A mantel clock is a type of timepiece that is designed to sit on a mantel or other flat surface. They became prevalent in the mid-eighteenth century and have remained popular throughout centuries. A mantel clock often has a very distinct style, though that style can change depending on the clockmaker's designs. These timepieces are usually fairly small, and they are most often made from wood and/or porcelain. They are usually wind-up clocks, though other methods of running the clock do exist; more modern designs are often battery operated.
The face of the mantel clock itself is usually encased in glass to protect the clock face and the hands of the clock inside. The glass is generally encased in a metal frame that is hinged so a person can open the glass door and properly set the clock. Some wind-up models even feature access to wind up the clock directly on the clock face. The winder can be mounted in such a way that a small hole in the clock face was open, allowing the winding key to access the unit. The door that covers the face of the mantel clock could be made from fine metals and could also be quite ornate.
While the specific shape of the mantel clock can vary, one of the most common designs features a flat bottom and an arched top. The arch begins and ends in a tail that pinches down toward the base, creating a sort of swooping look. This is a distinctive design for mantel clocks, and it is commonly known as the Tambour style. This style of mantel clock may also feature small feet that elevate the base of the clock slightly off the mantel. This is usually only an aesthetic preference, though some clocks feature a hatch for access of the inner workings on the bottom of the clock, so the feet are necessary to elevate this hatch off the surface of the mantel. The inner workings are more commonly accessed from the back of the clock, however.
A clock that is similar to the mantel clock in that it is much smaller and more compact than other traditional styles of clock is the carriage clock. Very often the only way to distinguish between a mantel clock and a carriage clock is the presence or absence of a handle: mantle clocks feature no handles, while carriage clocks feature a handle, hinged or fixed, on the top of the clock unit.