Pendulum Wall Clocks – Key Wound or Quartz?


What’s the difference between a mechanical* pendulum wall clock and a quartz pendulum wall clock, and what should you consider before making a choice? The answer depends on what you’re looking for in a clock, and what you want it to do for you. Here are some things to think about. (*mechanical wall clocks are wound by key or by chain).

How Do Prices Compare?

KW-2-cash-register-www.financialramblings.comThe more parts and labor it takes to make a product, the more expensive that product will be. That’s why mechanical clocks, with so many moving parts and the extra labor needed to assemble them, cost more than quartz clocks. Prices range from about thirty five to fifty percent more for a mechanical clock, compared to the same clock with a quartz movement.


Maintenance or No Maintenance

KW-2-river-city-wall-pendulum-clock-3416C If you’d rather take the “no fuss” approach to owning a clock, then a maintenance free quartz model might be your best choice. (Photo far left: River City quartz wall clock). Maintaining a quartz clock costs no more than the price of changing batteries every 1-3 years. Duracell brand last the longest. But like any plastic electronic devices, KW-2-rombach-pendulum-clock-7273the movement can’t be rebuilt or repaired once it fails. However, you can replace it for about $70 and expect your clock to keep ticking for another 15 to 30 years, depending on the brand and type. That’s a much smaller cost than what you’ll pay for a single professional oiling for a mechanical clock. (Photo left: Rombach and Haas mechanical, chain-wind wall clock).

Mechanical key wound clocks on the other hand, need to have regular cleaning and oiling. If you enjoy servicing your own clock, you can do some of the maintenance yourself with certain types of clock. Check out the details on this in our article: How To Spot Clean And Oil Your Clock.


Fun of Winding quartz clock, of course, never needs winding. Batteries are it’s power source and the clock will keep ticking for the life span of the batteries. But a mechanical clock gives you a special kind of satisfaction; when winding it, you can feel the clicking as you turn the key, or as with some weight driven clocks, like cuckoo clocks, as you pull the chain*. When you wind a mechanical clock you’re somehow “connecting” with the workings inside of that clock, even though you’re on the outside of it. Every 8 days is when most mechanical wall clocks need winding; some models require winding every day. This is a pastime most clock owners look forward to . (*Note: chains on quartz wall clocks are not for winding, they are for decorative purposes only).


The Tick Tock Sound: More or Less? powered clocks are so quiet that you’ll hardly notice the tick tock sound, unless you’re very close to the clock. With a mechanical clock, the ticking sound will be more noticeable and many clock owners find the sound relaxing and soothing, although some find it distracting, or even annoying. If the loudness or softness of the ticking matters to you, one way or the other, it’s something to keep in mind before choosing a clock.

If you have your heart set on buying a mechanical clock, but you’re sensitive to the ticking sound, there may be a solution. The location of the clock in your home can make all the difference. The further away you are from a clock, the softer the ticking will be. So if you spend a lot of time in a particular area of your home, it’s better to hang the clock in a more suitable location such as a room in which you don’t spend much time.

Volume Control, Chime Selection and Shut OffKW-2-christophe-cuckoo-clock-8366

Most quartz pendulum wall clocks offer control options for the volume, silence mode and chime selection; some of them feature quarter hour chimes, referred to as “4/4”. KW-2-Hermle_Buena-Vista-70737-N92214The music is generated from digital recordings played through a speaker. Key wound clocks produce their sounds through mechanical means such as music boxes, bellows, whistles and hammers that strike gongs or bells. Some clock lovers prefer the authentic, richer tone of the live sound rather than the digital. The photo on the left shows a Christophe mechanical cuckoo clock with a hand made Swiss music box inside. The photo on the right shows a dual chime Hermle quartz wall clock with volume control. (Note: its swinging pendulum can be seen through the glass panel at the bottom of the clock).



If one of your top priorities in a timepiece is accuracy, your best choice might be a quartz clock, since these can be accurate to within fractions of a second per month. KW-2-bullseye-effectivesoftwaredesign.comMechanical clocks keep excellent time with minor periodic adjustments. The pendulum on mechanical clocks clocks is what regulates their accuracy. By sliding the pendulum disc up or down, or by turning a threaded adjuster below the disc, you can make your clock go faster or slower. For details see “My clock is running fast or slow” on our FAQ page. The pendulum of a quartz clock is there only to add beauty, charm and movement but it serves no functional purpose. What keeps it swinging is a pulsing magnetic field powered by the batteries.

Which Is A Better Investment?

Mechanical clocks are a better long-term value and are more likely to become collector’s items than quartz clocks. Why? One reason is that centuries of clock making history and development are alive KW-2-invest-www.theboardgamefamily.comand well inside each clock. These are embodied in the workings of its gears, escapement and all of its intricate mechanics and craftsmanship. History, detail, and human labor are important factors that add to the value and appeal of not just collectibles, but to heirlooms as well. So if you’re looking for a clock that you can pass on to your grandchildren, think mechanical.


So, there you have it. The details above should make it easier to choose the best clock for you–whether that’s a key wound or quartz.

Check our selection of pendulum wall clocks.


Photo # 1 – Antique cash register –

Photo # 2 (left) – River City pendulum wall clock #3416C

Photo # 3 (right) – Rombach and Haas pendulum wall clock #7273

Photo # 4 – Maintenance man –

Photo # 5 – Clock and clock key –

Photo # 6 – Ear from Michelangelo’s David –

Photo # 7 (left) – Christophe Gothic design cuckoo clock

Photo #8  (right) – Hermle Buena Vista quartz pendulum wall clock

Photo # 9 – Dartboard –

Photo # 10 – Hourglass and money –

It’s Just The Tick Tock Of A Clock


It’s the simple ticking of a clock, yet more than 184,000 people have viewed this You Tube video. Here are a handful of their comments:

“My daughter uses this to keep her rhythm during violin practice.”
“This sound puts me to sleep. I love it.”
“Someone should play this on a plane.”
“Its like visiting my grandma’s house.”
“This helped to get my 5 week old pug pup get to sleep!”
“Helps with dance beat thanks xx”
“where is part 2? lol”


Have you got a comment? We’d love to hear from you.

Outer space view of the earth, moon and sun

Into The Cosmos: Hermle’s Astrolabium and Tellurium Clocks


It’s a rare clock that visibly demonstrates how time is measured or shows the connection between the earth’s rotation and the time on the clock face. The Astrolabium and Tellurium mantel clocks made by Hermle do exactly that, and do it in a stunning way.

Hermle-2-Tellurium-double-image-22805_16_74Under the crystal glass domes are three miniature spheres: the sun, the moon and the earth. Each one is a model of its corresponding celestial body. Of the three bodies, only the earth defines time. The earth is the “fountainhead” of the clock and that’s because one full rotation on its axis represents one full day, and each rotation is measured into hours, minutes and seconds. So, in a spectacular way, the rotating hands of any mechanical clock, not just the astronomical type, bring the rotating earth right into your home. Think about the wonder of that! The nice thing  about an Astrolabium and Tellurium clock is that the inside of the dome, in a way, becomes your personal planetarium. (Photos above: Tellurium I models in cherry and piano black).

Hermle-2--Tellurium-II-22823_740352 (2)How does any clock divide the day into hours, minutes and seconds and so tell us the time? It happens through an ingenious use of gears that divide the motion of the clock hands into 24 hours, 720 minutes and 86,400 seconds every day; all done in perfect unison with the earth’s daily rotation. (Photo on right: Tellurium II model)


But with these astronomical clocks you get more than just an answer to the question “what time is it?”

If at any time, day or night, you want to see where you are on the miniature earth, it will show you. You can watch your hometown location Hermle-2 - Earth-www.smscs.commove along as the little earth rotates on its axis. Let’s say it’s 5:30 five thirty in the morning and the sun is just rising, Hermle-2-moon-www.planetsforkids.orgyou’ll see your miniature neighborhood just starting to come around the bend as it’s approaching a view of the sun; at noon, dusk, midnight, or any time of day, you’ll see just where your town is in on the rotating globe. And that’s not all. Do you like to follow the lunar phases? Well, you can. These clocks reproduce all the moon’s phases in its 29.5 day cycle as it rotates on its axis and revolves around the earth.



Hermle-2-Astrolabium-22836_072987The Astrolabium and Tellurium clocks have a way of stirring your imagination, and making you think. So many of us have an innate fascination with time and space. Earth’s movement is not an isolated dance in outer space, but written into the choreography of our solar system and into the fabric of our every day living. So when we check for the time of day on the dial of the astronomical clocks and can’t help but notice the sun, moon and earth below the crystal dome, we might be reminded about the wonders of the heavens. We might just get Hermle-2-geektyrant.coma sense that we’re not only a citizen of our country, but of planet earth as well, and the cosmic neighborhood beyond it. How’s that for citizenship? (Photo above: Astrolabium).


Now, we must come back to earth for a bit, to the details, the craftsmanship, the design of these clocks. What’s so striking about them is how beauty and science so tastefully come together in one timepiece. There’s so much to capture your attention.  And nothing is hidden from view; from a 360 degrees view around the clock, you can take a look right into the workings of the intricate gear train system. You can also follow the miniature earth as it rotates on its axis and makes its annual orbit around the sun.

If you enjoy the artistry of  scroll work and etching, the Astrolabium’s face has a laser cut center pattern, and its brass center disc has inscribed all twelve zodiac signs. This clock is smaller in size than the Tellurium models, since its movement is quartz powered. See Astrolabium details here.



The Tellurium comes in three different models with a different finishes and casings. It also has etched brass center discs. Its larger size allows for a key wound 4/4 Westminster movement with four brass bells. Other features are an 11 jewel escapement, rosettes and a second hand. The Tellurium III (photo on right) has opening doors, automatic night shut off and pearl decor. See more details here.

Now, back into the cosmos…



Top  Photo – Outer space view of the earth, moon and sun

Photo # 1 – Hermle Tellurium I Mantel Clocks

Photo # 2 – Hermle Tellurium II Mantel Clock

Photo # 3 – View of the earth from outer space

Photo # 4 – Phases of the moon

Photo # 5 – Hermle Astrolabium Mantel Clock

Photo # 6 – Man views the cosmos

Photo # 7 – Hermle Tellurium III Mantel Clock

The Vienna Clock Museum


Take a tour through sheer beauty and ingenuity at the Vienna Clock Museum in Austria. Every clock, old as it is, on exhibit in the museum, is still ticking away, even the one dated as far back as the fifteenth century. Now that is amazing! Watching the video (it’s 8 minutes) was not only a walk back in time, but also an aesthetic experience because of the clocks’ intricate details and the range and originality of these artisan’s imaginations.

I was particularly impressed with the eighteenth century astronomical art clock with thirty dials, lunar eclipses and a calender that calculates to the year 9999. There’s also a very close view of the seventeenth century tower clock mechanism that was once in the St. Stephen’s Cathedral. How would you like a hanging bed clock that can be read from above and below? It’s there too and a lot more. You’ll see a large variety of timepieces that I think could be called masterpieces.



The Grand Central Terminal Clock–Not the Usual Act


What if, one day, you decided to become a Hollywood star? Where would you begin? A good start would be to take acting lessons, but let’s say you’ve already amused your family for some years in countless living room theater plays and acted in small parts in your local town, in summer stock, and then off-Broadway. Now, you’re on a plane to Hollywood and searching for an agent. If you work hard, it might not be long before you catch your first part in a film. You’ve made it, you’re a Hollywood star.

But a person isn’t the only one who can become a star–sometimes it’s a clock. Let’s take a look at how it happened for the Grand Central Terminal Clock, the magnificent structure adorning the top of Grand Central Terminal’s information booth at the main concourse area. Did the clock take clock lessons or practice how to tick, or hire an agent? Did it have to sing, dance and ride a horse? Did it need a photo-op and portfolio?

Nope. None of that. Let’s just say all it had to do is just ‘be’. Standing tall, its four faces looking out above the concourse, right in the heart of New York City’s biggest train terminal, Grand-2-chicago-architecture-jyoti.blogspot.commade it the perfect place for friends and lovers to meet. And that’s  a recipe for the movies. So, what did the clock have to do? it had to do nothing; it was discovered. And in 1947, when over sixty-five million people, forty percent of the U.S. population, traveled the rails via the Grand Central Terminal, the clock made its film debut in the “Grand Central Murder.” Its screen appearance was a success, and from there, other film producers and directors cast the clock in their movies. It appeared in The Godfather, Men in Black and Superman, Midnight Run, the Cotton Club, The Fisher King and North by Northwest, starring Cary Grant, and many more.

In North by Northwest, the clock was filmed for the first time in Paramount Picture’s Vista-Vision Technicolor. Dan Brucker, the terminal’s official Tour Guide, told us that, “The color, and purity, and richness and detail were so fine, so crisp and exact, that the clock almost pops out at you, like 3-D.” It was probably the clock’s most memorable performance yet.

Grand-2-Smithsonian-Now, you know how one thing leads to another? Well, its appearance in these films increased its charm as a meeting place. “Meet me under the clock.” That declaration was not only a famous phrase in films, but a common phrase among New Yorkers and any of its visitors. At least four generations of New Yorkers have known where to go when they want to “meet under the clock”. Soldiers returning from war re-unite with their loved ones, friends get together to socialize, a lover proposes, a photographer uses it as a backdrop and as an icon on postcards.

Photo: Grand Central Station's 100th Anniversary postage stampAnd as if film wasn’t enough, the ambitious clock has recently branched out into the US Mail. Just last year (2013), a new Express Mail Stamp to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Grand Central Terminal was published, and none other than yours truly found a spot right in the middle of the stamp. It took its place among the other stamps of the Hollywood stars like Humphrey Bogart, Humphrey2-Bogart-Stamp-John Wayne, Bette Davis, Jimmy Stuart and Katharine Hepburn. Grand-John-Wayne-StampAnd, as part of the centennial Grand-2-Katharine-Hepburn-stampanniversary, a stylized design of the century old clock became the official logo for the Grand Central Terminal.





If you’ve never been to this great terminal, what some call the “city within the city,” and decide to go to see the clock, it’s not likely to give you an autograph, but I’m sure it will gladly pose for a photo.



Top – Closeup of Grand Central Terminal Clock –

Photo #1 – Grand Central Terminal Clock

Photo # 2 – Meet Me Under The Clock at Grand Central Terminal –

Photo # 3 – Grand Central Station’s 100th Anniversary postage stamp

Photo # 4 – Humphrey Bogart postage stamp

Photo # 5 – John Wayne postage stamp

Photo # 6 – Katherine Hepburn postage stamp

Photo # 7 – Grand Central Terminal logo-

The Bily Clocks Museum, Spillville, IA.

Bily Clocks Museum and Farmer Clock Makers


Bily-Brothers-sepia-2-posingWithout nails or screws or training, and with homemade glue, the most unexpected and marvelous thing happened. Frank and Joseph Bily, a pair of bachelor brothers, carved and crafted some of the most beautiful, unique, intricate timepieces ever designed by untrained hands. For almost forty five years, from 1913 to 1957, when they weren’t busy running their family farm in northern Iowa, they carved and carved.

What you’re going to hear next, though, is what makes their story, not just unusual, but also stirring, heartening and thought provoking. They never sold the clocks, bily-2-constance-not even one, not even when in 1928 Henry Ford, the automaker who had an affinity for clocks and music boxes, upon hearing about their eight foot, five hundred pound American Pioneer History Clock, had offered them an astounding million dollars! Instead, they wanted to keep the collection in tact and stored in their barn.

Whoever wants to see them can come to Spillville, the brothers had said. Why did they say this? Well, if you go to Spillville, Iowa today to the Bily Clocks Museum, you’ll hear the director of the museum answer that question; Carol Riehle tells the tourists that the Bily brothers made the clocks for their sister and brother. It was the finest charity at work. Their older brother was mentally and physically impaired and couldn’t speak, and whenever he heard the sound of clocks he was beside himself with joy. If it made him happy, then the brothers were happy too. In the beginning, Frank and Joseph had never set out to make clocks, only to carve, but their brother’s happiness convinced them to take their carvings and put the clocks inside them. Their Bily-2-Indians-iowa-public-televisionyounger sister Anna stayed at home with the older brother always, even when the family went to church. The clocks were to be her inheritance so that when Frank and Joseph died she would have an income and would be able to continue caring for herself and their brother, if he outlived them.

You may be thinking that her income was to come from the sale of the clocks, but no. When the brothers said people could come to Spillville to see their clocks, people did, thousands of them, and the family gave tours and charged an admission fee of ten cents per person. Anna would hold out her apron and the coins were dropped in. She stored the money in tobacco tins and that money was to be her inheritance. But, Anna died suddenly from pneumonia. And their older brother had died before her. Bily-clock-2BW-image.httppostcardy.blogspot.com_Frank and Joseph were so devastated at Anna’s passing that they no longer wanted to go on with the clocks. They would burn them. They lit a fire. First, they put in some statues and wood scraps, but a neighbor, who had seen the blaze, talked them out of it. Purchase a building in town, he suggested and move the clocks there. That they did in 1947 and bequeathed the entire collection to the town with the condition that after their death the entire collection stay housed together and never be sold.

Their generosity continued–after the brothers sold their house and moved to town, the new owners of the house found the tobacco tins in the attic filled with the money that had been collected from the admission fees. Frank and Joseph let the new owners keep the money, since Anna had passed away and there was no longer a need of it.

If you go to the Museum today, you’ll hear these and more wonderful stories including about how the family was inspired by Elizabeth Fry, a wealthy English Quaker who, in the 1800’s, visited prisons and used her wealth to feed and cloth needy women and children. She had no interest in accumulating money for the sake of it. Bily-high-res2-Detail-of-the-History-of-Travel-ClockThe brothers felt the same way and were content with the income from their farm and the extra earnings from odd carpentry jobs and clearing snow off county roads. As a tribute to Elizabeth Fry, they carved a clock in her honor.

Join thousands of visitors each year to see the collection that captures a wide range of moments in history, from the Apostles, to Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight, to pioneers and Native American Indians. Many of their clocks have meticulous carvings with fully animated wooden figures, chimes and music boxes. Be prepared to look up as  some reach over nine feet tall.

Bily-2-violin-shaped-clockAlso, in the museum on the upper floor is a dedication to Antonin Dvorak, the famous Czech composer who lived there with his family composing his work during the summer of 1893.

The museum is open daily May through October, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. and Sundays 12:00-4:00. In April-November, Saturdays only from 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. From January through March, the museum is closed. You can find out more about the museum by calling them at (563) 562-3569. Their website is

“When visitors come here,” Carol said, “almost everyone is astonished when they see the clocks. And when they hear the story about the the fire, people gasp. Some say they weren’t really expecting much, but when they see the clocks and hear the stories, they’re captivated.”

The legacy of the Bily family is a reminder of what is important in life, but sometimes forgotten. Theirs is an enduring testimony to kindness and to honoring what is irreplaceable and beyond value.

In 1913 when two brothers quietly took their mother’s treadle sewing machine and modified it to make a scroll saw, for which, by the way, they were later forgiven, something happened in the world– love and charity entered it more fully. And the fruit carries on.

These excellent videos have detailed close ups of some of the Bily clocks and plenty of interesting commentary.


NOTE: The segment on the clocks begins after 1 minute into the video.

Have you ever visited the Bily Clocks Museum? Let us know!



TOP – The Bily Clocks Museum, Spillville, IA.

Photo #1 – The Bily Brothers –

Photo #2 – American Pioneer History Clock –

Photo #3 – Iowa Public Television

Photo #4 –

Photo #5 – History of Travel Clock –

Photo # 6 – Violin clock honoring composer Antonin Dvorak