WORK Case work designs followed the same fashion as furniture
of the period - understandably, as many were crafted in the
same cabinet makers workshop. Pre 1700 cases were simple in
style, slim with flat or caddy tops constructed of solid oak,
ebonised, or walnut veneered which was later decorated with
marquetry. During the 18th century oak was still used extensively
particularly in country districts, whilst for a while brightly
coloured lacquered chinoiserie work was the vogue for the more
grandiose house. As supplies of walnut diminished in the Georgian
period mahogany increased in popularity with casework becoming
wider, more architectural, decorated and with more ornate mouldings.The
19th century saw the continued use of oak and pine, as well
as mahogany veneer which was often inlaid with other decorative
and exotic woods. The Victorian era saw cases becoming wider,
taller and highly decorated.
CLOCK DIALS Apart from the obvious task of time telling, clock
dials were adorned with other features, more commonly seconds
and calendar indicators. Rolling moons indicated the phases
of the moon with which people could plan their evening excursions
before the advent of street lighting. Similarly, tidal dials
were of use to merchants and sailors and therefore common in
seaports. Other luxury features included strike/silent devices,
automata such as rocking ships, swans, old father time, adam
& eve. All these features add not only interest and decorative
appeal but inevitably value too. Until about 1770 clock dials,
square and arched, were made of engraved brass, initially quite
small 9-10 inches, increasing in size throughout the 18th century
and by the early 19th century an impressive 13" diameter was
not uncommon. The late 18th century saw the introduction of
the painted dial which initially was simply decorated with scrolling
gold spandrels resembling earlier brass dials, progressing into
strawberry, flower and bird corners. By the early Regency period
the fashion was for geometric designs, sea shells and quite
elaborate, finely detailed paintings depicting diverse subjects
such as the four seasons, rural scenes, local land marks and
REGIONAL CHARACTERISTICS Just a few of the many variations which
make the choice of longcase clock so interesting~
Dublin, East Midlands, Lancashire, Staffordshire
Scotland, East Anglia
Whilst the technical intricacies of the evolving mechanics of
the clock movement are of interest to the enthusiast the prime
consideration for the general owner will be that it is original
movement for the dial and case, is in good working condition,
has been overhauled by a professional horologist and is guaranteed.
VALUE In addition to being both useful and attractive the longcase
clock can prove to be a sound investment and when, as is so
often the case, it is passed down through the generations it
becomes a most generous and welcome inheritance. Buying can
be a risky business as clocks are not always what they appear
to the lay purchaser. Without doubt the most important consideration
affecting value is originality. Over the years a great percentage
of clocks have had their various components associated or "married"
- not always to deceive but as a means of keeping them going
or alternatively they have been upgraded or "improved" to make
them more saleable. Originality is indicated in many ways, the
obvious starting point being the makers name and location. Nearly
all clocks were signed, though some very early examples bore
only the makers initials and in Victorian times the dial often
advertised the retailers name. Armed with this information consistencies
in case, dial and movement characteristics can be checked against
the date and region that the clockmaker worked. The safest way
is to buy from an established dealer who has fully researched
the clock and is prepared to guarantee and assure authenticity.
Whilst marriages will have some decorative value, if on a limited
budget and considering future worth, money is far better spent
on a good, genuine 30 hour duration clock than a put together
8 day version. For a genuine, overhauled and guaranteed longcase
clock expect to pay between £2500-£5000 for a 30 hour and from
£5000-£10,000 for an 8 day longcase. clock. Obviously the collector
will be prepared to pay a premium for a special clock that is
particularly rare, unusual or by a prestigious maker.
ORIGINALITY CHECK LIST
Age - is the case, movement, dial, of the right period for the
Regional characteristics - are the components of the correct
Makers name - is it genuine? How old is the dial, is it original
to the movement?
Does the dial fit the hood, has the dial mask or hood door been
Is the movement original, unaltered and not "improved" in any
Has the movement seat board or its support been blocked up or
Does the pendulum rub on the backboard correspond with the bob?
Weight rubs in the front of the case - one for 30 hour, two
for 8 day clocks.
Asking price - if its cheap be suspicious!
Originality - a marriage can cost half the price of an original
Age - expect to pay more for an early example
Features - such as moon rollers, automata & strike/silent devices
Good condition - important as restoration costs can be prohibitive.
Restoration - if minor, sympathetic & professional, will not
detract from the value.
Alterations - such as cut down or improved, to be avoided.
Movements - clocks with 8 day movements are generally more expensive
than those of 30 hour duration