How to identify grandfather clock styles

Written by nadine hartley
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How to identify grandfather clock styles
Grandfather clock (grandfather clock image by MAXFX from

Grandfather clocks are categorised by different style criterion. Each aspect of the clock, from the material and cut, to the maker and winding has its own style category. Studying the clock's details will allow it to be separated into one or more categories.

Skill level:

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  1. 1

    Notice the shapes the majority of the carvings on the body. The body of the grandfather clock is large, but generally has the same carving shapes throughout. If it has curved cuts, the style is called Comtoise, Morbier or Morez. These style titles refer to the region in which the clock is generally found, often Spain or Germany.

    How to identify grandfather clock styles
    Notice the many curved carvings (grandfather clock image by Paul Moore from
  2. 2

    Look at the shape of the top of the clock. The shape of the top of the clock is divided into four types: split pediment, flat top, round top or bonnet topped. Split-pediment and flat-top styles refer to a flat-squared top that is found in the traditional grandfather clocks. Round top grandfather clocks use circular shapes in the top carvings. The entire top may be a circle, or it may have circles or half-circle shapes carved within. The bonnet style grandfather clock top is usually symmetrical and includes an intricate wood carving in the centre of the top.

    How to identify grandfather clock styles
    Round top grandfather clock (grandfather clock image by Michael Shake from
  3. 3

    Identify the type of material from which the clock is made. The type of material used is a style category often used to determine the year and region of the clock. Traditional and old grandfather clocks are usually made of wood, including oak and mahogany. Modern or contemporary grandfather clocks are made from a wide variety of materials including metal.

  4. 4

    Look for the manufacturer name. The manufacturer or designer name is usually found on the paper dial in the clock. Sometimes it is in small print around the numbers, or near the centre of the dial. Other times, it may be found on a piece of paper glued to the back of the inside of the body, and can be seen by looking through or opening the glass. At times, the tag with the manufacturer or designer name may be harder to find and may be further inside the body. Some manufacturers or designers only used a symbol rather than their full name. Once the symbol is found, it may be hard to find the source of the symbol if the clock is old.

    How to identify grandfather clock styles
    (dial of analogue clock image by Indigo Fish from
  5. 5

    Check for a key or chain at the winding. Grandfather clocks either use a key or a chain to wind the clock. There are two style categories depending on the winding. The style called a 30-hour grandfather clock uses a chain to wind the clock and is named because once wound, the clock will work for 30 hours. The eight-day clock uses key winding and will work for eight days.

Tips and warnings

  • If you are shopping for an antique grandfather clock, purchase it from a reputable dealer.
  • When considering purchase of a grandfather clock of suspected value, have it appraised by an independent, third-party appraiser.

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