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Clock hands and dial features:

minute hands were introduced to longcase clocks c. 1663

matching minute and hour hands were introduced c. 1775; however, clocks were still produced with only hours hands up until around 1820.

seconds hands began to be commonly added to longcase clock dials in around 1780

dots in the minute rings of brass dials were added c. 1785.

phases of the moon shown on clock dials were introduced in c. 1745.

paper clock dials were introduced c. 1792 for use in applying to a wooden or metal backing.

painted dials came into general use on clock faces around 1800.

signatures on a clock's dial or movement can sometimes help to date a clock if you can find the maker’s name and date of activity listed in one of the many guides to watch and clockmakers. However, a signature may refer to someone other than the clockmaker. 19th century retailers and distributors often put their own names on clocks as an attempt to ‘brand’ their product. The actual movement may have been made by someone else. Until the 19th century clock cases were almost always made separately from the movement and are rarely signed. Of course, a signature may be fraudulently added as an attempt to enhance a clock’s value.

Case and movement features

gold electroplating was introduced in 1836 and became popular within a few years. It provided a safe alternative to the hazardous use of mercury in gilding metals, which was banned c. 1799.

— calendar movements were introduced to English longcase clocks c.1660.

machine made wood screws were introduced as early as 1806 in France.

reverse-painted glass tablets date from the early 1800’s.

wooden movements were generally used in early American shelf clocks until around 1820, since up until then hand cast and finished brass movements were very expensive. Chauncy Jerome began manufacturing cheap 30-hour brass movements in the 1830’s; by the early 1840’s brass movements virtually replaced wooden ones.

coiled wire gongs were used in English bracket (shelf) clocks beginning around 1840

— chime bars, also called chime rods, were introduced to clocks c. 1890. They are metal rods specially tuned to produce a sequence of chime notes when struck by the movement's chime hammers.

celluloid was patented in 1869. "Adamantine" celluloid veneer was patented in 1880. In 1882 Seth thomas introduced clock models in Adamantine veneer finishes which mimiced marble, slate, wood grains and other materials. More information and examples of Adamantine clocks can be found at Bill Stoddard's web site

Bakelite (an early nonflammable, moldable plastic) was invented by a Belgian born scientist Dr. Leo Baekeland, who founded the Bakelite Corporation around 1910. It reached its height of popularity in the 1930's and 40's and was used in a wide variety of consumer products. Examples of clocks with Bakelite cases can be seen at Mike Schultz's Reverse Time web site.

— marking the country of origin was required after 1896 on clocks imported to the United States; e.g. "Made in England" or England", "Made in France", "France", etc.

The "Anniversary" trademark on 400-Day clocks was introduced 1901.

Plywood was first used in 1905.

General Facts Helpful to Know When Dating Antique Clocks


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