Owning a grandfather clock is a great investment. With styles ranging from traditional, transitional to contemporary, it’s a versatile timepiece that can be passed down as a family heirloom! Premier Clocks prepared a guide of things to consider when choosing your grandfather clock or floor clock.
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When looking for a grandfather clock, you need to consider which clock style will fit the best to your home interior design. When choosing a grandfather clock, it is helpful to know that there are three common styles of grandfather clocks: Traditional, Transitional and Modern / Contemporary.
Traditional Grandfather Clock will bring to your home a classic touch. The traditional style grandfather clock is influenced by an antique design. Grandfather clock’s design focuses on decorative detailed touches, like elaborate carvings and rich detailings. The bonnet or split pediment as well as finials are important features of traditional grandfather clocks. Another distinctive feature of a grandfather clock in traditional style is a moon dial.
Contemporary or Modern Grandfather Clock is also often called a Floor Clock or a Longcase Clock. The clocks have a smooth look with neutral elements and neat lines. Not only wooden materials but also metal and glass are used in the contemporary style. The simplicity of details is common for floor clocks as well as various types of a clock top.
Transitional Grandfather Clock is a combination of traditional and contemporary styles. Transitional grandfather clocks are often made from wood with plain lines and sophisticated details. A grandfather clock in transitional design has a streamline frame compared to the traditional grandfather clocks but at the same time, they are not as sleek as the contemporary ones.
The crown of a grandfather clock is the top part. The split pediment, the bonnet, and the flat top are the four types of crown styles.
Split Pediment Grandfather Clock Crown is commonly compared with a swan neck due to its swan-like curvatures. There is a decorative ornament which is often referred to as a finial and rarely as an eagle on top between split pediment crowns.
Bonnet Grandfather Clock Crown has a full arched facade and is commonly used in the traditional design of a grandfather clock. This type of the crown encases the clock face and is occasionally referred to as a hood.
Flat Grandfather Clock Crown has simple details of the clock top. In modern production is often used for grandfather or floor clocks in transitional style since it can fit in both modern and classic decor.
The first grandfather clocks had only one hand which nowadays is called the hour hand. Before the invention of the pendulum, grandfather clocks used a lever escapement mechanism that did not have enough accuracy to add the minute hand.
When the pendulum started to be used to drive the clock mechanism, the increased accuracy made possible the addition of the minute hand to clock faces. This was a significant improvement but another problem has appeared. The largely illiterate population knew how to read a clock face with one hand. By 1700, two-handed grandfather clocks were being sold but at the same time they still had the one handed markings.
The modern grandfather clock manufacturers produce only two-handed grandfather clocks.
The next thing to consider when choosing a grandfather clock is the pendulum. A grandfather clock pendulum had a great influence on shaping the design and style of a grandfather clock.
Christian Huygens came up with a new method to create a pendulum to help clockmakers. His idea was to step aside from powering clocks by springs and weights to a new way where a pendulum would swing every second with the anchor escapement system.
The advantage of the longer pendulum and shallower swing is that less power, in the form of weights driving the clock, was needed, as well as slower beats and less wear on the moving parts. All this makes for better long term accuracy of the clock. Creating a clock with a new mechanism required a long pendulum that had to be put in a long case.
Grandfather clocks with one weight have a strike only on an hour which indicates that this is a 30-hour clock. It needs winding everyday and has only one winding hole because it uses the same weight for timekeeping and for the strike. Due to this, these grandfather clocks are less expensive.
Grandfather clocks with two weights are often called an 8-day clock. This kind of grandfather clock has a seperate weight - one to power the clock, and one to drive the striking mechanism of the chimes. Eight day grandfather clocks require two winding holes to wind the weights to their initial position with the help of a winding ‘key’.
Grandfather clocks with three weights should be wound back every week. Nowadays, most grandfather clocks have three weights with separate purposes. One weight on the right powers the chime melody, one weight in the middle drives the pendulum, and one weight on the left controls the striking mechanism. The bottom of each weight is labeled as to its proper hanging position as you view your clock from the front.
The clock rests on "feet" or a carved base called a plinth, which sits on the floor. Nowadays, grandfather clocks of any style are made with special levers that can be adjusted on uneven surfaces.
There are three movement types: chain-driven, cable-driven, and quartz (battery-operated).
Chain driven grandfather clock. Grandfather clocks with the chain driven movement use chains as a wind mechanism to set the weights in the correct position. The chain-driven grandfather clock has 3 chains, one for each weight with separate purposes. One weight on the right is responsible for the chime melody, one weight in the middle powers the pendulum, and one weight on the left drives the hour striking and counting mechanism.
The weights must be raised every seven days or the clock will stop. This type of grandfather clock movement needs to be wound manually once a week as the weights are dropping almost to the bottom while powering the grandfather clock.
Cable driven grandfather clock. On the cable driven grandfather clock, weights are suspended by cables that are used to return the clock's weights to the top position. Similar to chain driven grandfather clocks, there are 3 weights with different purposes: the weight on the right is to power the chime melody, the weight in the middle drives the pendulum, and the weight on the left is responsible for the clock striking mechanism.
Each week the weights need to be adjusted to the top position or the clock will stop. The grandfather clock with cable driven movement is wound by inserting a crank, also called the key, to raise the weights that are near the bottom by the end of the cycle as they power the clock. To place the weights back, the crank (or the key) is inserted into the dial and wind them to the top position.
Quartz battery operated grandfather clock. The newest way of powering grandfather clocks is quartz or battery-operated movement that was used to build the first quartz clock in 1928. Quartz crystals are used to produce an electronic oscillator to power the pendulum of a grandfather clock and keep accurate time. A fresh battery can operate the clock for over a year and needs to be replaced if the clock begins to lose time, chime weakens, or pendulum stops to swing.
A clock chime is a tune or a set of melodies that plays at intervals upon a set of bells to mark the passage of time. A variety of melodies exist, many associated with a particular location or bell tower that originated or popularized them. The popular melodies chiming out from Grandfather Clocks are produced by hammers striking tubular bells or gong rods. All clocks differ in tone and have their unique voices and even when the same melody is played there may be significant variations.
The common grandfather clock chimes:
Nowadays, grandfather clocks are valued not only for their aesthetics but also for the practicality that was added in the modern days.
Grandfather Clocks Chime Volume Adjustment. Most grandfather clocks have an automatic or manual chime shutoff option giving an opportunity to turn on or turn off the chines and the strike at any time of the day or night. There is also a volume control to adjust the volume to the personal preferences depending on the hearing abilities or on the size of the room. Additionally, if the grandfather clock has dual-chime or triple-chime movement, there is a lever to switch the melodies.
Grandfather Clock Moon Dial. Most grandfather clocks with mechanical movement will have a functioning astrological moon dial. The moon dial slowly moves clockwise following the 29.5 day lunar cycle. All moon dials have an image of the moon that moves showing the lunar date and position of the moon in the sky. The moon dial operates together with the clock movement and needs to be set only once.
Grandfather Clock Materials and Timbers. Grandfather clock cases are crafted from different timbers. The first grandfather clocks were made of Oak as the main construction material to hold the long and heavy pendulum. Olive-wood and Walnut were used to make the most exclusive grandfather clocks while the less expensive pieces were made of Pine.
Nowadays, Oak, Walnut, Mahogany and Cherry are the most popular materials among the manufacturers. Some grandfather clocks have special intricate carvings or burl accents and inlays that are made from veneers. Some grandfather clocks use a combination of a few hardwoods and veneers.
Grandfather Clock Finish Colors. The finish colors of grandfather clocks vary depending on the manufacturer. There is no strict traditional finish for grandfather clocks as it normally followed the trends of the finishes on furniture from the same period.
Access to the movement. Some grandfather clocks feature removable glass panels on the upper sides to allow easy access to the movement.
Grandfather clocks are generally distinguished by their size. The height is the key difference in the debate about what is a grandmother clock and what is a grandfather clock. Grandfather clocks are between 6 and 7.5 feet tall. Grandmother clocks are smaller than grandfather clocks. A typical grandmother clock will be between 5 and 6 feet tall. Even smaller floor clocks coming in at anywhere between 3 and 5 feet tall are called granddaughter clocks.
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