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Mantel Clocks

The different types of mantel clocks can be defined by three categories of design: Movement, Case Style, and Construction Materials. Mantle clocks have been in use since the mid-18th century and the invention of the spring mechanism. Instead of descending weights, the tension in a wound spring provided the power to run the clock. This allowed clockmakers to produce smaller clocks that could be placed on a raised surface, not the floor or hanging on a wall. In most homes, the focal point of the living room was the fireplace, so the mantelpiece was the obvious choice. These smaller clocks soon became known as mantel clocks as a result.

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History of mantel Clocks

How they began

The mantel clock came into existence in 1650 – 1675 and its origin can be traced to England. It was first made by just placing a pocket watch on a mantelpiece. The mantle clock became a common sight on the mantlepiece. Today, mantel clocks are typically made with wooden or metal cases that are constructed with an archway to accommodate the pendulum. Mantel clocks also come in two different modes – battery powered mantel clocks and plug-in mantel-style clock radios.

Traditionally, mantel clocks were gold or silver in colour and could be very ornate. More modern clocks may be plainer and less ornate but may still be quite elegant.

Centrepiece of the room

In Europe in 17th century, most homes had many hearths; a family would gather by the fireside to stay warm in wintry nights. The fireplace, thus, was the centrepiece as well as a recurring feature of the whole house. The mantel clock was designed to fit into such a mantel.

Today mantel clocks serve two main purposes; they are still used as mantel-pieces and for telling time in the home. Most mantel clocks contain an inner works mechanism that is either driven by weights or springs.

Mantel clocks first became popular in the United States and Europe around 1735. William Harrison, a clockmaker from England, invented the first mantel clock after winding up his grandfather clock and placing it on top of a mantel or mantelpiece. The mantel clock was developed as an alternative to striking grandfather clocks.

Mantel Clocks and your décor

As well as telling the time, clocks add an interesting dynamic to any room. Most mantel clocks have a case made from wood or metal, but there are mantel clocks for every style and taste. If you’re looking for a mantel clock that is perfect for your home, first consider what kind of mantel clock you want.

Time is like a fourth dimension and there are many ways in which it can be represented. Time can be captured in the traditional mantel clocks that tell it with numbers and hands, but you could consider a decorative object if mantel clocks of this type aren’t for you.

There are also mantel clocks which represent time through the use of analogue and digital displays, or mantel clocks which feature beautiful pictures on their faces like still life.

Whatever type of mantelpiece you have, there will be a mantel clock to suit. Look out for different styles & faces, some will have roman numerals and others conventional numbers.

Buying mantel clocks

When choosing mantel clocks, it is always best to buy from a reputable dealer who will offer good service and guarantee that mantel clock for a certain amount of time. A mantle clock makes a wonderful gift, especially if it is something that the recipient has always wanted.

If you want mantel clocks in the UK then the web is the place to go – with all this choice at your fingertips, buying mantel clocks should be easy, but take a look at the quality clocks on this website!

Antique mantel clock designs

Many old mantel clocks were cast from ormolu, a gold-like alloy made from copper, zinc and tin. Others were made from porcelain, marble, brass and wood. Each clockwork was handmade, and they were therefore expensive.

Their price tags would soar even much higher when stylised and artsy decors are sculpted around them. As interior designing gradually evolve, so are antique mantle clocks.

Prevailing taste at that time were centred on classical form. Greek and Roman deities, klismos chairs, acanthus foliage, and Roman numerals were standard.

Construction materials

The oldest material used for making mantel clocks, is wood, this is mainly due to availability and low cost. Many premium woods, like mahogany, have been used and contrasting inlays, carvings and metal fittings are added. Added detail all add to the craftmanship and aesthetic appeal to a clock.

In early French mantel clocks, they used Brass which is a type of metal and it could be polished to a high shine and is easy to work with. Clockmakers to create intricate and highly detailed cases for rich households. In the 20th century, aluminium, stainless steel, polished nickel and other metals gained popularity and more contemporary designs.

The expensive Onyx, marble and slate made mantel clocks have all been popular choices but the scarcity of materials and the difficulty in working with them make them a rarer purchase.

Porcelain are an unusual in modern mantel clocks. These are highly decorative mantel clocks with painted designs and finishes specific to the individual clockmaker.

Plastic mantel clocks can feel flimsy and cheap, even when coated with decorative veneers. From the 1930s to the 1950s, Bakelite (the first synthetic plastic) was used to create solid black modernist mantle clocks. During this period Catalin, with its translucent butterscotch finish was also a popular choice. As early as 1892, Adamantine, a celluloid based veneer was used to replicate onyx and marble finishes.


Antique mantel clocks have graced the homes of monarchs, diplomats, nobility, politicians and elite families. However, you do not have to be rich to own one. Thanks to the advancement in technology over the past decades, mantel clocks are now available for everyone’s budget.