The history of grandfather clocks is as fascinating as it is diverse. The grandfather clock, first introduced in circa 1630-1650 depending upon how exactly one defines the birth of the grandfather clock, evolved differently in different countries, and have the craftsmanship, expertise, creativity, and environmental factors and ingenuity all play into how these freestanding floor clocks evolved in so many different ways both within and between countries.
Some astronomers, including Galileo among many others, were instrumental not only ion the birth of the grandfather clock but also refinements and special features, including astronomical clocks like astro-regulators which are so highly prized by collectors.
World explorers also played a role in the development of clocks, frequently working in concert with astronomers to help them navigate the High Seas or Oceans. John Harrison of England is just one great example of an innovator who helped both to increase the accuracy of timekeeping and the introduction of marine chronometers, not to mention keeping time when a clock may be rocking back and forth in a ship.
Musicians also played a role throughout time in the development and innovations for grandfather clocks. Grandfather clocks with nested bell movements, some this blog post author has seen with more than 20 nested bells, can make for extraordinary music and sound quality. Music boxes were also adapted and adopted and used in many grandfather clocks. And automata, with moving figures, make for spectacular clocks. Grandfather clock dials with ships rocking back and forth, sometimes connected to the pendulum, and sometimes with independent movements, are spectacular and fun to look at. Some grandfather clocks are equipped with bells, which can make for great, loud, and differing volumes and tonality. Tubular chimes, resembling the sound systems of Church organs, add a whole new dimension to the chiming possibilities, and are still used today. Some antique mantle clocks or bracket clocks, though highly collectible and hard to find, use miniature tubular chimes and are a unique sound. Coiled gongs became common in the 1800s, and are used even today in some grandfather clocks.
Artisans and craftsmen in Germany’s Black Forest brought significant contributions to clockwork in general with the introduction, among many other things, of the cuckoo clock, trumpeter clock and other automata that were made in cases that were carved so beautifully that they influenced grandfather clock makers everywhere. Antique grandfather cuckoo clocks still exist today and are a marvel to behold.
Farmers, and recognizing that most all economies and nations in the 1700s and 1800s were agriculturally based, certainly benefited from if they were not responsible for the introduction of moonphase or moondial grandfather clocks, which every 20 1/2 days reliably show when the moon will be full, so that planters reapers and sowers can all benefit from this information to help produce more robust harvests.
This grandfather clocks exhibit blog post was initially going to be geared more to where individuals can see actual museum horological exhibits, as well as virtual clock museums and special websites which display some remarkable pieces of the history of time and its marking through the introduction and refinement of the grandfather clock.
Stay tuned and we will bring that clock exhibit to life some time very soon.