The Willard House and Clock Museum

Simon Willard Museum, Grafton Mass.
Willard House and Clock Museum, Grafton Mass.

Visiting any clock museum is always an interesting and engaging experience.

On our way from Boston to Springfield Ma. to attend the NAWCC (National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors) Convention 2019 we stopped in a small community called Grafton and in that community is the Willard House and Clock Museum one of the foremost museums of its kind in America. The unassuming location on a quiet country road in a pastoral setting of fields and forest was a pleasant surprise. The museum was the home of Benjamin and then, Simon Willard, celebrated clockmaker and inventor. Born in 1753 Simon Willard spent his formative years in Grafton, later moving to Boston.

The Willard name may not be immediately recognizable outside the United States but he is regarded as important source of innovative design in the American clock industry.

The vast collection of clocks housed inside is surprising for the size of the museum. The collection ranges from Massachusetts shelf clocks, to tall-case and Willard’s famous banjo clocks.

Viewing room of the museum
Viewing room of the museum

Although Simon Willard eventually settled in the Roxbury area (1781) to further the manufacture of quality clocks Grafton was where Simon worked and learned the trade under the guidance of his older brother, Benjamin and where he produced his early shelf and tall case clocks.

8-day clock Ephraim Willard, CA. 1790
8-day clock Ephraim Willard, CA. 1790

Economies of scale was a lesson the Willards (Simon and his brother Aaron) learned quickly. Simon Willard was one of the first to move clockmaking out of the cottage industry to a business model based on outside resources for producing clock parts. Maintaining a flow of high quality parts meant that customers would still recognize a Willard clock regardless of who produced the individual parts.

Willard patented banjo clock

Simon Willard eventually produced 4000 of his clocks and is best known for the banjo clock copied by many clockmakers through the years. A genuine Willard clock is sought after and prized by collectors.

Massachusetts Shelf clock, CA. 1800
Massachusetts Shelf clock, CA. 1800

The following photos to tell the rest of the story.

Massachusetts shelf clock, CA. 1790
Massachusetts shelf clock, CA. 1790
Astronomical Regulator, Simon Willard Jr, 1840
Astronomical Regulator, Simon Willard Jr, 1840
Shelf clock 1769
Shelf clock 1769

The museum, located here, is a must see for any clock enthusiast.


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