The French spearheaded the development of the mantel clocks back in the 1750’s; they stood close to the scale of carriage clocks but without the handles.
During the 1st quarter of the 19th century, they produced and popularized what was called Mantel clock sets. These are highly ornamental pieces that consist of 2 separate ornaments that sit next to the central mantel clock.
Clock collectors and non-collectors alike have found great favor and satisfaction in acquiring and buying mantel clocks not only for their time keeping abilities but for the abundance in design as well.
The wide selection of mantel clocks classes their own diverse quality and artistry.
Mantel clock movement
Classifying the type of a mantel clock can be generally done thru identifying its movement.
Key wound mantel clocks
– real antique clocks such as an old mantle clock is typically driven by a key wound mechanism. It needs to be wound once a week or maybe several times a week. Those needs wounding every week are in general known as 8-day clocks.
Mantel clocks with key wound movements are pretty much easy to recognize as they mostly have 3 holes in the dial. They are surprisingly accurate and extremely durable.
Battery operated mantel clocks (quartz mantel clock)
– the more modern approach to creating mechanical timepieces has also been incorporated to shelf clocks. Thus the majority of their modern counterparts are driven by batteries.
Mantel clock materials
At the beginning of the 19th century, mantel clocks and some other types of antique clocks were still made from iron. As such their designs were limited to the most basic shapes and forms.
As the years progressed, mantel clock makers began to use different materials such as metals, precious metals, glass, porcelain, ceramic, brass, wood, and many others.
Wooden mantel clocks were among the most favored because they are fit for heirloom status. They are usually finished and constructed in quality wood such as walnut, mahogany, cherry, and in another hardwood finish presenting an earth tone look that can perfectly match mantles and room decors.
Wood mantle clocks mostly have gentle curves in their framework and sometimes have a box casing with a slide of glass to protect the internal clock workings.
Due to the variety of materials available to make mantel clocks, their styles and designs soon improved and evolved, taking in numerous forms that ranged from highly ornate to very simple, from conventional down to the most modern.
Classic mantel clock designs
The broad selection of collectible mantel clocks includes those in prolific shapes and forms while some are basically square boxes with a simple time piece in the middle.
Classic mantel clocks – can be mostly found on the designs of antique mantel clocks. It presents Roman and Greek deities, klismos chairs, acanthus foliage, and other classical forms.
Scenic mantel clocks
These type of shelf clocks depicts scenes that suggests historical events or just downright symbolic.
Chiming mantel clocks
This added feature in a mantle clock allows the timepiece to produce a chiming melody that can range from simple sounds of bells to more playful tunes once every hour.
This novelty mantel clock features a nude statue drape in delicate fabric
Pertains to all the other designs that do not fall to any particular type. They are utmost creative, greatly stylized and imaginative in every way.
Simple mantel clock designs
These shelf clocks are expressive timepieces that showcase subjects of genuine artistic and passionate clock making.
• Tambour mantel clock
– is the basic mantel clock design. This can be distinguished through its round clock face that is contained in a drum and supported by a wide base.
• Rounded top, arched top, & beehive mantel clocks
– differs only on the shape of their heads or tops. One being rounded, arched and shaped to imitate a beehive so it’s named. All of which have rectangle shaped bottoms.
Arched mantle clocks looks largely like tambour clocks. The drum of its clock face drops straight to its base which is narrower than the tambour mantel clock.
• Steeple type mantel clocks
– this design is based on the steeples of a church, hence it has a triangular shaped face with column structures on its sides.
19th century mantel clock designs
• Rococo mantel clocks
– are total works of art. They were inspired by the 18th century French style art and interior design.
• Baroque mantel clock
– this particular style is prevalent in the late 16th until the early 18th century. Baroque’s popularity was encouraged by the Roman Catholic Church which was then integrated in the designs of vintage mantel clocks.
• Neoclassical mantel clock
– its design is influenced by neoclassicism, the term given to mid 18th century until the end of 19th century that draws upon the distinct movements in the decorative and visual arts and architecture in Western classical culture.
• Faberge egg mantel clock
– inspired by the design of the Fabergé egg, these are jeweled eggs made by the house of Fabergé from 1885 through 1917.
Types of antique mantel clocks
Mantel clock is rather a collective term that pertains to many other shelf and table top clocks. As such, there are famous vintage clocks that falls under its heading.
Bracketed mantel clocks
– made in the 17th and 18th century, around the same time as longcase clocks, a bracket clock is an antique style of a portable table clock.
Antique bracket clocks were also known as spring clocks, this is because its mechanism relies in a coiled spring for power instead of a long weighted pendulum.
Carriage mantel clocks
– developed in Austria early in the 19th century. Carriage clocks are small spring driven clocks designed primarily for traveling and of course as fitting table top clocks because of their size and highly ornate façade.
The come in rectangular shapes with a carrying handle set commonly with glass or rarely with enamel and porcelain panels. Their cases are usually either plain or gilt-brass.
Marine mantel clocks
– precise timekeepers used to determine longitude by means of celestial navigation. Nautical clocks are used for long sea voyages primarily for navigational purposes that doesn’t require the use of electronic or communication aids.
Anniversary mantel clocks
– popular for its one of a kind mechanism that needs to be wound only once in a year or once in 400-days. Anniversary clocks carries old world styles that are fitting gift items to be proudly displayed on mantels.
Atmos mantel clocks
– inspired by the concept of 400-day clocks, the atmos clock is another unique time teller that is driven by the change in the temperature and atmospheric pressure.
Skeleton mantel clocks
– are unique timepieces that showcase their mechanism which is significantly modified to display the inner workings and the clock movement itself.