A grandfather clock is a symbol of exceptional cultural significance. Its functionality and design gave it a special place in the world of clocks. The grandfather clock had a deep attachment to the lives of people around it, for it told the household members and servants when to work, when to eat, and when to rest.
Coming to the main aim of today’s blog, well we all know that usually, the grandfather clocks we see today are old but how old are they? Today’s blog is all about determining the age of that big old clock!
Essentially, the age of the grandfather clock depends on four main parts, brass used in it, hands and face of the clock, numbers on the dial, and wood used for its manufacturing.
Starting off with a brief history of Grandfather clocks, also known as “longcase clocks” by some clock-enthusiasts. Grandfather clock was invented after Dutchman named Christiaan Huygens efficiently used a pendulum as a clock-winding device back in 1656. But it was in 1670 that these clocks gained popularity and local clockmakers began to master the working of the pendulum for error-free timekeeping with the use of an anchor escapement which was the mechanical device that gave the pendulum its swing.
Why do you need to find the age of your Grandfather clock?
If you have a grandfather clock, finding out its age can tell you how much it is worth. 🙂
Clockmakers in England used brass for making dials of grandfather clocks from around 1680 to 1770. In the beginning, brass-dial grandfather clocks had only one clock hand, as the clock owners believed that the hour of the day was much more important than minutes. It was in 1730, grandfather clocks with two hands began showing up in England, even though local villages and country areas still had clockmakers making clocks with only the hour hand. From 1730 through 1770, brass dials became more adorned and contained other qualities such as second hands, date hands, and wheels. Grandfather clocks with moon dials began to appear in clocks made from 1770 through 1830.
The Hands and The Face
To find the age of grandfather clock as accurately as possible, we have to consider a combination of multiple elements of the clock. We have to look holistically to those elements i.e face, hands, spandrels, orientation near the clock face and of course movement pillars. Some clockmakers also signed their work, adding their initials or signature to the clock face, which narrows the clock’s age to a certain era.
The hands of the clock often broke and were replaced, in that case, spandrels are used to determine the age of the grandfather clock as they are able to give better explanations to date the clock. One of the earliest spandrels, dated at around 1700, which had an angel’s head in the middle of a pair of wings. Similarly, Gold spandrel corners date a grandfather clock to between 1775 and 1785.
From 1700 to 1870, Roman numerals were used on faces of the grandfather clocks. Although it was rare, the clockmakers not only used Roman numbers during that period but also Arabic numerals on the clock dials from as early as 1795 to 1820.
If a clock face had the minutes 15, 30, 45, and 60, the grandfather clock was made from 1800 to 1820, but though unusual, you could also find one made in 1795. Other number features include the minutes in increments of 5 to 60 on clocks made from 1770 to 1800.
Until 1880, grandfather clocks were customized according to buyers’ personal interests. The wood that made up the longcase was obtained from the trees of the specific area and type. In the beginning, clocks were primarily made from oak. But the premium quality clocks’ wood cases were made from veneers in walnut and ebony. A lot of work went into the construction of the case with intricate moldings, expensive brass fittings, and detailed inlays. It was in about 1750, that famous clockmakers started using mahogany for manufacturing the clocks, as it was an expensive import at that time. Finest of the quality, mahogany- or walnut-cased grandfather clocks also contained costly movements, decoration, and enchanting looks.