My Clock Keeps Stopping: Part One – Mantel Clocks


Did you know that most of the time you, as the clock owner, can correct the problems that cause mechanical pendulum clocks to stop? That’s why we’ve posted these tips on how to get your timepiece ticking again. The focus of part one in this four-part series is mantel clocks. Future articles will focus on cuckoo, wall and grandfather clocks.

Before reading on, here’s an important point: if your clock has been running for a long time, then suddenly stops, and you haven’t touched it, it may be an indication that you need professional help.

Four common reasons why a mechanical mantel clock stops:

1. Has your clock been moved recently?

(Note: not all mechanical mantel clocks have pendulums. The below instructions do not apply if your clock has no pendulum.)

Moving a mechanical mantel clock from one place to another is one of the most common reasons why it stops running and can result in one of the following:

a. Pendulum Over Swing--If the bob on the pendulum hasn’t first been immobilized or removed from the pendulum arm before the clock is moved, the pendulum can over swing (go past its normal arc) and throw the clock “out of beat.” Then, eventually, the clock will stop.

b. Change of Angle–If you’ve moved your clock to a new location and the new surface is at a slightly different angle than the previous one, the even swing of the pendulum can alter and cause the clock to go out of beat and stop.

There’s a quick and easy way to get your clock working again if you have a good ear and patience. First, get your timepiece ticking by gently pulling the pendulum to one side and letting go. Then, listen carefully to the tick tock rhythm. A clock that’s in beat will have an equal amount of silent space between the tick and the tock. It will sound like this: tick . . . tock . . . tick . . . tock . . . tick . . . tock. But, if the beat sounds uneven, like this: tick tock . . . . . . . . tick tock . . . . . . . . tick tock, then your clock needs to be put back in beat.

pile of U.S. coinsThe easiest way to do this is by using the shim method: Place two coins under two feet of the clock, either on the right or left side. The beat will then become either more even or less even. If it’s less even, remove the coins and place them under the two feet on the other side of the clock. If the beat sounds better, but it’s still not perfect, add more coins until the beat sounds even. If after doing that, your clock runs for a short time and then stops, start the pendulum moving again and add two more coins to raise the clock a little higher, again listening carefully for an even beat.

It could take some time to get it right, but if you stick with it, you’ll again have an in-beat timepiece. However, if your clock is so far out of beat that you have to raise it up 2 or 3 inches to get it back in beat, then the time has come for a visit to the repair shop.

When an uneven surface is the cause of an out of beat clock or stopped clock, the shim method is more effective than using a carpenter’s level and will produce more accurate results. However, the method isn’t as good as correcting the beat by adjusting the crutch which allows the clock to run properly on a truly straight and level surface. We don’t recommend trying to adjust the crutch yourself unless you are confident in your mechanical abilities, and you have the proper instruction from qualified sources.

2. Is the clock wound?
Your clock might just need to be wound. If so, give it a wind, re-set the time, and your problem is solved.

3. Are the hands touching the glass?
Check the minute hand to make sure that it’s not touching the front glass. If it is, gently push the hand toward the dial just enough so that it clears the glass. Be sure not to push it back too much; otherwise, it will catch on the hour hand or dial. Then do the same for the second hand. Even a small amount of friction from a clock hand against the glass will stop a clock.

4. Are the hands touching each other?
Have a close look at the hour and minute hands to be sure that they’re not in contact with each other. If they are, gently press the hour hand back slightly toward the clock dial, making sure the hand doesn’t touch the dial. If the hands still touch, slightly bend the minute hand toward you; this should create the necessary clearance space.

Stay tuned to our blog site for the next article in our series: My clock keeps stopping: Part Two–Cuckoo Clocks.

Photo Credit:

Top photo – Hermle Oak Amelia Mantel Clock


Mantel Clock Buyer’s Guide


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.



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.




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).


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

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