The most expensive clock of all time set a world record recently when it sold for $6.8 million. Built in 1835, the high quality and valuable clock was restored by a precision clockmaker.
It was not only a pendulum clock but also included a gold pocket watch at the top.
Look no further for incredible displays of craftsmanship than the world of rare antique clocks.
For both collectors and investors, the most expensive clocks offer high investment value and stunning historical collectible time pieces.
Most Expensive Clocks – Where Does The Time Go?
Time keeps on slippin, slippin, slippin, into the future. Steve Miller wrote a classic song over 40 years ago, talking about time slipping away and flying like an Eagle.
Each new year brings a few moments of reflection and some wonder where the time went. They start to hear Steve Miller singing in their head. The years fly by, and time will stop for nobody.
Before the days of iPhones in every pocket, there needed to be a way to keep the time so that it wouldn’t slip away.
Every house had a clock of some sort until horologists designed miniature clocks that fit around the wrist; they called the inventions “watches.”
Some of the most amazing engineering on the planet came from clockmakers who designed the most expensive clocks in the world. They were able to bottle up the passing of time and display it for all to see.
Most Valuable Antique Clocks
The market for longcase clocks is strong. Like luxury watches, the big reason for high prices in longcase clocks and the rarest grandfather clocks is the brand stamped on the clock face.
The antique grandfather clock market can range from $500 to $50,000, depending on the particular clock.
Also known as a floor clock, here are a few of the top grandfather clock brands from the best clock makers in history –
- Howard Miller Langston
- Franz Hermle
- Kieninger Clock Company
Duc D’Orleans Breguet Sympathique Clock, $6.8 Million
In 1835, the Duc d’Orleans commissioned a clock by Breguet, set a new auction record as one of the most expensive clocks to ever sell at auction.
The clock was designed to hold a pocket watch inside, where it would be automatically adjusted and wound.
French watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet invented the Sympathique clock concept in 1795. He presented it to the public three years later, in 1798, at the Exposition Nationale des Produits de I’Industrie.
This particular model was one of the best-preserved clocks of its kind, entirely repaired by a legendary horologist and master watchmaker, George Daniels.
12 Known Sympathique Clocks
The clock rested at the Time Museum in Rockford, Illinois, for many years before it was sold in 1999 to a private investor for $5.7 million. In 2012, the clock was again offered at auction where it sold for $6.8 million. That’s serious money for the Sympathique clocks.
Twelve known Sympathique clocks are remaining. Three were made for the Spanish Crown, four were created for the Russian Crown, one was commissioned by Napoleon, and another was made for British King George IV.
Prague Astronomical Clock, Value unknown
Created in 1380, the Prague Astronomical Clock has been keeping time for centuries as one of the world’s oldest functioning astronomical clocks.
Known as The Orloj, the astronomical clock in Prague has many functions beyond telling time. It provides the date and shows zodiacal and astronomical readings.
Prague Astronomical Clock Features
The clock’s dial features the sun and moon positioning in the sky using a mechanical astrolabe.
Used in ancient times, an astrolabe was a handheld model of the universe that influenced the creation of astronomical clocks.
The main background of the Prague Astronomical Clock displays ancient Czech time. Toward the center shows a set of Roman numerals showing 24-hour time.
The variations of blue and red colors indicate sunrise, daybreak, daytime, and nighttime.
Who Built the Prague Astronomical Clock?
Years passed by crediting clock-master Jan Ruze with the design of the Prague Astronomical Clock, but research has shown this to be incorrect.
This amazing piece of Horology and engineering history was created by Mikulas of Kadan and Jan Sindel in 1410.
Prague Astronomical Clock Value
The estimated value of the Prague Astronomical Clock is unknown because it’s completely priceless and irreplaceable.
You won’t be able to buy it, at least anytime soon, but I have a great idea for you.
The next time you’re searching for unique wall clocks for your office or kitchen, try this. A Prague Orloj Astronomical replica wooden wall clock.
For anyone well-versed in European history, famous clocks, and horology, they’re sure to recognize the sight of the amazing work of art hanging on your wall.
Magpie’s Treasure Nest Clock, $2.3 Million
The Magpie’s Treasure Nest Clock sold for $2.3 million at a Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong in 2013, making it one of the most expensive clocks in the world.
Designed by Patek Philippe with nearly 25 carats of diamonds and over 13 carats of rubies and arranged on a sculpted base of calcite, agate, and onyx.
The clock was built in 1992 and sold for $640,000. It features a bird dropping a 104-carat tanzanite pendant into a nest.
Flamingo and Lotus Automation Clock, $1.2 Million
The Flamingo and Lotus Automation clock, built by Cartier, sold at a Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong in 2013 for $1.2 million.
The rectangular base is made from 18k yellow gold with onyx and hardstone. The total weight of the colorless diamonds is approximately 190 carats.
A lot of skilled labour poured into the making of the Flamingo and Lotus clock, making it one of the few timepieces worth over $1 million.
The Queen Mary Royal Tompion Clock, $2 Million
The “Father of English Clockmaking” was involved in some of the most historic and important clocks and watches of all-time.
Master clockmaker Thomas Tompion created The Royal Thomas Tompion clock for Queen Mary II in 1693. After the Queen’s death, the clock may have passed out of royal hands the following year.
Later in the 20th century, the clock was owned by Sir James Caird, a shipowner who influenced the creation of The National Maritime Museum at Greenwich.
The clock is known as one of the smallest ebony repeating table clocks. Also known as “The Q Clock,” it accompanied “The K Clock,” a Tompion creation for the Queen’s husband, King William III.
Chinese Ormolu Clock, $4 Million
The Chinese Ormolu clock is one of the most impressive multi-functioning clocks ever built.
The clock features music, a leaping fish, moving birds, and an automated function that raises curtains to reveal painted flowers and banisters.
Dating back to 1736, the clock was recently sold for over $4 million at auction.
Rothschild Faberge Egg Clock, $18 Million
The jeweled, enameled, and decorated egg was created by the Russian jeweler Peter Carl Faberge in 1902.
The egg was a gift from Beatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild as an engagement gift to Germaine Halphen, who would marry Beatrice’s younger brother, Edouard Alphonse de Rothschild.
Every hour, a diamond set cockerel pops up from the top of the egg and flaps its wings four times while crowing and nods his head three times.
The Rothschild Faberge Egg clock is one of the few eggs not made for the Russian Imperial family. It has remained in the Rothschild family collection until it was sold at a Christie’s auction in 2007.
18th Century Automaton Clock, $3.7 Million
In 2015, a scarce musical automaton clock from the late 18th century sold for $3.7 million during an online auction.
The Chinese Imperial clock is from the Guangzhou workshop from the Qing Dynasty.
With only a few clocks such as this privately owned, the rare clocks hardly ever see the open market.
The clock represents the magical mountain Penglai, which is regarded as the place of the ‘Eight Immortals’ of Taoism.
The clock was purchased by well-known collector and investor Liu Yiqian from Shanghai, who also owns a small porcelain cup from the Ming dynasty known as ‘chicken cup,’ for $36 million.
The Cartier Mystery Clocks, $5.4 Million
Christie’s auction house offered the Cartier Mystery Clock Collection, a private collection including 101 Cartier clocks.
The collection was packed full of expensive items from the famed jeweler Cartier, spanning more than 80 years of incredible clockmaking.
The mystery clocks from the unnamed private collector included two clocks modeled after the first planet clocks made by my Couet in 1912.
Types of Antique Clocks
Let’s go all the way back to 1656, when Christiaan Huygens engineered the very first pendulum clock.
In what must have been a startling discovery at the time, the newly-built pendulum clock kept perfect time in England, but when brought to America, the clock struggled to show the correct time.
The invention of the pendulum clock led to a greater understanding of gravity, physics, and our planet earth.
So, how many different types of clocks are there? Let’s take a look at the most popular types of clocks.
The very first Banjo clock was named, “Willard’s Improved Patent Time Piece.” It’s inventor, Simon Willard, was a well-known clockmaker from Roxbury Massachusetts.
What had similar components of a Grandfather clock, the Banjo clock was smaller and lighter. It could be hung on a wall and lacked the bulk of the larger Grandfather clocks.
Vintage Table Clocks
As the clock was perfected, the size decreased. Eventually we would have the wristwatch, and the luxury Rolex brand we know today. But first, the table clock needed to be perfected.
The race was on to develop smaller and smaller clocks. Eventually, clocks were created small enough to set on a tabletop.
Soon table clocks were appearing on nightstands around the world. With the addition of a tiny bell on top, the alarm clock was found as a useful tool for punctuality and productivity.
If you need a few ideas, check out the tortoiseshell table clock. One of my favorite designs.
Double-Sided Station Clocks
If you were a shop owner in the 1800s, there was nothing better than to display a double-sided station clock.
Show off the amazing new technology of the clock, while also helping passers-by to keep on schedule. The double-sided clock hanging outside a shop was a public display of progress, engineering, and pride.
Another amazing display of craftsmanship appeared in the Cuckoo Clock. Every 30 minutes, a mechanism triggers a bird that would appear and sing a song.
The Cuckoo Clock was a top attraction for houseguests, and to own an early Cuckoo Clock was a symbol of achievement and status.
Popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, wall clocks were great for public places, factories, and businesses.
The industrial revolution wouldn’t have been as productive without the incredible wall clock hanging for all to see.
Grandfather Clock with Pendulum
The highest degree of craftsmanship went into antique grandfather clocks with pendulums.
Not only extreme craftsmanship and engineering were vital, but the highest quality sourced materials were required. In order for precision time-keeping, the finest oak, cherry, walnut, copper, silver, and brass were used in the building of grandfather clocks.
Later, modern and contemporary Grandfather clocks appeared in all shapes and designs.
Mantel clocks began as decorative pieces of style and fashion for the extremely wealthy class. What’s better to place on the mantel of a castle or mansion than an amazing, tiny, and intricate display of craftsmanship and engineering.
10,000 Year Clock, $42 Million
While researching expensive and obscure clocks, I found one that might top the list as not only one of the most expensive clocks but one of the most interesting concepts I’ve ever heard of.
There’s a team of clock builders who’ve been working on a clock for the last 20 years.
It’s called the ‘10,000 Year Clock,’ and it will be constructed inside a mountain in West Texas. Inventor, engineer, and designer Danny Hillis is the mastermind behind the clock.
It’s hundreds of feet tall and designed to tick for 10,000 years. Not only that but the clock is built to play a melody from time to time.
The melody played by chimes inside the clock is a melody that’s never been played before, truly original each time. The chimes have been programmed not to repeat themselves for the next 10,000 years.
Why is a team of scientists and engineers building a giant clock inside a mountain that will keep time for 10,000 years?
A good answer to the question comes from the clock’s inventor, Danny Hillis, who says,
I cannot imagine the future, but I care about it. I know I am a part of a story that starts long before I can remember and continues long beyond when anyone will remember me. I sense that I am alive at a time of important change, and I feel a responsibility to make sure that the change comes out well. I plant my acorns knowing that I will never live to harvest the oaks.Danny Hillis, LongNow.org
The clock was formed by Danny Hillis and the Long Now Foundation, which hopes to make long-term thinking more common. It also has a heavy hitter behind the project’s funding,
Jeff Bezos of Amazon invested $42 million in the project. Bezos actually owns the mountain, which he eventually plans to use as a Blue Origin spaceport.
Installation has begun—500 ft tall, all mechanical, powered by day/night thermal cycles, synchronized at solar noon, a symbol for long-term thinking—the #10000YearClock is coming together thx to the genius of Danny Hillis, Zander Rose & the whole Clock team! Enjoy the video. pic.twitter.com/FYIyaUIbdJ— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) February 20, 2018
Attic Capital – Writer, Editor, and Lifelong Collector
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