Mantel clocks are small, portable clocks designed for display on a shelf or a mantel above a fireplace. The French made the first versions of mantel clocks in the 16th century but British clock makers soon began to make their own designs. Mantel clocks began as larger table clocks that were more for decoration than keeping time. With advancements like the pendulum and anchor escapement, smaller, portable clocks could be made and other countries began producing mantel clocks. American clock makers began producing them in the 18th century. There are various design features to help identify mantel clocks.
Inspect the bottom and back of the clock box for any markings for clues as to where the clock was made or who made it. Look for a maker's signature, the date it was produced, the name of a manufacturing company, a city or a serial number. Information may be in a foreign language that could be used to identify your mantel clock.
Look for an inscription on the clock hardware, hands or face of the clock. Many clock makers would purchase the clock mechanisms separately and design the box themselves.
Type the words you find into a search engine to see what you can find out about the maker or manufacturer.
Examine the type of material that was used to construct the clock; this may be an indication of the country of origin or the time it was made. Early French clocks were made from metal, ivory, porcelain or ormolu bronze with seven-percent gold, while British and American clocks were traditionally made of wood.
Consider the degree of detail of the clock design. French clocks are often ornately detailed. A simple wooden design might be indicative of American clock, while a lantern-style clock may indicate an 18th century English origin.
Look at the distinguishing design features of the clock. A French clock might have pedestal feet or roman columns. British clocks often have handles and metal brackets. A slick coat of black, glossy enamel paint can be indicative of a 19th-century American mantel clock.
Refer to a guidebook of antique clocks, such as "The Standard Antique Clock Value Guide" by Alex Wescot. You may be able to match your clock with an image in the antiques book or find further information about the maker.
Look for your clock on a collector's website like "Collectors Weekly" or "Valuable Clocks" (see Resources). If you can't find your clock among the pictures, post a picture to the forum to get help from other readers to identify the clock.
Modern clocks should be easiest to identify because they almost always have a date, manufacturer's stamp and serial number. If you still have trouble identifying your clock, take it to an antiques expert for an appraisal.