Lantern clock converted to a fusee movement

As of this writing I am negotiating a price on this unique piece of horological history, an English lantern clock.

Lantern clocks have a very interesting history going as far back as the 16th century. They are the first type of clock widely used in homes in England as the middle class began to prosper. There are many theories as to why it is called a lantern clock though it was hung on a wall like a lantern usually on an ornate shelf. Although some were made of steel almost all were made of brass. It is typically described as a wall clock with square bottom and top plates surmounted by a large bell, four corner pillars, a series of vertical plates positioned behind each other, an hour hand, and proportionately large clock dial, and a 30-hour movement with one or more weights.

Originally lantern clocks are weight driven and not barrel driven like this one. So this movement is either installed later or the clock dates to 19th century.  Seventeenth century and eighteenth century lantern clocks almost always have a single hand again suggesting this clock is a later date of manufacture or a conversion.  Based on the look of the finials, frets, dial plate it is likely a late 1800 clock. Brian Loomes is a specialist clock dealer and he has a great book on lantern clocks and their evolution from the early 1600 through the mid 1700 when they went out of style. Brian Loomes has a website where you can see his current stock and archive of many that he has sold.

The early ones had a balance wheel escapement. Around 1660 the pendulum was created and these clocks used a verge escapement and then transitioned to a long pendulum around 1680. The dial plate engravings were particularity intriguing and often had the maker’s name. It’s rather fascinating to see the changes over time of the dial plate engravings. 

Side view of fusee clock

The one you see in the photos above is either a fusee conversion made sometime in the 19th century or a 19th century copy of a lantern clock using a fusee movement. Let’s assume it was a conversion therefore additions such as the winding arbor hole and the minute hand were made when the “newer” movement was installed. The conversion would have been made for two reasons, to stave off obsolescence (from 30 hour to an 8-day movement) and to increase the accuracy of the clock. In this case, the bell became ornamental. As the 8-day tall-case clock became popular in England the lantern clock began to disappear but continued to be made in the rural areas until the middle of the 18th century. Although many were discarded some were converted like this one.

Usually there is a maker’s name on the clock face


Despite emails going back and forth, the deal fell through. It is unfortunate since it would be been nice to have a interesting piece of horological history.