"Clocks always tell a story because on a first period tall clock there were three hands at work. A cabinet maker who made the case, an ornamental painter who made the dial and the clockmaker who made the movement and generally got all the credit for making the clock."
-- Sean Delaney, Delaney Antique Clocks
Sean and his brother John Delaney are at the top of their field. Delaney Clocks is the foremost clock expert in the U.S. which is why they have spent the last 15 years appearing on Antiques Roadshow appraising all kinds of clocks. Their showroom in West Townsend, Massachusetts, which by the way is a beautiful antique carriage house, has been housing clocks for over 50 years and they have the largest collection of tall clocks in the country.
Truth be told, I met Sean Delaney when my husband and I were first dating. They went to college together and we would go out to Seans amazing antique home in West Townsend and hang out in his renovated barn at Christmas time. He was already in the antique business and I had just started collecting.
Sean's parents started the clock business so naturally Sean and his brother were raised with knowledge of antique clocks that was instilled in them. It's a family business but you also have to love clocks, have a passion and have knowledge if you want to survive in this business and that he does.
Why are we talking clocks? Because they are back or they never left. I'm generally uninformed about clocks so I asked Sean a few questions so I know what to look for.
Me: These tall clocks are made so beautifully, do artists sign the clocks?
Sean : If a clock is signed on the dial by the maker it adds to the story significantly because now we know who made the clock, where the clockmaker worked and when. Most clockmakers are listed and important clockmakers have lots of information in their listings such as where they were born and died, their working dates, who they apprenticed with, etc.
Me: What do you look for when you're trying to date a clock?
Sean: You can tell where and when most cases were made from regional characteristics of the clock case and if you're really knowledgeable one can tell where and when the clock was made within a decade. For example, in Boston, tall clock cases became highly inlaid circa 1800 vs a Boston tall clock that was made in 1780 generally would not have inlay because that wasn't the fashion. Taste changed just like cars. A Concord, NH tall clock would look very different from a Concord, Ma. tall clock. Dials also provide lots of clues as to when a clock was made. In general later clock dials provide less numerical markings than earlier clock dials.
Me: Are people still buying clocks?
Sean: Yes! We are selling lots of tall case clocks and other clocks for that matter. Since Covid people are improving their homes and working from home so there has been a huge uptick in the antique market across the board. Antiques are affordable again and that creates interest but clocks are also a functional item.
Me: Where did the term Grandfather clock come from?
Sean: It came from the number one hit song in 1905 called " My grandfathers clock" written by Henry Clay Work 1876. It topped the charts and the name stuck!
Tall clocks seem to be back in style. I personally love the look of a tall cased or grandfather clock in a room design. They work in a traditional setting but also look amazing mixed in a modern design because they add the warmth and tell a story. Tall clocks are like art, the details on the clock face, the wood inlay and the pleasing sound of a chime.
In my early years in the business I remember having a conversation with Sean and he gave me some great advice. He said "specialize in something and be the best at that" and that he has done, shipping clocks all over the world and being sought after for his expert knowledge on clocks.
If you're looking for more information on clocks or want to see them in person you can find Delaney Antique Clocks brick and mortar shop at 435 Main Street, West Townsend, Massachusetts located just 45 miles from Boston - a one hour drive.
Visit them online at http://delaneyantiqueclocks.com where you can sign up to receive their newsletter, watch videos, connect to links for current shows and see portions of their inventory.