french and german mantel clocks

Mantel Clocks Buying Guide

If you are looking to buy mantel clocks for sale, it is a good idea to know the basics of these clocks first. If you do so, you will be able to find a mantel clock that will meet your needs and wants. Here is the mantel clock buying guide. We will tell you all about the terminology and jargon, type, materials, design, and price. Let’s start with terminology.

Mantel Clock Terminology

Knowing the terminology is a good idea. That way, you’ll know the description and features of the clock you are going to buy. Here are some terminologies you need to know:

Movement — The working mechanism of the clock that controls it and allows it to keep time. There are two kinds of power sources for movement: spring tension and battery-powered.

Bell or Gong — Single or double strike on a gong or bell indicates the changing of the hour and half hour.

Chime — The melody that a clock plays. It depends on the model of the mantel clock. A clock may play one, two or three different models every quarter hour or hour. The numbers “4/4″ mean that the clock is a quarter hour chimer. Sometimes, a single or double bell or gong strike is called a “chime.” If you see a clock described as a chiming model, you should check to confirm whether it is referring to a strike or musical melody.

Face — The face refers to the clock’s displays of time. It uses numerals (Arabic or Roman) and moving hands.

Case — The exterior casing which forms the clock’s body and houses the interior of the clock’s workings. Some cases are decorative, others are plain.

Key Wound/Key Hole — The key wound refers to the mechanical mantel clocks that require hand winding using a key.

Shut-off Switch — It is the switch or lever located on the back of the clock case. It allows the chime to be silenced.

Types of mantel clocks

Type is something you may want to consider. There are two types of mantel clocks: wind up and battery powered.

Wind-up mantel clocks

Usually, wind-up clocks will have to be wound up once per week. Some other models may only need to be wound up every 14 days or so. The clocks that need to be wound up once per week are called “8-day clocks.”  The clock should come with a manual switch that allows you to turn off the chime of the clock. Other clocks have an automatic night silencer feature.

There are three types of wind up clocks. Their difference is in the number of their keyholes. Each comes with different features, so it will be important for you to know beforehand.

A clock that has one keyhole does not offer any other features other than keeping the time. A clock with two keyholes only keeps the time and strikes every half hour. Generally, a clock that has three keyholes has more features than the other two. It keeps time, strikes hourly as well as chimes.

Battery powered mantel clocks

Outside of wind-up mantel clocks, there are also battery powered mantel clocks. Known as quartz-operated mantel clock, usually, a clock of this type comes with various features, including different alarms. Although this is a more modern clock, you will be able to find many with antique styles.


mantel clock materials

Mantel clocks are made of various materials such as porcelain, wood, stone, and precious metals. You should make sure that the material of the clock you want to buy fits with the style of your home.


Some clocks are made of porcelain. It is not unusual for porcelain clocks to be painted with flowers or any other designs. Some famous clockmakers even specialized in creating porcelain clocks with special painted designs.


Back in the day mantel clocks were made exclusively of wooden material such as oak or cherry tree wood. Clocks are usually made out of wooden paneling or solid pieces. Mantel clocks that were made in America were fitted, painted and engraved with brass and other types of metal. When people think about mantel clocks, they are likely to think about a wooden one. However, a wood mantel clock is just one kind of mantel clocks that are available.

Stone, Precious Metals

Some clocks are made of different types of stone: for example, slate and marble (both very heavy).

In the past, some of the clocks were made of precious metals like gold or silver. However, obviously they are rare now due to rising prices of silver and gold. They are also far more expensive than mantel clocks made of other materials. A lot of times glass is combined with these metals; glass mantel clocks usually include silver and golden outlines.


french and german mantel clocks

There are several styles of mantel clocks available. Most people refer to country of origin when talking about style.

French Mantel Clocks

This style is made for the English and French markets. Back in the 19th century, French mantel clocks were the most popular. Although these clocks are made in France, there are some differences in clocks that are made for the English market and French market. Those that are meant for English are less lavish and made with fewer amounts of metal. On the other hand, those that are sold in the French market are lavish and made with a large amount of metal. As a result, they are more expensive.

German Mantel Clocks

Germany is best known for cuckoo clocks, yet they also have a history of making mantel clocks. In fact, Germany has produced these clocks for centuries.

Germany is also known for its engineering; this can be seen in their products. It is not surprising that many of the movements of wooden mantel clocks were engineered in Germany. Due to this high quality of craftsmanship, those clocks can be very expensive collectibles. Thus, someone that wants to purchase a German mantel clock should shop around so they can find the best deal.

Art Deco

This style started in the 1920’s in France. This style was used for mass produced mantel clocks back in the 1930s and 1940s. Nowadays, there are many available replicas of Art Deco mantel clocks, including cheap replicas and limited edition versions.

Modern Style Clocks

Often times, compared to their antique counterparts, modern clocks come with more features. They are also often battery-powered. Some of these clocks are made using a lot of chrome. Another option available for modern clocks is clocks that are made to resemble antique ones.

For this category, you have two options. You go for either replicas or imitation of the antique models. The replicas are made to resemble the original as close as possible. While the imitations are made to resemble antique clocks only on the outside. The replicas are the preferred option for people who want to get something that looks like the original at a lower price.

Sometimes, the makers of the replica clocks will go as far as sourcing the same type of marble from the region that was used for the original one. Unfortunately sometimes the imitation clocks are made of subpar materials. You can see the differences between these two in the price of the items.


Bracket — A traditional design. In the 17th and 18th centuries, when most of these clocks had pendulums, they were hung on the wall with a bracket that allows the pendulum to swing rather freely. That’s where the name comes from. It has a more-or-less square shaped case.

Tambour — The most traditional design. Tambour has a very distinctive shape that looks like the curves on a camel’s back.

Carriage — These clocks are smaller compared to other mantel clocks. They are convenient to read only at close distances.

Steeple — Steeple was modeled after the traditional architecture Gothic styles that were popular in America back in the 19th century.

Contemporary — Besides the traditional designs, there is also the modern style. Often, the cases of clocks of this style, are made with modest amounts of wood. Some don’t even have wood at all.

Skeleton — This design features a clock movement that can be seen from outside of the clock. This design can be found in both traditional and contemporary mantel clocks.


How does your budget fit? Generally, the more features a mantel clock has, the higher the price will be. If you don’t have or don’t want to spend a lot of money to get all of the features, you should prioritize which features that are most important for you. Inexpensive mantel clocks typically include less features.

Which one to buy?

As you can see, there are a multitude of options here. If you want to buy a mantel clock, you need to consider the:

  • Type
  • Material
  • Style and Design
  • Price

Only then will you get the right mantel clock that ultimately leads to your satisfaction.

You can check out our list of best mantel clocks, or you can browse online stores for other customer reviews and base your decision on what others have said and recommended.

Brian Bryson

Love clocks, always have, always had. Timepieces make the world go round. Met the rest of the team in 2012. Out of Toronto, Canada working with the rest of the team worldwide.

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