Advice on finding the perfect clock


Clocks are truly a staple in every home. Beyond their obvious practicality and magnificence, they provide a reassuring consistency. However, it can be a confusing item to purchase with all the variations to consider – from historical period, size, origin, finish, material and style!

Howard Walwyn is the founder of the widely respected Howard Walwyn Fine Antique Clocks and clock expert at the Winter Art & Antiques Fair Olympia. He says: “Now is the perfect time to invest in antique clocks; after the financial crisis of 2008 it’s very much a buyer’s market where the prices of most English antique clocks are more reasonable than ever before. Rarity, quality and originality are key determinants of value and investment potential.

My advice would be to visit a respected, vetted fair where everything has been checked before opening. There you will find recognised experts and specialist dealers who have a wide-ranging stock and have spent decades building up their collection of the best timepieces available. Preferably they will be a member of the top two trade associations, BADA (The British Antiques Dealers’ Association) and LAPADA (The Association of Art & Antiques Dealers), as they will be bound by a code of practice for everything he or she sells and offers a mechanical guarantee and a guarantee of authenticity.”

Styles of Clocks

There are lots of different styles of clocks to buy. Firstly, the buyer must decide whether they want a freestanding grandfather clock, a spring-driven table or mantel clock or a handsome clock to hang on the wall. English grandfather or longcase clocks come in very varied styles. Depending on their period they can have brass, silvered or painted dials or faces. They may have month, 8-day or 30-hour duration movements and covered in cases made of walnut, mahogany, oak or chinoiserie lacquer.

Remember the clock you buy needs to fit the space it is going to inhabit. A grand 17th or 18th century weight-driven walnut or marquetry longcase clock works well as a stand-alone piece for a tall ceilinged period house or modern loft space. Alternatively, small early walnut, marquetry or simpler oak longcases are good for period houses and modern apartments with lower ceilings. Period springdriven table or mantel clocks also come in very varied shapes, materials and sizes.

With more and more of us enjoying city living in smaller apartments, it’s easy to make a statement with a clock that can sit on a table or mantel piece. Big, bold striking table clocks in walnut, mahogany or black cases, often with hour or quarter chiming movements, can make an attractive statement. While a smaller mantel or carriage clock that are covered with gilt, brass or wooden veneered cases can make an interesting embellishment of a shallow mantelpiece.

A tavern clock, also known as an Act of Parliament clock, is a long, weight driven wall clock which features a large wooden, painted or lacquered dial that is easily visible from a distance. They make a real impact on a wall in a hallway and I urge you to look out for those with chinoiserie decoration – the European interpretation of Chinese and Eastern Asian traditions which was hugely popular in the 18th century or a classic mahogany veneered example with a big white face made by a fine London maker. But if you have a smaller apartment, don’t let this put you off. A small 12 or 14 inch diameter round dial timepiece can grace a wall in either a modern or period kitchen or hallway. 

My top advice to you is choose a clock that you love, that works well, that makes a statement and that is a fantastic investment. If you need extra help don’t be afraid to contact specialist dealers who you trust who can offer good value for money, expert knowledge and pieces which have been sympathetically restored.”

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