Mantel-sharpend-2X-21130_I9_N9

Mantel Clock Buyer’s Guide

SHARE:

When you start shopping for a new mantel clock, you’ll quickly find that there are many styles, models and price ranges from which to choose. How do you sort through so many achoices? This guide will help you do just that. We’ll be covering five major points: terminology, construction materials, features, pricing, manufacturer’s warranty and investment. (Note: The scope of this article will cover new mantel clocks only).

mantel-#2 -coro-cor-williamsonac.com-terminologyKnowing the name and function of each basic clock part is a good first step. If you’re new to mantel clocks, the section below will help you to better understand the features and descriptions of any clock you’re considering to buy.

1. Terminology: Mantel Clock Parts – Here are brief explanations on the basic parts of a mantel clock:

  • Movement – This is the working inside the clock that controls it and allows it to keep time. Mechanical key wound movements are powered by spring tension; quartz are battery powered.
  • Chime – This is the melody a clock plays. Depending on the model, a mantel clock plays one, two or three different melodies every hour or quarter hour; the numbers “4/4″ designate a quarter hour chimer. A single or double bell or gong strike is sometimes referred to as a “chime”. So if you see a clock described as a chiming model, check to confirm that it’s referring to its musical melody or to a strike.
  • Gong/Bell – A single or double strike on a bell or gong signals the changing of the hour and half hour.
  • Case – This is the exterior casing which forms the body of the clock and houses the clock’s interior workings. The case can be decorative or plain.
  • Shut-off Switch – A lever or switch on the back of the clock case that allows the chime to be silenced.
  • Key Wound –  This refers to mechanical mantel clocks that require hand winding with the use of a key.
  • Face – The clock face displays the time using Roman or Arabic numerals and moving hands.

A-#2deco-raisingmightyarrows.netMantel ClockNow, here’s some clarification about clock terminology: since mantel clocks are often used to beautify table tops and book shelfs, they’re also referred to as as “shelf clocks” or “table clocks”. Lastly, although Anniversary clocks are also used on shelves and tables, they’re not commonly referred to as “mantel clocks”.

2. Construction Materials: The kind of materials new mantel clocks cases are made of can vary greatly. Most use one or more of the following materials: solid wood, glass (clear and stained), crystal, wrought iron, china, stainless steel, brushed steel or aluminum, polished nickel or brass, plastic, forged brass and wood composite. Dials are usually made of metal and some are enamel. Low quality mantel clocks may have dials made of materials other than metal and enamel.

3. Features: what are you looking for in a clock? It might take some thought and planning before you can answer the questions below, but knowing the answers will help focus your mantel clock search:

  • Style & Design: Is there a size, style and coloration that you’d like for decorative and/or nostalgic reasons?
  • Convenience and Movements: Do you prefer to wind a clock or not? Do you want an automatic night shut-off or manual shut-off? How about volume control?
  • Music: Besides hourly and quarter hour strikes, some mantel clocks also play music. Do you prefer the simple strike, or some music as well to liven things up? How about sound shut-off and volume control?
  • Price: Do you have a price range in mind? If so, how does your budget “fit” after you’ve answered the questions above?

 

In the section below we’ve elaborated on the four points above.

  • Style & Design – Mantel clocks come in traditional and contemporary designs. Some also feature pendulums. For helpful decorating tips see our extensive article about “Decorating With Clocks”.mantel-shrp-3x-21162-N91050

Here is a list of mantel clock designs:

Tambour – This is the most common traditional design. It has a very distinctive shape resembling the curves on the back of a camel.mantel-shrp-3X-22825_I9_N9

Bracket – This traditional design has a more or less square shaped case. During the 17th and 18th centuries when most of these clocks had pendulums, they were hung on the wall with a bracket to allow the pendulum to swing freely; hence the name “bracket clock”.

Carriage – When bumpy horse drawn carriages were one of the main  means mantel-shrp-2x-sternmm80064500of travel in the 19th century, this sturdy, traditional design came about. Carriage style clocks are smaller than other mantel clocks and convenient to read only at close distances, such as on a desk or night table.

 mantel-sternreiter-shrp2X-mm-808-381-08

 

Steeple – In 1845, Elias Ingraham, a cabinet maker was commissioned to design and build a new style of clock case. It was modeled after traditional Gothic styles of architecture popular in America during the 19th century. Sternreiter Clocks is currently manufacturing, in limited production,  a faithful replica of the Steeple clock.

 

 

mantel-Shrp3x-22641_002100

Contemporary – Beyond the traditional “old world” designs are the modern and designer styled mantel clocks. Their cases are often made with only modest amounts or wood, or no wood at all (left photos).

mantel-shrp-2x--22734000701-

Skeleton – This design (photo on right) features a clock movement – gears and all – that’s viewable from the exterior of the clock. Skeleton designs are found in both traditional and contemporary mantel clocks.

 

  • Convenience & Movements – Mantel clocks are generally offered with two types of movements: mechanical key-wound and battery operated quartz. Your personal preference and daily schedule will tell you which movement might work best for you. Shut-off and volume control options are also something to consider.

Mechanical Key Wound Movement – These generally need to be wound once a week, even though they’re called “8-day clocks.” There are also 14-day and 31-day movements, although these are less common. Mechanical mantel clocks are wound by turning a key that’s inserted into a winding hole on the dial, and can be recognized by the presence of one, two or three holes.Mantel -reduced-Shp2X-Queensway The middle hole winds the spring that powers the timekeeping of the clock. The right hole (as you face the clock) powers the chimes, and the left hole powers the strikes. So, if a key-wound mantel clock has just two winding holes, it doesn’t play a chiming melody. If there’s only one hole, then it strikes the time only.

One last point about a key wound movement–let’s not forget about having fun. A mechanical  clock can give you a special kind of satisfaction; not only do you hear the perky clicking sound as the key turns, but you can feel the sensation in your fingers of the gears winding. When you wind the clock, you’re somehow “connecting” with the workings inside of it, even though you’re on the outside of it. Key winding is a pastime that most clock owners look forward to.

Quartz Movement – This is battery powered. If you like the no-fuss approach of no winding, you might consider a quartz movement.  Although mechanical movements keep excellent time with minor periodic adjustments, they’re not as accurate as quartz movements, which can keep precise time to within fractions of a second per month.

Shut-off and Volume Control Options –  Almost all mechanical and quartz cuckoo clocks have an automatic night time chime shut-off, a handy thing if you tend to forget to shut your clock at night.

BLOG#2-Charlie Chaplain-moma.orgModern-TimesMaintenance – Mechanical key wound clocks require regular cleaning and oiling. (see ‘What You Need to Know About Oiling and Cleaning Your Clock’). If you like the convenience of a maintenance free clock that needs only the batteries replaced every few years and want to save money on routine maintenance  costs, then a quartz clock might be for you.

  • The Music – Do you like to hear a sonorous melody throughout the day? Or do you prefer the simple strike of a bell? Most musical models (ones that play a melody) feature an optional shut-off setting to silence the music. Non-musical models are also available.mantel-shrp2x--knickoftimeinteriors.blogspot.com

There are two ways a mantel clock produces music: mechanically and electronically:

Mechanically – Most mechanical key wound mantel clocks feature one, two or three melodies created by hammers striking on metal rods or brass bells. These mechanical sounds produce richer tone than the digitally simulated sounds of a quartz movement. The most common chime is the traditional Westminster. However, the more elaborate and expensive models feature the triple chimes of the Westminster, Whittington and St. Michael. Other forms of chimes include the two-tone bim-bam melody, the passing bell strike and the hour strike.

Electronically – Unlike 8-day mechanical movements, the chimes and bell strikes in a quartz movement are electronically simulated. Most, but not all, quartz mantel clocks usually play two melodies and chime every quarter hour.

4. Price Determiners

KW-2-cash-register-www.financialramblings.comSo now that you’ve read the previous section on mantel clock features, and know more about the different designs, movement types, convenience aspects and music, you probably have a good idea about what features you’d like in a new mantel clock.

The next question to answer is: how does your budget “fit” into that idea? Usually, the more features a product has, the higher will be the cost. So if your budget isn’t robust enough to handle all of the features you want, it comes down to prioritizing which features are important to you.

5. Warranty

Higher quality mantel clocks will have a manufacturer’s warranty. The duration of coverage ranges from 1 to 5 years, depending on the brand and the start date of coverage can begin from the date of purchase or the date of manufacture.

6.  Investment

Mechanical clocks have a better long-term value and are more likely to become collector’s items than quartz clocks. Why? One reason isKW-2-invest-www.theboardgamefamily.com that centuries of clock making history and development are alive and 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”.

Closing Thoughts

We hope this guide will help you make the best buying decision. With proper maintenance and care, your new mantel clock should last for generations and become a cherished heirloom. Click here to view our large selection of Mantel Clocks.

Photo Credits:

Photo  #1  – Hermle Amelia tambour style mantel clocks in cherry and oak

Photo #2 – Man reading a book – williamsonac.com

Photo #3 – Mantel clock on a book shelf

Photo #4 – Hermle tambour style mantel clock

Photo #5 – Hermle bracket style mantel clocks

Photo #6 – Sternreiter carriage style mantel clock

Photo #7 – Sternreiter steeple style mantel clock

Photo #8 – Hermle contemporary mantel clocks

Photo #9 – Hermle skeleton style mantel clock

Photo #10 – Hermle mantel clock and key

Photo #11 – Charlie Chaplain clock maintenance – moma.org

Photo #12 – Sheet music – knickoftimeinteriors.blogspot.com

Photo #13 – Cash register – financialramblings.com

Photo #14 – Hourglass and money –  effectivesoftwaredesign.com

Guide-2-smithsonianmag.com-cuckoo-clocks

The Complete Cuckoo Clock Buyer’s Guide

SHARE:

With so many models, styles and prices of cuckoo clocks, how do you begin a search for the right one? Reading this guide is a good place to start. We’ll be covering seven major points: quality, terminology, what you’re looking for in a clock,  price ranges, buying from the USA or Germany, and investment.

1. Quality

Are some clocks better than others? The answer is YES. But what exactly does “better” mean?  Personal tastes or preferences might, in a way, make one clock more appealing than another, depending on what you’re looking for. A particular size, color and certain features of a clock may be “better” for one person, but not for another. So, is there an objective standard by which everyone, regardless of their personal tastes, can use as a reliable measure of what a “better” cuckoo clock is? The answer again is YES. There is an objective standard of quality and authenticity.

In the southwestern corner of Germany is a region known as the Black Forest. It’s famous for producing exceptional clockwork and is a place where the art of clock making has been passed down from generation to generation. That tradition is more than 300 years old. So when you’re shopping for a cuckoo clock, consider buying one that comes from the German Black Forest.

guide-2-vds-black-forest-certifiedThere are a number of clock makers in the Black Forest region and ten of them are members of the VDS (Black Forest Clock Association). This organization was established in 2006 to uphold specific industry standards of clock production in the Black Forest region. Only clocks that meet those standards are permitted to bear the VDS certificate of approval*. The VDS has also established a worldwide network of quality service stations for the maintenance and repair of cuckoo clocks.

Please note: the absence of the  VDS certificate on any particular brand of cuckoo clock does not necessarily mean that the clock is not of high quality and authentic. But if you would like the assurance of the VDS endorsement, look for their certification seal.

  • Here are six of the most well known Black Forest cuckoo clock makers that are certified by the VDS:

Rombach and Haas (also known as Romba)
Anton Schneider
Hubert Herr
Hones
Hekas
August Schwer

To meet the demands of the marketplace, clock manufacturers of the Black Forest also produce high quality cuckoo clocks with quartz (battery operated) movements. Since one of the requirements for VDS certification is that a clock have a mechanical movement, quartz models do not carry the VDS certificate. More about quartz cuckoo clocks later in this article.

Knowing the standard of quality in cuckoo clocks makes for a good starting point in shopping. And knowing the name and functions of each basic cuckoo clock part is a good next step. If you’re not familiar with all of this, have a look at the section below. It will help you to better understand the features and descriptions of any clock you’re considering to buy.

 2. Terminology : Cuckoo Clock Parts – Here are brief explanations of the basic parts of a mechanical cuckoo clock:

  •  Movement – This is the working inside the clock that controls it and allows it to keep time. Mechanical movements are powered by weights; quartz are battery powered.
  • Figurines – These are the small carved or molded ornamental figures of people and/or  animals you see on some clocks. Some are animated and some are not.
  • Case – This is the exterior body of the clock which comes in many styles and sizes. The   case of a Black Forest clock is traditionally carved out of linden wood.
  • Pendulum – This is the swinging part below the clock case that controls the accuracy of a mechanical clock. It’s rhythmic motion is a favorite of clock enthusiasts.  The pendulum on a quartz powered cuckoo is for decorative purposes only.
  • Weights – These are usually shaped like pines cone and generate the power for a mechanical clock. Weights on quartz cuckoo clocks are for decorative purposes only.
  • Bellows – A device that pumps a puff of air into the musical pipe which makes the cuckoo sound. Each cuckoo clock has two bellows.
  • Pipes – Inside the clock case are two small musical pipes that alternately play the “cuc” and “koo” notes when air is pumped through them.
  • Shut-off Switch – A lever or switch on the side or bottom of the clock case that allows you to silence the cuckoo bird and/or music.

 

3. What are you looking for in a clock? Knowing the answers to the following four questions will help focus your cuckoo clock search:

  • Style & Design: Is there a size, style and coloration that you’d like for decorative and/or nostalgic reasons?
  • Convenience and Movements: Do you prefer to wind a clock or not? Do you want an automatic night shut-off or manual shut-off?
  • Music: Besides the cuckoo sound, some clocks also play music. Do you prefer just the cuckoo call, or music too?
  • Price: Do you have a price range in mind? If so, how does your budget “fit” after you’ve answered the questions above?

It may take some thought, planning and checking different clocks on the market for you to answer these four questions.

In the section below we’ve elaborated in detail on the four points above.

  • Style & Design – Over the years two cuckoo clock designs have remained the most popular: the Carved design and the Chalet design. The Shield and Contemporary designs are two other types that are also available. (See “Decorating With Clocks” if you need clock decorating tips).

Guide-2-river-city-cuckoo-clock-md841-16Carved DesignFresh air scenes of nature or hunting are the motif of this type which is also known as the “traditional” design. The clock case is usually square shaped with intricate carvings surrounding it. Originally the carved style clock was designed to look like the residence of a 19th-century German railroad guardhouse. Over time Black Forest clock makers livened it up with rich a variety of ornamentation such as leaves, sometimes colorfully painted, vines, birds, deer and other animals. Some models feature a Swiss music box playing folk songs and dancing figurines. The carved design comes in both quartz and mechanical models.

guide-2--anton-schneider-cuckoo-clock-1686-91Chalet Design Chalet clocks look just like a brightly colored miniature chalet and come in three varieties: the Black Forest chalet, the Swiss chalet and the Bavarian chalet. These depict charming scenes of every day country life and come in both quartz and mechanical models. The mechanical models usually feature the merry theatrics of spinning  figurines that dance to traditional folk songs.  The melodies are played by a Swiss music box that’s built into the movement. And it’s not uncommon for animated wood choppers, animals, beer drinkers and water wheels to play their part in the “show”. Many chalets clocks have handmade, hand laid shingles on the roof.

guide-2--rombach-and-haas-cuckoo-clock-3402

Other Designs – A less popular traditional design with a mechanical movement is the “Shield” cuckoo clock. It’s face is usually flat and has a colorfully painted surface. (photo on left). Another design is the Contemporary (Modern Art) with clear and simple lines (photo below). It comes in both quartz and mechanical models.

         guide-2--rombach-and-haas-cuckoo-clock-sl15-1

  •  Convenience and Movements – Your personal preference and daily schedule will tell you which type of cuckoo clock movement could be the most convenient one for you. Shut-off options are also something to think about. Here are the three movement types:

1-Day Wind – This is a mechanical movement that’s powered by weights and needs to be wound every day. If you enjoy frequent interaction with your clock, then consider a 1-day wind movement.

8-Day Wind –  This is also a mechanical movement powered by weights and needs to be wound every 8 days.  Clocks with this movement are more expensive than 1-day clocks due to their having a larger movement; they also tend to be more intricately crafted. You can recognize a clock with 8 day movement by the larger weights.

Quartz –  A quartz movement is battery-powered and has no mechanical parts. If you like the no-fuss approach of no winding, then consider a quartz movement.  Although mechanical movements keep excellent time with minor periodic adjustments, they’re not as accurate as quartz movements. (Note: weights, chains and a swinging pendulums featured on quartz cuckoo clocks are for decorative purposes only).

Shut-off Switch –  Almost all mechanical and quartz cuckoo clocks have a manual shut-off switch. Some clocks feature an automatic night time shut-off setting, a very handy thing if you tend to forget to shut your clock at night.

  • The Music — There are two ways a cuckoo clock produces music: mechanically and electronically.

Mechanically – Mechanical cuckoo clocks (those with a 1-day or 8-day movement) contain a Swiss music box inside of the clock case. Right after the cuckoo bird announces the time, the music begins and plays on the hour in an eight-day clock, and on the hour and half hour in a 1-day clock. Musical cuckoo clocks usually play the German folksongs “The Happy Wanderer” and “Edelweiss”; some beer drinker models play the songs “In Munich Stands A Court Brew House Drink” and Little Brothers Drink.”

With most all musical models, things get pretty lively when the music begins, as dancers dance, wood choppers chop and beer drinkers drink…not to mention the moving water wheels and other nearby forest creatures. The number of notes the music boxes plays can vary between 18 and 36, and the more tones, the better the sound will usually be. You can recognize a musical cuckoo clocks by a third weight which powers the music.

Electronically – Unlike the 1-day and 8-day mechanical movements, the music (and cuckoo call) in a quartz movement is electronically simulated. Quartz clocks usually play music every hour and have up to 12 different melodies.

About the Cuckoo Sound – Larger size bellows in a mechanical clock will produce a deeper pitched cuckoo call than smaller size bellows.

  • Price Determiners – The cost of a new cuckoo clock can range from less than a hundred dollars to thousands. The price depends on the factors below. A general rule of pricing is that the more craftsmanship,  features and quality a clock has, the higher the price will be.

Country of Origin: Authentic, hand-carved Black Forest cuckoo clocks will cost more than mass produced replicas made in other countries.

Movement Type: Clocks with 8-day movements tend to cost a little more than those with 1-day movements. Quartz movements are least expensive.

Music: A mechanical musical movement increases the cost – so does the number of melodies and notes in each melody.

Amount and Intricacy of Carvings: The deeper and more detailed the carvings are, the higher the cost.

Wood vs. Plastic Parts: Clocks with wood cuckoos, figurines, dials and hands cost more than those with plastic ones.

Size of the Case: Larger clocks usually cost more than smaller ones.

Figurines and Ornaments: Quantity, size and whether or not they are hand carved, hand painted and animated will effect the cost.

Night Shut-off / Sound Shut-off: Mechanical clocks with shut-off settings cost more.

4. Price Ranges: These are general price ranges based on the cuckoo clock brands offered for sale on our website as of the date this article was published.

MUSICAL
1-Day  – $300 to $750
8-Day  – $600 to $3000 & up
Quartz  – $130 to $495

NON-MUSICAL
1-Day – $150 to $1070
8-Day – $260 to $2,000

5. Buying: USA or Germany?

Since Black Forest cuckoo clocks are made in Germany, it might seem logical to purchase one directly from a dealer located in Germany. Here are some important things to consider before you make a buying decision:

1. Imported goods are subject to a duty of at least 5% of the purchase price, and you may have to fill out paperwork as well.

2. If your clock is defective or doesn’t meet your expectations and you want to return it, it will have to be packed and shipped back to Germany. You may have to pay for the shipping expense, depending on the reason for your return. Export documents would also have to be filled out.

3. Some cuckoo clock brands offer a more comprehensive warranty if the clock is purchased from a merchant located in the USA.

4. If the price offered by the German dealer is lower than the USA dealer’s prices, determine the amount you’ll save and weigh that against points 1 to 3 above. Then ask yourself: is it worth it?

6. 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”.

 

Closing Thoughts

We hope this guide will help you to make the best buying decision. If you need extra help in setting up your new mechanical cuckoo clock when it arrives, check our illustrated article: “How To Setup A Cuckoo Clock”. With proper maintenance and care, your new clock should last for generations and become a cherished heirloom. Click here to view our large selection of Black Forest Cuckoo Clocks.

For a further discussion on mechanical wall clocks and quartz wall clocks see: Pendulum Wall Clocks: Key Wound or Quartz?

Photos :

TOP:  Group of Cuckoo Clocks

Photos # 1 – Black Forest Clock Association – VDS Certificate

Photos # 2 – Craved Cuckoo Clock by River City #MD841-16

Photos # 3 – Chalet Cuckoo Clock by Anton Schneider #8T1686-9

Photos # 4 – Shield Style Cuckoo Clock by Rombach and Haas # 3402

Photos # 5 – Contemporary (Modern Art) Cuckoo Clock by Rombach and Haas #SL15-1

Photos # 6Hourglass and Money – effectivesoftwaredesign.com