What is the Difference Between a Grandfather and a Grandmother Clock?

Most of us know what a grandfather clock is. But you might not have heard of a grandmother clock. Grandmother clocks are freestanding, just like their grandfather counterparts. There are differences, though.

Grandmother clocks are small than grandfather clocks. They measure in at five to six feet, instead of the grandfather’s typical height of six to seven feet. Their cases are slimmer, so they take up less space in the home. Grandmother clocks are perfect for smaller rooms, hallways, or staircase landings.

Read on to learn more about where grandmother clocks originated and what their differences are from grandfather clocks.

Antique Grandmother Clock
Antique Grandmother Clock from recop55 on Ebay

History of Pendulum-Based Time Keepers

Dutch physicist and inventor Christiaan Huygens created the pendulum clock in 1656. Huygens discovered that a pendulum that was long enough to trace a single second with each swing could be used to measure time. Initially, it was believed that only pendulums of a specific length could precisely record a second, leading to the creation of tall, imposing clock designs.

In 1680, British clockmaker William Clement adopted the two-second pendulum system and built the first longcase clock, later called a Grandfather Clock.

The song “Grandfather Clock” by Henry Clay Work, written in 1876, is where the grandfather clock gets its name. The pendulum clock in the lobby of the George Hotel in North Yorkshire, which the owner told Work was inhabited by a haunting grandfather spirit, served as the inspiration for the song.

For more on how grandfather clocks got their name, click here.

At the end of the 19th century, when smaller houses were built, and people had more disposable income, smaller grandfather clocks were created. They were called short-case or grandmother clocks. Not only are they shorter, but grandmother clocks also have a half-second beat and are spring-driven.

Where Do You Put Grandmother Clocks in the Home?

Since grandmother clocks are smaller than grandfather clocks, they fit in more spaces in the home. That fact is what led to their production in the first place. You can find grandmother clocks in a variety of rooms in the home, from the formal dining or living rooms to a staircase landing.

Grandmother clocks still provide a sense of magnificence, as well as timekeeping. With their hardwood cases and ornate designs, the clocks are fascinating to watch. Be mindful of its sound wherever you choose to put a grandmother clock. With the regular chiming and the clockwork ticking, they shouldn’t be placed near the bedroom of a light sleeper.

How Do You Maintain Grandfather and Grandmother Clocks?

Both clocks include moving parts that require maintenance regularly to keep them operating. A two-year oil change is recommended for the gears. If you don’t do this, the gears’ oil will dry out and turn sticky, attracting dust. The gears will eventually become worn down as a result of the dust’s increased workload.

As with any other fine wooden furniture, the clock’s cabinet and glass door need to be dusted and polished. Dust can enter the cabinet if it isn’t kept off the surface.

The clock must be wound in order to keep working. The weights are raised to the top by pulling chains or turning a crank. Three weights are typically used in grandfather clocks to regulate the hour strike, pendulum, and chime tune. As their energy drives the clock, these weights slowly detach. The clock will stop if the weights completely separate from their chain or cable. Most clocks require winding around every seven days.

The case can crack, and the finish can deteriorate in direct sunshine, extremely hot temperatures, and high humidity. Make sure your clock is kept in a cool, shaded area of your home to keep it functioning and looking its best.

Where Can You Purchase a Grandmother Clock?

There are a variety of places to purchase both grandfather and grandmother clocks. You can shop online or in person. You might not find the term grandmother when shopping. Instead, pay attention to the height and build to ensure you get the clock you want.

A quick search shows a range from $300 to upwards of $10,000 depending on what wood is used, how ornate the clock is, and the manufacturer. Clocks made by Ridgeway, Franz Hermle, or Howard Miller tend to be top-of-the-line timepieces that are priced higher.

You can also find clock pieces if you need to repair your clock or call a clock expert to work on yours. Services average in cost, depending on if you need springs replaced or a complete overhaul. There are videos available online if you would like to fix your clock on your own.

Are Antique Grandmother Clocks Valuable?

You can find several options online on eBay if you’re looking to either purchase a grandmother clock or assess the value of the one you own. A clock expert can help you with the assessment as well. Parts, including decorative chimes, weights, and even keys, can also be found on the site.

If you’re in the market for a grandmother clock, make sure you purchase from a reputable dealer. This is especially important if you are purchasing an antique clock. You’ll want to look for crucial manufacturer marks, as well as the dial design and numbering on the face.

The manufacturer mark is typically engraved on the back of the movement mechanism. There could be a serial number or name indicating valuable information about the clock. These are just a few telltale signs if you’re genuinely looking at a clock that is older and was not manufactured in the last few years.


In many instances, a grandfather clock is the term used for all clocks that have pendulum movement inside a clock case. Now you know there are differences, though. Despite the name, these clocks are timeless and are still found in numerous homes and buildings. They offer a sense of grandeur in whatever space they occupy.

You can’t go wrong purchasing one as you’re sure to enjoy their movements and beauty for years to come. If you purchase, ask about a maintenance plan. The clock shop you are buying from might offer this service as part of your purchase. If they don’t, remember to follow the tips listed above to keep your grandmother clock in tip-top shape.


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