Dating a Grandfather Clock

Ok so youve got a grandfather clock and you want to know roughly how old it is. Here are some basic paramaters to allow you to see the date ranges of the various features so you can get an idea without doing a whole load of reasearch on makers and suchlike.

The first Grandfathers produced 1660 in London because Christian Huegens invented the pedulum clock. Before this clocks were…well they sucked really as timekeepers. If a clock lost 5 minutes a day it was doing well but with the pendulum clock you could get it down to 5 minutes a week. 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.

All had SQUARE faces without the arch on the top until 1700 when the arched dial was introduced. The square dial persisted until 1720 by which time it was going out of fashion ans was completely replaced by the arched dial (with exceptions of course) by 1730.

All faces were brass up until 1770 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. London clocks by the “names” continued to be brass until the decline of the grandfather clock production in about 1860.

In 1660 clocks were tall and thin with small faces. 200 years later they were tall and fat with big faces. The change was gradual and so the size of a clock can often date it within 50 years or the 200 years from 1680 to 1880 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. HOWEVER, its more likely to be a “cottage style” clock as the thinner shorter style was adopted for smaller rural properties throughout the history of clock making – this makes it quite difficult for a novice to tell the difference between an early london grandfather clock and a later cottage style grandfather clock – they will share the same proportions in many cases.

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. When grandfathers came along the makers added an extra hand BUT they kept the old dial markings for the one handed clock> This of course meant that the clock could be read only by the hour hand by those not used to the “new fangled” 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. The clock has two sets of markings because it was produced in the crossover period of 1660 to 1710\20 when people expected to be able to read the time one handed and two handed.

If you see that then your clock is really quite old and you need to get a valuation. Clocks prior to 1700 are actually quite rare and shouldnt be run – “THAT BELONGS IN A MUSEUM” as Indiana Jones loves to say.

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. Hes a good writer who packs an enormous amount of knowledge into a page which is actually what you want rather than someone who uses too many words to bang on and on. Heres the link which will open in a new tab so this one stays open and you can come back!.

Im always interested to see what people have so if you want to email me a picture of your clock Ill get back to you with a basic evaluation, and of course if you want it serviced I will be more than happy to help local customers. Email me at

Hope this was helpful – Next up is a basic post on the basics of value and age.

One comment on “Dating a Grandfather Clock

  1. Its a rare clock you have there. I think quite valuable as well. You almost certainly have the last one of that design as I heard that there are only about 5 clocks left so its less likely there is one similar. Ive seen examples of the type you have from other makers of the period and they are just….impressive when you think of the date they were made. Industrial processes did not exist and generally speaking one craftsman was resposible for each clock. Thanks for your info and post – I will be sure to mention it to the owner of the Burpett round here amd point him to your post so you can compare notes!.

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