This Sunday marks the end of daylight saving time in the United States as well as Canada. For many other countries in the northern hemisphere, summer time ended last Sunday. At this time, we set our clocks back an hour, and are reminded to check our smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries as well. We thought this would be a great time to look at pendulum clocks, which are a fixture in many timber frame homes.
Pendulum clocks were invented in 1656, and rapidly improved by 1670. These clocks made timekeeping much more accurate than in the past, reducing error from about 15 minutes a day to 15 seconds a day. As these clocks were further improved over the next century, their error fell to as little as a few seconds a week. Pendulum clocks were the most precise timekeepers until quartz clocks came about in 1927.
A larger pendulum made for a better clock, since the slower motion meant less friction and wear. The longcase clock uses a pendulum about a meter long, so each swing of the pendulum counts out exactly one second. (It was only after the 1876 song “My Grandfather’s clock” that longcase clocks came to be known as grandfather clocks.) Longcase clocks require rewinding every 30 hours for less expensive clocks while more expensive ones had 8-day movements. However, some 30-hour clocks were designed to fool guests into thinking they were actually the more refined 8-day clocks through the use of fake mechanical details.
Pendulum clocks were handmade by craftsman through the 19th century, and were thus very expensive and viewed as a status symbol for the wealthy. As such, they would always be housed in a public area of the home like an entryway or sitting room. By around 1930, electric clocks became much more common and pendulum clocks were mostly used only for their antique value.
Today’s homes are less likely to feature dedicated clocks than just a few years ago. Since smartphones, DVRs, and microwaves all have clocks built in, it makes less sense to dedicate wall space to a clock. However, homeowners are willing to make an exception for pendulum clocks, and especially grandfather clocks. The exquisite craftsmanship of the mechanism and wood case fits perfectly with the aesthetic of a Timberpeg home. And while the pendulum clock may itself be a product of the past, as long as it continues to tick off the time it will be firmly rooted in the present.
We hope you’ve enjoyed these images of pendulum and grandfather clocks in the timber frame home. If you are setting the time back an hour on your pendulum clock this weekend, though, you're probably already aware that, on most pendulum clocks, you can only do this by instead going forward 11 hours. If you’re considering a new Timberpeg home to display your antique pendulum clock, please contact us today.