(Above photo - Sheraton Grandfather Clock Mahogany Inlay Resolute )
Longcase clocks, also known as grandfather clocks, stand as majestic timepieces that have graced homes for centuries. Their tall, slender frames, intricate mechanisms, and melodious chimes evoke a sense of timeless elegance and precision. In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the history, components, maintenance, and buying tips for longcase clocks.
(Above photo - French Cloisonne Grandfather Clock )
The longcase clock's history can be traced back to the late 17th century, often credited to renowned clockmaker William Clement around 1670. Initially, they were considered a luxury item, symbolizing status and wealth. With the advent of more accurate movements and refined designs, longcase clocks became popular among the middle class in the 18th century.
Understanding the components of a longcase clock is essential for both enthusiasts and potential buyers:
Case: The tall, freestanding wooden case typically features intricate detailing and a hinged door, often with a glass front to showcase the clock's dial and pendulum.
Dial: Longcase clocks commonly have an arched dial at the top, displaying the time and often featuring a subsidiary seconds dial, date aperture, and phases of the moon.
Movement: The clock's movement, housed within the case, includes the escapement, gear train, and winding mechanisms. The most common movements are either eight-day or 30-hour, indicating how long the clock can run before needing to be wound.
Weights and Pendulum: Longcase clocks are powered by hanging weights that descend within the case, connected to the clock's movement. The pendulum regulates the clock's timekeeping.
Chimes: Many longcase clocks include chimes, such as Westminster or Whittington, adding a melodious element to the hourly strikes.
(Above photo - Walnut Grandmother Clock Chiming Walnut Tempus Fugit )
Preserving the longevity and functionality of a longcase clock requires regular maintenance:
Winding: Wind the clock as needed, either every eight days or 30 hours, depending on the movement type.
Cleaning: Periodically clean the clock's case with a soft cloth, avoiding abrasive cleaners. For internal components, consult a professional clockmaker for thorough cleaning.
Oil and Lubrication: A clockmaker should periodically lubricate the movement with clock oil to ensure smooth operation.
Environment: Keep the clock in a stable environment, avoiding extreme temperature and humidity changes.
(Above photo - French Grandfather Clock Kingwood Inlay )
If you're considering purchasing a longcase clock, here are some tips to guide you:
Authenticity: Seek clocks with genuine, original components, as alterations can impact the clock's value.
Condition: Examine the case, dial, and movement for any signs of damage or wear. A well-maintained clock will likely require less restoration.
Provenance: Research the clock's history and provenance, if available. Knowing its background can add to its appeal and value.
Expert Consultation: If uncertain, consult with a reputable antique clock expert or horologist for advice before making a purchase.
Longcase clocks are not merely timekeepers; they are intricate works of art and engineering that have stood the test of time. Whether you're an enthusiast, collector, or someone looking to invest in a piece of history, understanding the history, anatomy, and care of longcase clocks is essential. With proper maintenance and a discerning eye, these timeless treasures can continue to mark the passage of time for generations to come.
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