Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Ogee Clocks - Rare and Unusual Models & Types

When it comes to ogee clocks, a lot of collectors will picture something like this:

A one day rectangular clock in a sort of picture frame style case, with a dial and a decorative glass. This Alden Atkins clock is a particularly nice early example, with a painted wood dial, and a William Fenn type stenciled glass, in a mahogany veneered case. One immediate (and related) variation was the so-called "bevel case" clock. Essentially this is the poor man's ogee clock, built with flat stock. The case design is nearly identical to the standard ogee, but it lacks the distinct "s curved" ogee mouldings that give the clock its name.

The clock shown above is a lovely bevel case by Boardman & Wells. It is an early 1840s example with a Fenn glass, and a painted wooden dial. This clock, however, uses a wooden works movement. Several manufacturers appear to have adopted the new case style (or close to it) to generate sales, but continued to fit them with wooden works movements. By the 1840s, wooden works movements were quickly beginning to become obsolete, in favour of inexpensive brass movements based on Noble Jerome's June 27, 1839 patent.

Ogee clocks were incredibly popular from about 1840 all the way up to the early 1900s. Not many other clock case styles stayed popular for as long as the ogee. A 1904 catalogue from the St. Louis Clock and Silverware Company still had ogee clocks listed for sale in polished rosewood or walnut veneer, and available in 1 day and 8 day, with or without alarms installed. By about 1910, however, they started to disappear from most catalogues. During this nearly 70 years, the basic design was largely the same. The most apparent changes were applied to the production and materials used on the dials and tablets. Despite the overall case remaining the same, there were still quite a few makers who put their own interesting touches on the basic ogee case, and created some very unique clocks. This blog entry will help showcase some of these examples.

Note: Images in this post are collected from various sources. These are not clocks that I own.


Starting off small, one detail that was added to some ogee clock cases was the addition of a gold moulding.

This one is by the Ansonia Clock Co, but I know that Waterbury also offered them with gold bands. It's a small detail, but it makes for quite a difference in appearance.


A feature that is often found on early Jerome ogees is that the upper dial glass was reverse painted with spandrel decorations. These often have brass dials with black numerals, but white dials as well as zinc dials are also found.

While this dial decoration doesn't deviate very much from a standard ogee clock, it's a nice early feature, and only appears on examples prior to around 1845. I suspect that the dial on this example is a modern replacement. They are usually zinc or brass with a circular centre opening.


One type of a rare movement can be found in this Forestville clock. In order to avoid patent infringement, Forestville made a version of the Jerome 30 hour movements with the winding squares above the dial centre. These are generally called "upside down" movements.

This particular clock is rare for a combination of reasons: It is a two-tone case with bird's eye maple and mahogany, it uses a rare upside down movement, and it has its original dial, hands, and tablet.

Upside down movements are not the only rare movements that can be found in ogee clocks. There are 8 day time only examples, balance wheel examples, 3-train examples with weight driven alarms (in both 30 hour and 8 day movements), as well as a number of other experimental and unusual movements. All make good additions to clock collections.

Here is a collage that illustrates a selection of weight driven ogee movements (some quite rare, some common), but there are many more than just these:


One of the main pitfalls of ogee clocks (and one of the reasons that some collectors avoid them) is that they require daily winding. However, there are a large selection of 8 day examples that can be found. These generally have larger clock cases, and require much heavier 8 day weights to drive them. Regular ogee clock cases generally measure about 26" in height, and 15.5" in width, while 8 day ogee cases tend to be closer to 29" in height, and 17" in width. 30 hour ogees tend to use weights from 3-4lbs each, while 8 day ogees use weights between 7-9lbs each.

Above is a lovely 8 day ogee clock by Forestville, dating to around the mid 1840s. It features a painted wood dial and a Fenn stenciled glass. Additionally, this Forestville has the "acorn" pattern 8 day movement. Several 8 day ogee clocks feature lyre or "fancy" shaped movements. Plainer clocks simply had movements with rectangular plates. See the collage above for some examples.


Another variation that can be found on ogee clock cases is in the way the doors were constructed, or in the way that hardware was fitted. Most doors use small brass hinges (often nailed in place), while a few used swivel type hinges, which were also nailed in place, but diagonally through the door frame and case moulding like a spike. Wooden knobs are less common than cast zinc or brass, and they are generally found on older clocks (before 1850). Simple latches can often be found made from bent brass wire, while others are cast brass in the shape of keys.

Some makers used two knobs on their taller models. One such maker is Birge & Mallory:

Presumably the two knobs helped the door stay flat and firmly closed (avoiding potential warping issues that are sometimes found on larger doors), but it does look a bit odd. Aside from this small quirk, the clock is just a standard large ogee case with an 8 day strap brass movement. The original painted glass is missing in this example.

Another door variation involves the use of two separate doors, as on this example:

Although many 8 day ogee clocks were built with double doors, they were not made for very a very long time. We can assume that it cost more time and money to build them this way, without creating much impact on the overall design. They require building two different sized doors, with twice the hardware (hinges and knobs) as well as the addition of building and fitting a centre dividing bar on the case. This centre bar also makes it more difficult to install and remove the movement because the strike-advance lever and the hammer both block the movement from sliding forward. This particular clock is by Jerome and Co., and features a lovely rosewood veneered case with an original tablet. Approximately 1870s.

One similar idea that was easier to execute was to have a single long door with 3 divisions. Generally these 3-section doors are extremely rare, and I have only come across a small handful of examples, but they are nevertheless interesting.

This clock is also a Chauncey Jerome product. It is an 8 day example, and while a lot of 3-section doors (on other clocks, by other makers) often feature one panel as a mirror, the two examples I have seen by Jerome both use two painted tablets in the door, with the smaller one being a fairly plain stenciled design.


This type of ogee is sometimes referred to as a "suitcase" clock, because of the way the door is built. In these clocks, the entire front of the case forms the door, and it is hinged on the side of the case, opening as the name suggests: like a suitcase. This is quite similar to how early 1830s groaner clock cases and New Hampshire mirror clock cases are built. Not many of these suitcase clocks were made, and they are quite desirable.

This clock is by Chauncey Boardman, and it is GIANT at 39" tall. I believe this is an 8 day wooden works with built-in alarm, but I'm not 100% certain.

There are also a few ogee clocks where the ogee moulding is built as part of the door, and it opens within the exterior front banding. These often have a keyed lock with a diamond escutcheon near the outer edge of the ogee moulding. Not many of these exist either, and they tend to date to the early 1840s.


Calendars started to be quite popular towards the 1870s and all sorts of different setups and configurations were added to clocks. A lot of calendars tend to be more frequently found on schoolhouse type wall clocks, store regulators, or even gingerbread clocks, but a few were custom made for ogee clocks. One of these was "Seem's Calendar Dial" Patented in Jan 7, 1868.

This calendar layout is not quite as elegant as a simple centre date hand (those models exist on ogee clocks as well), but it does indicate more than just the date. You get the date, the day of the week, and the month. This one is a Seth Thomas, in a mahogany veneered case, presumably from the late 1860s to early 1870s.

A much more elegant version can be found in this elaborate double dial example:

This one is by the National Calendar Clock Co. The black and gold dials are especially striking, and not many of these clocks were made in this particular case. Several in fancier cases exist, often with columns and a crown moulding, but much fewer in this simple ogee case.


Gesso front ogees are perhaps some of the most unusual of all the ogee variations. They were not manufactured in great numbers, and very few of them are identical. They are all normally in 30 hour ogee cases (I don't know of any 8 day versions), and the actual applied gesso decorations tend to vary.

As you can imagine, these are fairly fragile. They are built much the same way as a traditional ogee case, but with gesso and gilding applied to the front mouldings, the same as with traditional picture frames. This example is by Smith & Brothers, and it is fitted with a 30 hour wooden works movement. Early 1840s. It should be noted that most of these will feature mahogany banding combined with the gilt gesso. They would have been extremely showy when new (bright gold, along with shiny gold on the dial corners.


Another very interesting variation is the "double" ogee. This is a clock case style that I believe was only ever offered by the Forestville Clock Co.

Because of the widths of the ogee mouldings, these always make rather large cases and are therefore fitted with 8 day brass movements (I don't know of any 30 hour versions). It's sort of an interesting idea, but at the same time, the overall effect is just a bit "off". These clocks are not nearly as rare as some of the others in this post, so if you happen to come across one, it's worth checking out.


Joseph Ives came up with this extraordinary case design and movement that is rather hard to describe. Generally I call these an "internal column ogee" but even that isn't a great name or description.

These clocks were offered by several retailers and companies, which include Joseph Ives, Hills & Goodrich, J.J. Beals (NY), etc. They feature a unique movement, housed within a tin shell, and they also require special lozenge shaped 8 day weights. Around the movement are two gilded and ring-decorated columns, and acanthus foliage over a blue background. All this within an ogee case with a painted tablet. These clocks are highly prized by collectors.


Lastly, we have miniatures. While these are slightly different (because the majority of them use spring-driven movements), some still use weight driven movements.

Here is a beautiful rosewood miniature ogee by F. C. Andrews. This one is not only rare because it's a weight driven miniature, but it is also a 3-train example with a weight driven alarm. This clock case also uses the alternative "swivel hinges" on the door that I referenced earlier.

Another reason to look at miniature ogees is that a fair number of them use rare and unusual spring driven movements such as fusee and false fusee movements. They can also frequently be found with 8 day movements, and/or alarms installed.

This miniature by Smith & Goodrich has a lovely 30 hour fusee movement (with alarm), a beautiful early Fenn tablet, thin numeral zinc dial, in a plain mahogany case.

It should be noted that generally, ogee clocks shorter than 24" can be considered miniature, and there is no standard size for these clocks. The weight driven examples tend to be a bit larger than spring driven examples, but sizes vary widely. I currently own 4 miniature ogee clocks, and they vary between 17.5" and 19" tall. No two are the same dimensions. Additionally the widths of the bandings and the widths of the ogee mouldings also vary between companies.

I hope you have enjoyed this foray into the world of ogee clocks, and that the next time you see a pile of them at a clock show, or in the back of a barn, or in an antiques shop, you'll take another look at them on the off chance that something special might be hiding there.

1 comment:

  1. Great history lesson and an impressive selection of clocks. I was not aware of Fenn's contribution to clock-making.