January 26, 2021 4 min read

Having decided to purchase one, what should I look for when buying a grandfather clock? It is impossible to deny the appeal of a grandfather clock as a feature for your home. Their grand imposing nature makes them an eye catching addition to any room with the space available. Few people can approach a grandfather clock with the knowledge and expert eye needed to guarantee good quality. For these reasons, it is always best to use a reputable dealer to avoid costly mistakes. But what if a trip to your local auction house throws up an opportunity for a good deal without an expert to hand? The following tips should help to highlight any glaring issues, or the questions to ask your dealer to ensure you make the right choice.

Cost

For most of us, this will be the most important consideration when buying a grandfather clock. Although many have been produced over the centuries, there are still only a finite number of vintage and antique grandfather clocks on the market. Thankfully, modern fakes are rare as making a plausible imitation takes too much skill and effort to make it worthwhile. Firstly, establish how much you are willing to pay and do some research on the level of quality or age this will afford. Avoid larger auction houses, they will have more staff with a greater pool of knowledge so chances of a bargain are reduced. Reach out to reputable antique dealers and discuss your budget and any stylistic preferences. They will have the extensive networks of contacts needed to source your preferred style of clock at a reasonable price. If looking yourself, beware of any offers that seem to good to be true, they usually are. An outwardly perfect seeming clock could need extensive repairs to its movement, potentially adding hundreds or thousands of pounds to the original price.

Condition of the case

The outward appearance of a grandfather clock can offer a number of clues to how well it has been kept and maintained over the years. If the case is shabby and worn or shows signs of neglect, the movement within will be no better. While minor imperfections or damage can be repaired, this can be costly, especially where high quality wood has been used. ‘Marriages’, where a new case houses a movement from a different clock are not uncommon. Sometimes this is necessary where a case has become damaged or worn beyond repair, or repairs would be prohibitively expensive. However, some unscrupulous dealers will combine the two for an easy sale with no regard for damage to performance. Check the feet or plinth of the case to make sure they have not been cut down to fit a low ceiling. Similarly, check the pediment (top of the case hood) for any loose or missing parts including brass or wooden finials and damaged fretwork. Make sure clock furniture such as hinges, locks and escutcheons are not damaged or missing. The door should fit securely but open without sticking. While the door is open, check the back panel inside is not scratched by an ill fitting pendulum that could affect operation. The case hood should fit the case properly and the dial mask should fit securely around the dial. Any gaps or overlapping could be a sign of a marriage and lack of care in fitting the movement to the case.

Size and Footprint

Not all considerations when buying a grandfather clock are due to cost or quality, some are purely aesthetic or practical. Grandfather clocks are not just timepieces, they are large pieces of decorative furniture in their own right. This was part of their initial desirability – only the rich could afford them and had houses with the large rooms and high ceilings to accommodate them. Since not all modern homes have the space to make a large grandfather clock practical, it is worth being aware of space limitations. Measure the space the clock will occupy (including height) and when viewing potential purchases, factor this into your choice. Also, be aware of the size of any plinth or projecting feet that could increase the footprint and detract from the overall appearance. If you do have the space for a particularly large clock, this can work in your favour. Larger does not always mean more expensive as difficulty fitting a large clock into a modern home can drive down demand and consequently lower prices.

Features

These fall into two categories, physical features dictating outward appearance and mechanical features affecting performance. For some homes, a bold intricately sculpted and decorated clock will complement the décor and aesthetics of the room. In others it can overwhelm other design elements in the room it occupies and appear ugly and domineering. Consider the overall style of your home and the size, decorative elements and even colour and finish that would best complement this. Do you prefer a clock that strikes fractions of the hour or only hourly, simple chimes or a melody (and if so, which one)? Does the clock have a strike/ silent option to stop chimes during the night for uninterrupted sleep? Once installed, these will be a constant presence in your home for years to come so it is important to be sure. Face design can vary dramatically depending on the age of the grandfather clock, As early models only had brass dials these were once prized as somehow more authentic and antique. Later styles with enamelled or hand painted faces are no less attractive and preferred by many. Which you choose is a question of your own taste and what best suits your home. Finally, grandfather clocks were designed to be wound daily (known as 30 – hour), or weekly (called 8 – day). If a 30 – hour clock is chosen, it will need to be wound every day, although many owners enjoy this brief opportunity to admire their pride and joy daily.

While the above tips give some idea of what to look for when buying a grandfather clock, expert advice or buying from a reputable dealer is invaluable. Clock Corner is a family run business selling exclusive, premium timepieces from all eras, from the 18th century to the present day. Whatever your needs, contact us, our friendly expert staff will be glad to help.


Subscribe