What’s the difference between an antique and a vintage clock?

There is enough confusion among clock collectors and owners of antique and vintage items that it prompts a discussion.

The terms vintage and antique are often used interchangeably, and often incorrectly.

Vintage or antique, Seth Thomas adamantine mantel clock C.1911

According to the United States Government, the term “antique” is reserved for valuables that are over a century old. Webster’s dictionary defines an antique as a work of art, piece of furniture, or decorative object made at an earlier period and according to various customs laws at least 100 years ago. Wikipedia defines antique as applying to objects at least 100 years old. Therefore, most sources define the term “antique” as items that are 100 years or more.

The word “vintage”, according to eBay, is a defined period that is less than 100 years but more than 30 years. To many, vintage often means anything that is not new, is dirty, worn, or looks like it might be old if nothing is know about its provenance.

Vintage Fleet Time mantel clock C. 1936

The word vintage is as overused, and misused, as the word “antique”. 

The use of the word vintage in auctions is becoming used moreMost often the seller who knows nothing about what they are offering for sale will use the term vintage or even “rare” and hope the buyer is convinced. 

Some items that were considered rare many years ago are common today. Take the 30-hour ogee clock which was once considered rare but with the advent of the internet thousands were offered for sale and prices dropped accordingly. “Rare” then became “antique”. What is truly rare today are one-of clocks that have an significant provenance.

The word “collectible” is another clever marketing term, and like the word vintage, has been misused. It presumes that the item offered must be added to what you already have and because it is the one piece you need the most, it will cost you more.

Jewelry is an interesting example. Anything over twenty years old is considered vintage. Some terms like “near” vintage and “true” vintage are often used. I assume any number of years can be assigned to “near” or “true” although “near” seems to mean “almost new” and sounds better than the word “used”.

George H Clark 30-hour ogee clock
Antique George H Clark 30-hour ogee clock

In my view no quartz clock has any value. However, in 1970, Junghans invented the Astor-Quartz wristwatch which entered series production in 1972. Watch collectors everywhere would consider the Junghans quartz watch to be a highly collectible vintage timepiece even though it is quartz.

Take the time to research your prospective purchase by consulting various sources which will inform you of the age of the clock you are shopping for.

Some clocks can be dated precisely by serial number, patent date or date stamps on the movements. Many clocks can be dated with some accuracy but often it is a challenge at times to determine the age of a particular clock unless you compare the style and movement type with others of the same period.

Canadian time clock
Vintage or antique Canadian time wall clock

In my collection is an Arthur Pequegnat Canadian Time clock which is quite old but I do not know it’s exact year of manufacture but I can place it within a range of dates. It was made by the company between 1917 and 1941. There is nothing noteworthy about the movement or style of the case that determines the year it was made.

Whether antique, vintage or collectible, if you enjoy your clock nothing else truly matters.

But, if you are selling a clock it is important to inform your prospective buyer and give them the best information possible to help them make a decision.


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