 has the double particularity of being of the Doric type because of its two-sided top, but also of belonging to the “Figure 8” group because of its door, which includes two circles superimposed to form the number 8, and the two rosettes on each side middle of the circles

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This E. Ingraham parlor clock from the early 20th century has a broken arch with rosettes that looks supported by two small columns that frame the dial and glass door. Note the faux mercury pendulum, popular at the time.

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Illustrated, an E. Ingraham from the 1875s: this is a Bim-bam clock with a four-sided arch decorated with black inserts. The dial is made of cardboard.

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Two columns and a pediment and a door covering almost the entire case are typical of the Columns and Cornice clock. Its door has two parts: a glass that shows the dial separated by a small piece of wood and, under the dial, a glass tablet. A tablet usually means a glass with an inverted drawing. In this mid-19th century Henry C. Smith clock with a Terri style wood movement, the tablet is replaced by an original photography of the era. On its back, many clock repairers have signed over the years, beginning in 1864.

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“Frank Wenger, Shelf Clock, c. 1939, watercolor, colored pencil, and graphite on paperboard, overall: 45.5 x 35.4 cm (17 15/16 x 13 15/16 in.)
Original IAD Object: none, Index of American Design, 1943.8.5823″

Somewhere in the late 1820s, 30-hour walnut weight clocks, with a high rectangular case with animal legs, carved columns on each side, and an equally carved frontispiece, were created by E. Ingraham, cabinetmaker hired by George Mitchell, a clock dealer. He introduced them to Bristol, Connecticut, in the 1820s and 1930s to compete with Chauncey Jerome’s mirror clocks. That is why they have been called Transition clocks. The sculpture motifs were handmade by specialists who came from Germany to work at a New York furniture fair. They later moved to Bristol. These clocks have proved less and less popular with the arrival on the market of Pillars & Scroll clocks and O’Gee’s

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The hollow-columns clock refers to an Empire-style weight clock (later on springs) where the weights descend along with vertical interior compartments behind the columns. Turned or ornate columns decorate two-thirds of the case on each side, in the center of which is a two-panel door with the top one containing the square dial and the bottom one a tablet with an inverted image. The columns are framed at the top by a molded pediment, and at the bottom, they rest on a platform sustained by S-shaped struts. In between, there is a door with an inverted tablet. E. and G. Bartholomew, case cabinetmakers from Bristol, Connecticut, introduced the model in the 1830s, popular until 1840. Illustrated, a rosewood Seth Thomas Hollow Column.

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“Richard Taylor, Wall Clock with Mantel, c. 1939, watercolor, colored pencil, pen and ink, and graphite on paperboard, overall: 45.2 x 35.4 cm (17 13/16 x 13 15/16 in.)
Original IAD Object: Case:18 1/2″wide x 47 1/2″long. See datasheet for dets., Index of American Design: 1943.8.4721″

Full columns on each side of the case, a flat pediment, and feet in the shape of animal paws (“Tiger-paw“) characterize the Columns & Splat clock. This one sits on a shelf attached to the wall. Therefore, it belongs to the larger category of Shelf clocks. But most of the original shelves are gone, so they became, time passing, Furniture Clocks.

(Image authorized under Common Creative CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication)

The American clockmaker Eli Terry of Bristol, Connecticut, designed the Pillars & Scroll clock for which he obtained a patent in 1816, known as the Patent Clock. A thin column on each side of a rectangular case of reasonable size (60 to 80 cm = 24 to 31 in.), topped by a cornice Chippendale style embellished with three finials, characterize this type of clocks. Several manufacturers bypassed Terry’s patent by making a few slight modifications to the original patent. These 30-hour motion clocks were produced in thousands of copies between 1818 and 1828 until Chauncey Jerome’s mirror clocks arrived. Here is an example of the 1930s seen on sale at an American antique dealer. 

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The strut clock has on its back a support, like an easel, that holds it in place at an angle.  Illustrated: the first clock of my collection, an English F. W. Elliott, all brass with a French escapement on a platform. Shagreen leather covers the back of the dial, and its frame is in rosewood.

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Jacob Mayr, a German artisan, made this miniature brass clock (c. 1690) in the shape of a table. The dial is placed horizontally on the top of a small cylindrical or hexagonal box that contains the tiny movement. It belongs to the collection of the Canadian Museum of History.

(Image: Photo no 989-48-5, S94-12297 published with the permission of the Canadian Museum of History)

The English watchmaker James Cox (c. 1723-1800), an inventive goldsmith, integrated a miniature clock into a tiny cabinet the size of a jewelry box. He often added a music box, earning the nickname Sing-songs. Uttering the word out loud mimics a Chinese sound. Cox exported the bulk of these little clocks to China. Thanks to Cox, England managed to maintain an acceptable trade balance with China, which exported the tea the English loved in substantial quantities. But around the 1770s, with the Chinese market inundated with these little jewels, Cox was caught with such a large quantity that he had to auction most of them, keeping the rest to open a museum in his name. The cabinet clock illustrated comes from the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Cox didn’t put a music box in this miniature cabinet. The small drawers served to store jewelry.

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Here are two examples of small clocks inspired by a television device: a mechanical German Selfix alarm clock on the left. (When the time set arrived, a small music box starts to play while the ballerinas come to life.);  on the right, an electric clock from the American Tele-Vision Clock Manufacturing Co. gives the time on a digital dial made up of plastic blocks that rotate on an axis.

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Clocks inspired by the shape of altars in churches were popular in Europe, especially in England, in the 17th century and the first half of the 18th century. The term comes from Germany. The movement in these clocks was small compared to the size of the altar clocks, which could be 24 in. (60 cm) high. This type of clock is rarely on the market. There are museum pieces, such as this altar clock (c. 1635) by a German clockmaker named Hans Bushman, visible on the site of the Frick Collection Museum in New York.


Compare the pediment of the dresser with that of the clock. The broken wave-shaped pediment is characteristic of the Chippendale style, as are the feet of the furniture, which are borrowing from the French provincial style. Note that the inspiration of the Chippendale pediment is the architectural open pediment of the Howard Miller clock.

(Photo by Jenny O’Donnell at the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 2009 authorized under Creative Commons CC BY 2.0; Image of clock ID107: All rights reserved, Bordloub)





Two beautiful examples of art nouveau. Nature and women are the most characteristic themes of art nouveau. Look closely at this piece of furniture with its pleasing curved shapes that seem to intertwine like tree roots and the shape of the drawing embedded in the middle that reminds us of a feminine shape. Please take a good look at the clock, which uses the same themes with shapes that resemble trees and those women’s bodies that emerge from it.

(Photography of the Furniture taken at the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York by Alyse and Rémi in 2006 authorized under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0; Clock image from unknown source reproduced under “Fair use for educational purpose“)

The pedestal clock rests on a more or less high pedestal matched to the style of the clock. These clocks were trendy from the late 17th to early 19th century. Still, the arrival of the shelf and mantel clocks in the mid-1800s made them less sought after, except for collectors, because they are rare and expensive. The beautiful ones are found in museums, like this one from the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York: a case and pedestal by André Charles Boulle (1642-1732) with a movement probably from Jacques III Thuret (1669-1738) or his father Isaac II Thuret (1630-1706).

(Image no 1976.91.1.2 003 authorized under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication)

Some cabinetmakers and clock designers had the idea of embedding a clock into a living room coffee table. The glass top of it lets see the large dial, as in this contemporary example with a battery quartz movement.

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The Buffet Integrated clock, like the Coffee Table Clock, is embedded in a piece of furniture. Here is an example from the collection of The Canadian Clock Museum. It is a Mission-style Arthur Pequegnat clock from 1915 made in Berlin, Ontario, Canada, later named Kitchener.

(Image published with the permission of The Canadian Clock Museum)

In the 19th century, it was fashionable to take advantage of clock cases to install a brass or spelter or cast iron sculpture. We see a lot of them on French clocks and American Greek temple style. The more expensive clocks had signed bronzes often with a small identification plate. Such a clock consists of a base that contains the movement and the dial, surmounted by a statue or a figure, sometimes archetypal, like an ancient god, cherubs, sometimes of historical interest, as a famous writer or politician for example, sometimes thematic as mother and child, or horse and rider, etc.  The clock on the left of my collection is in a gilded spelter. It was designed in 1872 by a New York firm, Mitchell Vance and Co., which installed movements of well-known companies, here a round-shaped Seth Thomas in the French style, with a bell to ring the hours and halves. It is a fine example of a symbolic clock with the statue of a shepherd at the top of a multi-story structure. The other clock (right), Mother & Child, is French. It is signed Mazillier on the dial, and the movement is a Vincenti.

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Some watchmakers have used well-known sculptors to accompany their clocks. It was prevalent in France to have the work of these sculptors signed. Gustave Moreau (1826-1898) named their works on a small plaque attached to the case and signed them. Here’s an example:

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Here is a Belgian-French black crafted metal clock with spelter trims. The clock is signed by Henri Lupens, Brussels, and the movement by A. D. Mougin, clockmaker of Paris, France. Chandeliers accompany it.

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Here is a French black marble with pink marble inserts clock. Not very visible, it has a mercury pendulum. The two accessories on either side of the main body of the clock are called cassolettes. A cassolette is a small vase with a lid pierced in which burn or evaporate incense or perfume. The cassolettes are of Egyptian origin. These do not have lids but are used for the same function.

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The Japanese civilization and art influence on Westerners, especially on the French, in the second half of the 19th century, is called Japonism. It was present in the design of clocks. Illustrated, a Paul Brocot clock from the collection of the Museums Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, made at the Achille Brocot clock factory around 1880. It was exhibited at the French pavilion of the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880. It has received various awards. It is made of enameled panels set in a brass frame. On the front panel, a samurai sits in the middle of a mountainous landscape; on the sides, there are birds and branches typical of Japanese art. The clock has five finials on top and is placed on a Grecian-style brass base.

(Image authorized under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 International)

Europeans were fascinated with Asian art, especially Chinese art. Think of the famous Chinese vases from the 17th to the 20th century. Collectors loved it. Therefore, the word chinoiseries will refer to any object of art that comes from China or bears traces of Chinese decorative arts. Therefore, the designers of clock cases were also attracted by Chinese art, for example, painting on wood patterns of Chinoiserie, as on the front of this tall-case clock seen in an American antique fair.

(Image: All rights reserved, Bordloub) – Decorative Arts Stylistic Elements
Egyptian Patterns

Egyptian patterns have also inspired clock case designers. I photographed this American clock at a Florida antique dealer shop. It is a metal clock of the same type as the black mantels but painted red by the previous owner. But instead of Greco-Roman decor, we are dealing with Egyptian decor. Sphinxes replace the Greco-Roman columns, and at the top, there is an Egyptian goddess. 

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A furniture clock whose main shape resembles a hot air balloon appeared at the end of the 18th century in England. The Americans also made this type of clock. This American Seth Thomas Parma from 1909 has a plaque bearing the inscription Clarence E. F. Dumaresq. It is the name of a ship that sailed on Lake Champlain in the early 20th century. Its movement is round in the style of several French movements.

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The Bird Cage clock also belongs to the Novelty or Gadget clock category. It is also an animated clock because the small caged bird moves to the rhythm of the pendulum. The time is read on a sphere as in this original alarm clock, a German Kaiser from the 1920s, but sometimes on what looks like a measuring tape. There is no standard in this area, and the whole thing depends on the manufacturer’s imagination. Beware, many of these clocks for sale on the web are made in China and are not antique nor vintage. 

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Here is an English marine chronometer clock in a box. This one is installed in a cabinet with a mechanism that makes the clock always level despite rolling and pitching. Here, the box is really essential. It is a rare, priced piece, photographed at an antique fair in the United States.

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The drum clock is a furniture clock whose center part is round like a drum. Physically, the case consists of two parts, the drum, and a long and relatively flat base, as seen in the photos of a German art-deco-style EMES clock with a Westminster chime. Beware, this type of clock is often confused with Humpback or Napoleon’s Hat, where the clock’s case is in one piece.

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There is some confusion in the denomination of extended-based clocks. I think you have to distinguish the three types of long-base clocks: the Drum, the Humpback or Camel Back, and Napoleon’s Hat. Illustrated, this New Haven Bim-Bam eight days from the 1920s is a clock that I consider to be the type of Napoleon’s Hat. Its main feature is the presence at each end of a round molding that rolls up from the base and resembles the edge of Napoleon’s hat. The central part of the clock where the movement and the dial are mimics the top of the hat. These clocks are still trendy today, but they are bulky because their length is 45 to 50 cm (17,5 to 20 in.).

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The crucifix clock is a table clock in the shape of a crucifix, very trendy in the 17th century. Generally, the clock base contained the movement. A strip of metal moving very slowly marked the time. Clockmakers made these clocks in large quantities in the city of Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany. Illustrated is a brass crucifix clock (c. 1640) from the Auckland Museum collection. The 12-hour horizontal movement with iron wheels and gilt brass plates is in the base. Time is given in the small globe at the top of the crucifix. Two female characters are at the base on top of the movement.  

(Left image & Right image by Isaac Ebert, licensed under Creative Commons CC BY 4.0)

Illustrated is a 16th-century German clock from the collection of the Canadian Museum of  History. It is designed like an ostensory. The movement and dial are in the upper part of the ostensory.

(Image no. 989.48.8.1-2, S94-12305, 1501-1600 published with the permission of the Canadian Museum of History)

This furniture clock with a large base, a cube-shaped case containing the movement, topped by a gallery with a dome, mimics a tabernacle. It is an ancient shape popular from the middle of the 16th century to the middle of the 17th century. There’s one at the British Museum in London (illustrated). It dated from 1648 and was manufactured in Krakow, Poland, by Lucas Weydmann. Click the image below for more information.

(Image authorized under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 International)

Any clock that shows its mechanism through a glass dome or glass lantern or because it is in the open air is a skeleton clock. Popular in France, according to experts, it is instead a type of English clock of Victorian origin. Many were produced for the Great Exhibition in London in 1851. Opposite, a Howard Miller weight wall clock, photographed by the author at an American antiques fair. Most anniversary clocks under a globe can also belong to this category since one can see their mechanism.

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At the end of the 16th and early 17th century, a German clockmaker, Hans Kiening of Fussen in Bavaria, produced a brass clock in the shape of a book. The movement, an alarm, and a complex device also gave astronomical information. The book-shaped clock on the left is from the Museum of Applied Arts (Magyar Iparművészeti Múzeum), Budapest. Hungary. Swiss clockmakers put book-shape clocks back in fashion between the two great wars in the 20th century. The picture on the left represents a modern interpretation of the book clock: an old book plus a small battery quartz pack, needles, and numbers do the trick!

(Left Image Book shaped miniature clock by Francisco.J.Gonzalez is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0; Right Image “Book Clock #1” by David Singleton is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

The origin of the lantern clock dates back to the 17th century in England, like the left one made around 1685 from the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection in New York. A brass clock placed on a wooden wall shelf lets the pendulum and weights hang in the open air. Its dome is a bell attached to the main case by decorative brass strips. This one has only one needle. Nowadays, the lantern clocks are those Anniversary clocks placed under a metal case surrounded by glass or plastics that have the shape of a lantern, like the one on the right.

(Left picture authorized under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication; Right Image ID026: All rights reserved, Bordloub )


This E. Schmeckenbecher German cuckoo is probably a reproduction or a modern inspiration (1970) of an old cuckoo. It has a Regula German 8-day movement. His main inspiration comes from the Austrian picture frame clocks.

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The urn clock is a French creation from the late 19th century. The left picture illustrates a traditional French Urn clock made between 1800 and 1830 from the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York. In the right picture, there is an unusual French urn clock of the end of the 18th century from the Canadian Museum of History collection: the porcelain part is driven by the movement and displays the right time in front of the vertical marker. 

(Left Image authorized under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication; Right Image No A-1791, S91-2781 published with the permission of the Canadian Museum of History)

The sun-shaped clock is almost an archetype. But it was prevalent in the mid-20th century, as this German Junghans timepiece from the 1950s, with gilded brass rays.

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Chicago-based K and S Sales and other manufacturers have developed a clock on a rolling measuring tape principle. Indeed, the clock is round and lands flat on a desk. A fixed point indicates the time that revolves around the central axis of the case. This one dates back to the 1940s. Lux Manufacturing Co. probably manufactured it for K and S Sales.

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This small alarm clock in the shape of a portable radio was manufactured in the 1970s in West Germany for a company called Record. It has a music box that plays at the chosen wake-up time.

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Here, it is not a clock powered by steam, like the one in Vancouver, but a model inspired by the industrial era of steam engines, seen on the web. Click on the blue link for more details and a larger picture of a mechanical clock imitating a French GLT steam engine from the late 19th century. The movement triggers a lever at the top of the clock. It propels a hammer that hits a small pylon between the legs of the clock.

Jonathan Clarke Brown (1807-1872) from the Constitutional Oak Tree in Hartford, Connecticut, designed this unconventional acorn-shaped spring American clock. Made of laminated wood, mahogany, or rosewood, Forestville Manufacturing, owned by Brown, manufactured and sold it in three styles: tablet, large and small, and wall. On either side of the acorn, laminated wooden stems matched its outline. Here is an example from the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York. 

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Simon Willard from Roxbury, Mass., initially named Patent or Improved Timepiece (patented in 1802), designed a banjo-shaped clock. The patent specified that the weight or weights must fall 15 inches in 8 days, with a pendulum swiveling forward. The mahogany wood case had to have three parts: a circular part containing the dial, an elongated, fitted-size part containing the weight or weights, and a rectangular part at the base where the pendulum stretched, must have a small door. The elongated and lower part had a painted or gilded glass window. A top finial, often the American eagle, completed the design. Later, manufacturers made spring banjo clocks, such as this 1925 Sessions with a maritime theme with its lighthouse and sailboat.

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Here is the famous novelty clock Kit-Cat photographed in an American Antique Mall. The tail is the pendulum, and the eyes are moving at the same rate as the back-and-forth tail movement. This clock is well known enough to deserve an article in Wikipedia.

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The dog is also an animal that has been the subject of clocks—illustrated two 1930s Gustav Becker spring clocks from the collection of the Museums Victoria in Melbourne, Australia. The left dog top rolls its eyes as time passes, and the marks around them indicate the time. This clock was the subject of an American patent dated August 31, 1926, although the clock was manufactured in Germany. The other dog’s tongue and tail serve as the pendulum. These are two novelty (gadget) clocks.

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The elephant is also an animal used in a clock case. Unlike cat and dog clocks, the elephant clock is usually not animated. But the dial and movement are often mounted on the back of the elephant, as on this miniature clock from the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection in New York. The small clock is the size of a watch.

(Image authorized under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication)

The horse is mainly a symbolic ornament for a clock. The left image presents a 19th-century French clock from my collection. It is in black marble and brass topped by a horse and a young rider who tries to master it.

The right image illustrates a 20th-century electric clock frequently seen in vintage stores. It is probably a Sessions, but United has produced some similar clocks. The horse is typically American with its western cowboy saddle.

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Illustrated is German-made Seth Thomas Medbury with Westminster chime from the late 1950s. It has a long extended base, and the movement and dial are in the middle part. Many do not know how to name this type of clock. Some call it Drum, others Napoleon’s Hat, and others Camelback or Humpback. Let’s eliminate the term Drum right away because the middle part doesn’t have a drum shape. On either side, we’re dealing with a slope that extends to the ends of the base. Napoleon’s hat, then? No, there are no edges like on a hat. So it’s better to call it Camelback or Humpback; you may choose either one. 

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Ahasuerus I Fromanteel (Norwich, England 1607–1693)
Wall clock, ca. 1660–65
British, London,
Case: oak veneered with ebony; gilt-brass mounts Dial: gilded and silvered brass Movement: brass and steel; H. 20 in. (50.8 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of Irwin Untermyer, 1973 (1974.28.93)

The hood clock with its movement is like an old long-case clock, from which someone had removed the whole body and base, for the sake of economy, most of the time. So, the weights and the pendulum hang outside. In the 18th century, it was very popular and cheap to buy. For more details, click on Brian Loomes.
Later on, in the 20th century, manufacturers produced their interpretation of this design like this Forestville Canada clock (right picture) from the 1950s.

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