If one asks the average clock shopper what are the very best brands of clocks out there historically, including grandfather clocks, mantel clocks, and wall clocks, the answers given will be all over the map. Interestingly, though, one can be sure that much of the time one will here of Tiffany & Company as the best maker of clocks.
Well, Tiffany Clocks are an interesting place to start, especially when looking back over time and also including antique clocks. Over time, and we honestly are not certain about today’s practices, but historically Tiffany never made there own grandfather clocks, wall clocks, mantel clocks, carriage clocks, cartel clocks, or even desk clocks. The Company sourced out its clock making as well as Tiffany pocket watch making to different companies, generally all of whom were considered high-end. Some early Tiffany Grandfather Clocks were actually made by the Waltham Clock and Watch Company, frequently unsigned by the actual maker. Others we know of were made by Elliot of London, Herschede, Walter Durfee, and Winterhalder & Hoffmeier, among other. Many mantel clocks were actually made by Japy Freres or Samuel Marti, among many others. Pocket watches were made by companies as diverse as Patek Philippe, Longines, and the Concord Watch Company, all of excellent quality, though some would argue quality to varying degrees. The older clocks were generally made in smaller groups, and to our knowledge Tiffany did not keep records of exactly what made whom when [note to Tiffany & Co. – please feel free to set the record straight by adding a comment or contacting us directly to adderess]. Our understanding is that they were also made in small groups. And though the Tiffany name was-is proudly displayed on the clock, they were actually “only” the retailer of the clocks.
Not that this is-was a new practice. In Britian in the 1800s, it was standard practice for many clock retailers, and many pocket watch makers as well, to put their own name of the dial of the clock, with varying practices about hopww much information did or did not go on the movement. So there was no funny business going on here, simply carrying on a long-held tradition in the retailing industry!
What about other well known names like Cartier Clocks, Seth Thomas, Ingraham Clocks, Simon Willard Clocks and Aaron Willard Clocks, Howard Miller, Ridgeway Clocks, Hermle Clocks, Kieninger Clocks, Gustav Becker clocks, Leinzkirk clocks, Warren Telechron Clocks, General Electric, Self Winding Clock Company Clocks, E Howard and Company Clocks, and so many more.
It is interesting that the value of some antique clocks today may be a casualty opf the succcess and durability of particular manufacturers. In particular we think of Seth Thomas, which made great clocks, is Amrerica’s oldest Clock Company, and was probably the most prolific. However, because they made their clocks built to last, we believe their prices as collectibles have been severely tempered simply as a result of supply and demand. There are still simply so many people out there with working Seth Thomas Clocks.
What about English clockmakers. The list of great British clockmakers is too long to even begin to enumerate. So we will take the cowardly way out and simply skip over this vast and rich subject and history. Among German clocks, some of the clockmakers we like the best are Gustav Becker and Winterhalder & Hoffmeier. It is important to note that we are glossing over many GREAT master clocksmiths who may have made the most fantastic clocks, but did so in smaller numbers. The farther back one goes in history, the more true this is. In England, just as an example of this one point J.W. Benson and Edward Dent (the creator of Big Ben) made clocks in vastly smaller numbers than more contemporary British makers, e.g. Elliot of London.
WHom do you think makes the best clocks? Today, many would argue that Howard Miller Clocks and Hermle Clocks, along with Ridgeway Clocks and Kieninger, and Bulova Clocks are among the leaders. And NOT coincidentally, these are among the brands that are featured and sold by 1-800-4CLOCKS.
Howard Miller Grandfather Clcoks have been the high-end market leader in grandfather clocks over the last generation. The Ridgeway Grandfather Clock collection, Hermle Floor Clocks, Bulova Grandfather Clcoks, and Kieninger Grandfather Clocks, among others, all seem to have gained some traction in recent years. We believe they are all of excellent quality and worksmanship, with mostly all solid wood cases and high-end German 8 Day mechanical clocks movements.
The history of grandfather clocks and clock history in general will continue to evolve in the years and decades to come.
One interesting dunamic is the relatively recent flood of what we view as poorer quality imports from the Far East. We fully expect to see some better quality and more competition in this area in the years to come.
We welcome your comments as to whom you would add to the best of clocks list. Think of this as the beginning of time.