At the Clock Clinic, we love a historic, beautiful timepiece, whether it is an ornate antique watch, a carefully crafted longcase clock or a decorative mantel clock. All have stories to tell from their crafting to their ownership.
Today, we dedicate some time to the bracket clock, something that has become somewhat of a collectable for horologists, antique enthusiasts and those that enjoy a beautifully made timepiece.
When were bracket clocks invented?
The first bracket clocks are thought to have come to market in the late 1600s, but they are often mistaken for other clocks that look similar but in fact, are very different.
The bracket clock, as the title indicates, has a bracket attached that allows the clock to be fixed to the wall. Finding one today that still has its original bracket is something of a challenge and collectors are often left disappointed in their hunt for a truly original piece.
The original bracket on these clocks would be made to look decorative rather than just purposeful and would match the clock to help give it an additional pleasing look.
Within 50 years of their release, confusion began to reign. Why? Let us explain.
Is it a mantel clock or an antique bracket clock?
Home interior styles were changing and as we went through the 1700s, mantelpieces began to appear above fireplaces, this allowed for a new place to showcase a clock, photos or ornaments.
However, the original bracket clock was too large for this. Instead, the mantel clock came to be and gave fireplaces an additional finish that added extra vibrancy to the home. In some instances, the smaller models of bracket clock would no doubt, have appeared on mantelpieces and most likely have been attributed the title of mantel clock by homeowners and even those selling them.
So, despite appearances, mantel clocks and bracket clocks are in fact two very different things although appearances certainly can be deceptive! Many mantel clocks would be weight driven too whereas bracket clocks operate with springs. Then of course you have the bracket. Bracket clocks were made to be fixed to a wall; mantel clocks were made to stand on a flat surface.
In most cases, bracket clocks are much larger than mantel clocks and without the legs or base that a mantel clock requires, often do not have the same amount of ornate decoration to them. That being said, there are some stunning examples of exquisite craftsmanship around the world that have made a bracket clock something extra special.
How does a bracket clock work?
Before bracket clocks were invented, the popular longcase, or Grandfather, and lantern clocks would have been common in many homes. These were weight driven and like the bracket clock, been fixed in position. Being large, and heavy these clocks would stay in one place more often than not and this could pose problems if things needed changing in the property. Thankfully bracket clocks, whilst also a little large, were much more portable.
This is due to the way it works. Bracket clocks use springs to provide power rather than weights. Combined with a Fusee, timekeeping was more accurate than in some other clocks as it equalized any uneven pull of the spring. This was seen as a huge success of its design and led to its increased popularity.
In most cases, mantel clocks were always made to be repeaters. A clock type that could repeat the striking of the hours with a pull cord. This could prove noisy in family homes and a disturbance to many. As a result, a silent pull repeater was used. This means that the noise could be silenced by the user resulting in no disturbances when the hour struck unless the cord was pulled.
Styles of antique bracket clocks
Over the years, fashion dictated the way bracket clocks appeared and in their earliest creations tended to be square dial clocks, over time, as trends changed, clockmakers embraced new ideas and became more creative.
Arch dials were next and then in the early 1700s, the inverted bell. Continual design changes were always being made and throughout the remainder of the 1700s and beyond, the clock changed in appearance whilst maintaining its spring actions.
The true bell top was followed by the break-arch case, the lancet top and then finally the chamfer top.
What are bracket clocks made of?
Typically, braclet clocks were wooden with ebony being the wood of choice. However, the wood used adapted with times, tastes and costs. As a result, mantel clocks would also often be made from walnut, mahogany, satinwood, and rosewood. The clock would be decorated with a brass inlay and ormolu mounts to add a gold finish to the bronze outer.
Quite often there would actually be two matching pieces put together as an ensemble. The clock itself and the decorative shelf.
At the Clock Clinic, we have a limited collection of antique bracket clocks, each telling its own story. You can view our bracket clocks for sale on our website or make an appointment and visit us in person to take a closer look. That way our dedicated horologists can guide you through everything about the clock, its history and its care. Should you already own a bracket clock, our London clock repairs service can help you have your stunning timepiece restored to its best should it develop any faults. Contact us to find out more.