Longcase Clocks

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The longcase or ‘Grandfather’ clock was introduced in the second half of the 17th century and died out in the 19th century. They have always been available in 30 hour and 8 day form, together with various other longer durations. The 30 hour clocks tended to be found more in provincial areas, although it is possible to find a 30 hour London clock.

The potential purchaser of a genuine antique longcase clock will have many choices when it comes to wood types, case styles and also movement/dial choices. The wood type plays a big part in the cost of the clock. A marquetry or walnut veneered longcase will generally cost more than a clock in a Mahogany or Oak case.

Complications to the movement will also add the price. Moonphase or automata longcase’s will generally carry more of a premium than a clock with strike/silent or nothing in the arch of the dial. Earlier clocks will also be more desirable. The maker of a clock (there were thousands of them!) doesn’t really affect the value, unless it is one of the highly prized clockmakers such as Thomas Tompion, George Graham or Joseph Knibb, etc.

The movement of a longcase dating from the 1600’s is not that different to a clock movement from the 19th century. They are weight driven and generally have a seconds beating pendulum, which combination makes them very good timekeepers. They are all made to a high standard and will be reliable for centuries to come. Past clockmakers seemed to understand how to harden brass and steel, and we regularly see clocks 300 years old with very little wear at all

Longcase clock dials were initially made of brass, with a matted centre, a separate silvered chapter ring and cast spandrels in the corners. In the 1770’s the latest style was for a single, thin sheet of brass, that was silvered all over, and often engraved. Also in the 1770’s painted iron dial appeared and became very fashionable. There was a period when the antique clock collector favoured the brass dial to the painted dial, thankfully this is no longer the case and now they are both prized equally.

The earliest longcase clocks featured square dials. The dial size increased from 10” (sometimes 9” on 30 hour longcase’s) through 11”, 12” and so on, generally getting larger as the centuries went by. The arched clock dial became available around 1700 but were not widely popular until around 1720-30. The addition of the arch to the longcase dial gave the clockmaker scope to add a large variety of ‘optional extras’ such as moon phase, strike/silent, automata etc.

The longcase clock cases were produced in a variety of woods, in either solid or veneered form. Solid wood cases could be oak, mahogany, fruitwoods or occasionally walnut. Pine or oak was used as carcase woods that was veneered on to or in the case of pine, painted. Pine was never used as a surface wood, the fashion for stripped pine was a 20th century thing. The earliest clock cases were ebony or ebonised giving a black finish, which contrasted beautifully with the gold and silver of the dial, but they were rather functional.

Later in the 17th century the case makers skill came into its own. The fashion for really beautiful cases made using walnut or marquetry veneers was born.

In the 18th century mahogany was imported into the UK for the first time. When cut as veneers at an angle, the flame effect was beautiful, and quickly became the dominate wood used in clock case construction.

On our site you will find a selection of longcase clocks that we have available. We try to maintain a complete range of brass dial or painted dial clocks, featuring moon phase, rocking ships or strike/silent, in a variety of case styles. Please click on the various drop down categories to narrow your search.

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