Is Clock Collecting a Disease?

Antique Clock Dial

That's right, clock collecting really could be a disease. Have you ever gone into a clock shop near the noon hour when all the clocks that chime are ready to burst forth and count out their largest number? A person who does not comprehend the full devotion to clocks that clock collecting entails may complain about the racket of all those clocks chiming, bonging, whirring, and bursting into a variety of tunes not to mention the cuckoo clocks making the strange sound of the European cuckoo bird. Oh, but the person afflicted with this disease can discern the subtleties of every clock’s chime and can quite probably recognize the distinct tones characteristic of certain favorite clock makers.

Once the noontime sound is over, the timepieces in the shop appeal to the other senses as well. The sufferer of the clock collecting disease can immediately spot either a) the perfect collectible clock needed for the next “fix” for the addictive phase of the disease; b) any clock made by the favorite clock maker; c) a particular retro clock design or style; or d) the most unique clock in the shop (translate that to most expensive as well). An Old Clock Movement Another symptom of the clock collecting disease is the compulsion to touch the fine woods of vintage and antique clocks ; the walnut and oak of old clock cases hewn possibly by hand from first growth American forests that can never be had again. Of course, there are the modern finishes with their ultra-shine; clock collecting applies to new clocks as well. Both old and new clocks appeal to the sense of smell; can have a residual musty smell from being relegated to attics, basements and garages at some point in their lives while the new clocks smell, well, new.

Another symptom is an attraction to shiny objects. Those ornate polished brass pendulums and clock faces, especially those of the giant grandfather clocks , attract clock collectors like a magnet. The phase of clock collecting disease that attracts the suffered to shiny objects attracts them to even small amounts of brass, like that found in an open escapement. There’s even an obsessive-compulsive component to this illness. Some sufferers are compelled to count the swings of the pendulum or the ticks of the clock to make sure that the clock keeps time no matter what its age.

Advanced cases of clock collecting disease manifest themselves with a fascination for the brass that’s hidden from view, the clock mechanism itself. Advanced collectors become fascinated with interlocking gears and become engrossed in horology. Those with truly entrenched cases of clock collecting disease describe a tendency to disappear for hours at a time, cut off from friends and family in some solitary room, just fingering gears and sniffing the fumes of penetrating oil with the obsessive-compulsive goal of achieving perfect timing. Any sane person knows that perfection is unattainable by human beings. Clock collecting must be a mental aberration.

Most collectors start out buying and keeping any clock they can get their hands on. But as time goes by, all but the most compulsive collectors narrow their search to just a few favorite clockmakers, or clock types. The obvious reason being limited space to display their clocks, or funds to buy them.

If you find yourself a sufferer of this disease, but have a lack of space or funds, you should consider limiting yourself to one type of clock or clockmaker. This way you can eventually become an expert in your particular area of interest.

Some of the more popular types of clocks to consider are listed here:

Anniversary Clocks - Also known as a 400 day clock, or glass dome clock. Many are made in the US, and Germany. They started about 1901 to the present.

Cuckoo Clocks - Most of the early cuckoo's were made in the Black Forest area of Germany. They date back as early as the 1700's and are still made today. There were also some cuckoo clocks made in the US in the late 1800's and early 1900's such as the Lux company, and the Philadelphia based American Cuckoo Clock Company.

Grandfather Clocks - For those with the room, these giant clocks have been made for hundreds of years, and are available in many styles and sizes.

Alarm Clocks - For very little money, you can collect many early model alarm clocks. In recent years, interest has been increasing in these clocks and the prices are starting to reflect this. There are many different types available starting as early as the 1800's up until today.

Mantel Clocks - Almost every clock collector has mantel clocks in their collection. There are hundreds of types made my almost every clockmaker. Mantel clocks are also known as shelf clocks, or table clocks.

Banjo Clocks - This American style clock was first made by Simon Willard. These are very hard to find and command high prices. But, many American clock companies made their own versions of the banjo clock; such as Sessions, Ingraham, Seth Thomas, Gilbert, Waterbury, and others. They all are highly collectible and increasing in value faster than some other types of clocks.

If you prefer to collect clocks from one company instead of one type, you may be interested in one of these:

Ansonia Clock Company - Many styles of Ansonia clocks were made. They are not as easy to find as some other American clocks; as a result they are priced higher but increase in value faster than most. Ansonia made 'dollar' pocket watches also. They are also a little harder to find than most other dollar watches. I think it's because of the popularity of Ansonia with collectors.

E. Ingraham Clocks - These clocks are well made and easier to date than most because of frequent name changes of the company. They are fairly easy to find, and because the company has such a long history, there are also many styles. Ingraham also made 'dollar' pocket watches for many years that can still be bought at a fairly low price.

New Haven Clock Company - These were made for many years and in many styles so are a good company to collect. Purchase prices are moderate and they're fairly easy to find. There are also 'dollar' pocket watches made by New Haven for the watch collector.

Westclox - The Big Ben alarm clock is collected by many. You can still find good deals at flee markets and yard sales for these. Prices are increasing quickly as interest in these clocks grow. You can also collect their 'dollar' pocket watches but don't expect a fast increase in value. Millions of these were made.

The Waterbury Clock Company - Another favorite for many collectors. Waterbury was once the largest clock company in the United States. After making clocks and watches for Sears Roebuck, and The Ingersoll Bros., The company eventually became The maker of the famous Timex brand watch.

The Howard Miller Clock Company - This company is a maker of high-end clocks and grandfather clocks. Although not antiques since the company started in the 1920's, they are still very collectible for their fine craftsmanship. Howard Miller is still in business in America today.

Chelsea Clock Company - If you are one of the many people collecting nautical, or ships bell clocks, the clocks made by this company are one of the most desired. You can find anything from antiques made for the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, or even the now defunct Lighthouse Service up to brand new ships bell clocks that are still made today.

The Seth Thomas Clock Company - The fine clocks made by this company are one of the most collectible clocks of any American clock made. Their prices seem to rise steadily and they are somewhat easy to find. However, expect to pay more for Seth Thomas clocks, especially their tall clocks, regulators, and calendar clocks.

The Sessions Clock Company / E. N. Welch Mfg. Co. - Starting business as the E. N. Welch Manufacturing Company and ending as The Sessions Clock Company gives the collector over 130 years and many stylse of clocks to choose from. Some of their most collectible clocks are regulators, schoolhouse, kitchen, alarm, and banjo clocks.

The Gilbert Clock Company - Another good choice for fine examples of American clocks. The Gilbert Clock Company was in business for over 130 years and made numerous types and styles of clocks to choose from.

Need more information?


EBay is an excellent way to build your clock collection. Pay attention to sellers feedback, carefully check out the discription and photos, and ask questions if something is not clear. By following these simple rules, you will greatly increase your chances for finding great deals. New to eBay? It's easy to register and only takes a few minutes.

Check out the live EBay listings below for examples of antique clocks you can buy right now. If you are looking for something specific, simply type it in the EBay search box in the top right corner of the EBay block. Good Luck!

Do you have a favorite clock you would like to show off? Or, maybe you have a question about a clock you own. If so, check out our Clock Forum.

Also, if you need professional, honest clock repair service, our shop in Central Florida can help. Check us out here.

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