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Grandfather Clocks

Grandfather clocks are more than just timepieces or items of furniture. They are often heirlooms that have been passed down through generations of a family. Grandfather clocks are also known as longcase clocks or floor clocks. They tend to be six to eight feet tall (1.8-2.4 metres) and made of wood, such as oak or mahogany.

How They Work

Grandfather clocks have a long pendulum and either one or two weights that drive the pendulum. The pendulum and weights are housed in the tower (or main body) of the clock and are visible if the door is glazed. These clocks require winding regularly, usually, this is done with a key. How often you need to wind them depends on the movement the clock has.

An eight-day movement will need winding once a week. Clocks with eight-day movements have two weights in the tower, one drives the pendulum and the other drives the striking mechanism. Usually, each weight has its own winding mechanism. Modern clocks usually have an eight-day movement. One-day movements need winding every day. They have only one weight.

How you wind the clock will depend on whether it's cable or chain driven. Cable-driven clocks are wound by a key and chain-driven require you to manually pull up a chain.

Grandfather Clock Chimes

Westminster is the most well-known grandfather clock chime and the historical equivalent of that famous Nokia ringtone. It's the chime associated with Big Ben and is taken from Handel's ‘I know that my redeemer liveth'. Other chimes include Ave Maria, Whittington and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

Clock Faces

The numbers on the clock face are Roman numerals and measure hours and minutes. Some grandfather clocks may also include features like measurement of dates and seconds. The face is often made of embossed or painted metal, and many feature some decoration too. Some painted clocks feature delicately illustrated pastoral scenes. Often clock faces feature the Latin ‘Tempus Fugit' which means ‘time flies'.