Whatever lies beneath the hood, the most immediate difference between one longcase and another is seen in the design of the case or the treatment of the face. These range from the simplest estate-made pine case and painted tin dial, to Boulle marquetry and silvered brass. But both will typically reflect the fashions of the time and provide a clue to date.
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Case styles will also differ by region. On a local scale there are distinct characteristics observed in clocks made in different clockmaking centres of England. These can be as simple as the use of indigenous timbers rather than expensive tropical imports, but the characteristics of the case, the dial and the movement differ from region to region. As the market for provincially-made clocks has grown naturally many people wish to own a clock from their locality specialist publications have been written on a range of British clockmaking centres.
These are typically accompanied by information regarding otherwise obscure local clockmakers - from detailed analysis of surviving examples of their work to the simplest of genealogical data. The top end is typically occupied by so-called Golden Age clocks by celebrated makers from the late 17th and the first half of the 18th century. These venerable timepieces, housed in elegant cases of ebony, walnut, mulberry, marquetry or japanned lacquer, have a long collecting history and appeal beyond the relatively small field of horology. Pricing depends heavily on quality, condition, movement and maker.
How to Determine the Age of a Grandfather Clock
Good clocks by eminent names such as Ahasuerus Fromanteel, Thomas Tompion, George Graham, the Knibb family, Joseph Windmills and John Ellicott will bring five- and six-figure sums on the occasions they come to the market. But, across a typical year, only a small handful is likely to be available.
A connoisseur market also exists for those clocks designed for precision timekeeping. The literature is dominated by technical terminology that, although confusing to the uninitiated, is of paramount importance to value. Harrison's maintaining power, the deadbeat escapement and developments in the field of temperature compensation were all innovations of the 18th century - the period that saw the birth of the regulator clock.
These precision timekeepers, often with outwardly simple dials and cases but very substantial six-pillar movements and heavy grid-iron pendulums, have seen some substantial price movements in recent times. Technical sophistication on any level adds value to a clock.
Dating a Grandfather Clock
Most longcase clocks strike the time on each hour or fraction of an hour, but musical movements were a further sophistication and, by the Edwardian era, many longcase clocks, often with monumental revivalist case styles, housed triple weight-driven movements capable of quarter-striking with the Westminster, Whittington or St Michaels's chimes. These high quality clocks, capable of high four- and sometimes five-figure sums a decade ago, are sometimes hampered by size but remain popular with the export market.
A late Victorian 6ft 4in 1. The silvered dial is inscribed 'Russells Limited, Liverpool'. The price trends for unexceptional or 'furnishing' Georgian or Victorian longcases closely follow the curve set by furniture of the same period. At the present time the market is very soft. It is certainly a fraction of the original cost in real terms.
Guide to Buying Longcase Clocks
Nevertheless, an important feature of the market over the last 25 years has been the growing interest in regional clockmaking, admired for the genius and idiosyncrasies of individual makers many of them a match for their London contemporaries and their sense of place.
The pendulum clock was therefore a very useful thing but of course you needed a long case to cover the long pendulum the longer the more accurate and the Grandfather or Longcase clock was born.
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The square dial persisted until by which time it was going out of fashion ans was completely replaced by the arched dial with exceptions of course by All faces were brass up until when the painted dial came along. Less expensive to produce and engineer it became the favourite for the majority of clocks produced outside the cities.
In clocks were tall and thin with small faces. The change was gradual and so the size of a clock can often date it within 50 years or the years from to when clocks stopped being produced.
Clocks produced in the tended to be a bit more brash and large to their contemporaries in London so you need to adjust for that a bit in the date estimate if the clock is from a norther maker. If you have what looks like a tall thin clock with an old small square clock face it could be valuable. Some of the early makers command huge prices. One handed clocks — if you have one of these then you probably know what you have already.
Clocks in the first 50 years of production were one handed — no second hand. These markings are on the inner edge of the dial plate in quarter hour segments which are themselves separated into half quarter hours. On the outside of the ring you will also find the more traditional markings we are used to for two handed reading. If you see that then your clock is really quite old and you need to get a valuation.
I prefer to learn from books rather than the internet. I find it altogether easier and more portable. I can highly recommend Brian Loomes as a source of good books on antique clocks and he has written one specifically on grandfather clocks that will tell you everything about you current clock, and importantly, how to spot the lemons when you are buying one.
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