Antique kitchen clocks can bring a sense of timeless style to your modern spaces with their petite size and intricate craftsmanship. Whether you're trying to find the perfect place on your mantel for that family heirloom or you have the right spot in mind and don't know where to start looking for one, you're covered. Take a look at how these kitchen clocks developed and changed over time, and what you can expect to spend on one of these timeless items.
Keeping Time in the Kitchen
Without the conveniences of digital kitchen timers and built-in stove and microwave clocks, historic families had to adapt to the technologies available to them. This meant developing a specific style of clock that could fit within the tight spaces of their small kitchens. Thus, various antique kitchen clocks, both wall-mounted and mantel-resting varieties, were developed.
Styles of Antique Kitchen Clocks
Since antique kitchen clocks were meant to be easily heard throughout the house but needed to take up as little space as possible, manufacturers created small, but lasting designs. Generally, these clocks were placed on mantels in the kitchen or on walls within sight of the kitchen and some of the most iconic styles that you might encounter include:
- Gingerbread style - identified by their press-molded wings and light-colored wood
- Tambour style - identified by their drum-shaped cases with extended horizontal bases
- Carriage style - identified by their rectangular, lantern shapes
- Barrister style - identified by the barrister-wig rolls on the edge of the topmost piece of the clocks
The Most Popular Antique Kitchen Clock
Perhaps the most popular antique kitchen clock is the American gingerbread kitchen clock, which was an inexpensive shelf clock that was specifically marketed to both lower and middle class American families. These clocks were usually made out of oak or walnut and featured ornate press-molded designs and brass pendulums. Since they were set to strike every half-hour, American women were able to balance cooking and baking with other household chores without fear of over cooking or burning one of their dishes. Part of these clocks' appeal to modern collectors are their many different designs featuring unique motifs, relief carvings, and geometric shapes. Here are a few examples of the wide variety of gingerbread clocks that were produced.
- This New Haven gingerbread clock with its steeple and sloping, falcon-esque wings
- This Gilbert gingerbread clock with its painted Grecian figures and rounded carvings
- This Gilbert gingerbread clock with its light orange stain and elaborate cutouts
- This Waterbury gingerbread clock with its hip-and-gable influenced design
Kitchen Clocks Get Smaller
As innovation took western culture by storm during the early 20th century, kitchen appliances were modified to better suit these sleek, modern influences. Kitchen clocks were impacted by these design changes and by the 1920s, kitchen clocks had been reduced to clocks that could fit into the palm of your hand. Take, for instance, these Art Deco kitchen clocks that belong to the National Museum of American History. For the modern audience, these clocks resemble the classic bedside table or office desk alarm clocks that many people's grandparents or great-grandparents owned, making them particularly appealing to contemporary collectors.
Antique Kitchen Clock Values
In general, antique kitchen clocks are worth between $100-$350 depending on their style, age, and if they're working or not. Surprisingly, even clocks that have had their movements rebuilt can be relatively affordable. For instance, one clock repairer has a rebuilt Ingraham mantel clock listed for $350 on their website. Similarly, a coveted antique gingerbread clock recently sold for $150 at one online auction. When you're looking to purchase your own antique kitchen clock, the most important thing to remember is to check the clock's movements and see if its mechanisms are fully functional; if the clock's being sold as is, then the seller's price should appropriately reflect that. If you're looking for kitchen clocks that are less expensive, turn to the aforementioned smaller vintage mantel clocks as you can easily find those at your local antique stores for under $50 each.
The Timeless Appeal of Timepieces
Unlike some of the technology of yesteryear, antique kitchen clocks are beautiful collectibles that can actually serve a modern purpose. With their hour or half-hour intonations, these clocks can bring a sense of the past into your home without taking up a lot of space. Whether or not you want to place one of these antique kitchen clocks above your living room mantel or on top of an old pie safe in your kitchen, these pieces are sure to tie together your antique aesthetic in a subtle and refined way.