Bracket Clocks

Bracket clocks are portable, decorative clocks made primarily in the 17th and 18th centuries but also into the 19th. They sometimes come as a set with their own brackets or shelves, and are normally made of wood, usually a dark wood like ebony or mahogany. They’re often extravagantly ornamented with ormolu (gilded bronze) brass, mother-of-pearl inlay, or tortoiseshell or wood veneer. Bracket clocks were designed to be portable, and often had handles to allow them to be easily moved.

The heyday of the bracket clock was around the 17th to 18th century, before it was superseded by mantel clocks, and the English clockmaker Joseph Knibb was skilled and respected manufacturer. He invented the Roman striking system, a mechanism which reduced the number of hammer blows needed to produce the strike, and thus the power storage of the weight. His system used two different-sounding bells, and combined them to make different totals of strikes rather than striking every individual hour. Other noted makers include Daniel Quare, Thomas Tompion, the Vulliamy family, John Wise and James Green. 

Bracket clocks are attractive as well as practical, and can be displayed on tables and mantelpieces as well as shelves, so there’s strong interest from home collectors as well as horologists. Prices can vary enormously depending on quality, maker, condition and complexity. As a general rule, the size and complexity of the clocks will affect value. There’s a strong market for bracket clocks in good condition, and unusual features such as unusually-shaped cases, elaborate ornamentation, repeater mechanisms or eight-day movements or an original bracket will increase value. Often clocks are ‘cannibalised’ for repairs with a modern movement being paired with an old case, so authenticity is another factor.


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