Antique clocks come in many different sizes, styles and designs and can be made of many different materials. Clocks have been produced for centuries, and were made all over the world. It is the diversity of antique clocks, as well as the multitude of clock makers, that can make them challenging to identify. There are many resources available to help identify antique clocks.
Obtain books about antique clock collecting. This is crucial because there are literally thousands of trade names, trade marks and symbols by which clock makers marked their clocks. There are a host of informative and comprehensive books on the subject. According to Clockparts.com, the Clock and Watch Trademark Index by Karl Kochmann is the most comprehensive on the subject. Contact the International Society of Appraisers. This organisation will give you the names of appraisers who specialise in clocks. Join the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors.
Look for any markings (or signings) on the clock's dial or movement. A movement generally includes all the moving parts of a clock, other than the hands. Quite often a clockmaker clearly placed his name on the movement or dial, but in some cases the name that appears there may be the name of a retailer. People who buy clocks in large quantities may also have their own name placed on the dial. If that's the case, look for the clockmaker's name or trademark on the movement. By identifying the manufacture or clockmaker, you can determine when it was made and where.
Read the label if the clock is unsigned. Quite often glued labels can be found on antique clocks. Labels are a great source of information when they are legible Labels can help identify who made the clock along with the site of the clock's origin. They can also help identify when the clock was made. This information is especially valuable because it is not uncommon for a clockmaker to have changed where he manufactured clocks or the company name. By knowing the history of a clock manufacturer, it will tell you a lot about the clock.
Identify what type of antique clock it is. There are wall, mantel and desk clocks, among others. By knowing the type of clock, and comparing it to what a clockmaker manufactured, it will help identify the clock and confirm its authenticity.
Look at other items on the clock for clues as to when it was made, and who manufactured it. These include the type of glass, the material used to make the dial, the type of bell (or chime), and the type of fasteners on the clock. All these items have dates and the names of companies that manufactured them. A book can also show when these items were in use.
Don't expect to be able to identify a clock by placing the maker's name into a search engine and expecting somebody to give you the information for no charge. The movement of a pendulum clock does not include the weights and pendulum.
Keep in mind over the course of time many clocks undergo alterations. This can make identifying a clock more difficult. It can be more difficult to identify a foreign clockmaker because they often only used initials or trademarks. Be aware of forgeries and reproductions.