The first mantel clocks date from around 1750-1760.
They were first made in France and English mantel clocks followed about ten years later.
Mantel clocks are similar to bracket clocks but smaller and with less depth.
The first French mantel clocks were developed from French Regency bracket clocks, developed when similar clocks were produced in Rococo style but without a mounting bracket. It was commonplace to set these clocks on a mantelpiece, which is where the name comes from.
It’s relatively easy to distinguish English mantel clocks from French ones as the English examples usely have superb mechanisms and the quality of the movement will shine through.
Antique Mantle Clock Styles, Makers & Manufacture
Some of the finest manufacturers of mantle clocks were Seth Thomas, Ansonia, Sessions, and Waterbury, and each of these brands is still treasured on the antique clock market. All are striking clocks that will count the hour and strike once on the half-hour.
By design most mantle / mantel clocks have a rather thick appearance including the oldest English mantle clocks crafted centuries ago.
Due to the high level of craftsmanship needed to create these masterpieces, they were really out of reach of the common person for generations.
It wasn’t until the turn of the 19th century that the antique mantel clock became affordable and began to show up in more homes.
As price decreased and popularity increased there were clocks featuring classic Greco-Roman columns, lions with rings through their mouths for carrying handles, and exotic scrolled metal feet in the front for display.
The alternative economical designs were made with less embellishment yet were capable of keeping time as well as their deluxe counterparts.
It became customary around 1835 to accompany antique mantel clocks with a pair of matching ornaments or garnitures. These remained popular throughout the nineteenth century.
Antique mantle clocks should have spring driven movements.
Therefore, the most obvious thing to look for when evaluating a mantle clock is the integrity of each mainspring.
Simply going through winding motions with a winding key will be telling.
Access to the clock movement is usually by a back door or panel, and it is there that most inspections will take place.
To start, look for the pendulum and the condition of the suspension rod and spring.
Examine the movement’s back plate for bushing wear. Replacement bushings are conspicuous, and if this work has been performed, it is likely that an antique mantel clock will still houses its original movement.