Difference Between a Grandfather & Grandmother Clock

The grandfather, or long case, clock has traditionally been crafted with stately cabinetry and clock face designs. The more ornate grandmother and granddaughter clocks are smaller designs crafted after the structure of the towering Grandfather clock.

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Woman admiring a grandfather clock

Difference in Works

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Grandfather clock face detail

The grandfather clock long case compartment has a pendulum movement. The smaller grandmother clock is mainly spring driven and has a dome top with movements that play music and an arch-shaped brass or square dial.

Difference in Size

Interior with Armchair and Clock
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Grandmother wall clock

A grandmother clock is shorter in height than a grandfather clock, which is between 6 to 8 feet tall, and takes up less space in a room. The grandmother clock, with its shorter stature and slimmer long case, fits well in small rooms, hallways, landings and foyers.


Grandfather clock by kitchen table
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Grandfather clock by kitchen table

Christian Huygens used the 1582 discovery by Galileo of keeping time with a pendulum to develop a clock. William Clement lengthened the original pendulum timekeeper to 3 feet and invented the first long case grandfather clock in 1670 England.

Origin of the Name

Clockface & key
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Wind-up key in face of old clock

When staying at a hotel in England in 1875, American songwriter Henry Clay Work noticed a floor or long case clock had stopped. He learned that the clock had stopped working after the deaths of the Jenkins brothers, who had managed the hotel, and was inspired to write "My Grandfather's Clock," which gave the long case clock the new permanent name, grandfather clock.

How Grandfather Clocks Work

metal pendulum clock swinging in wood background
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Brass clock pendulum

The pendulum is a long rod with a weighted piece at the end of it that causes the unit to sway using the force of gravity. It regulates and adjusts the time as it swings, every two seconds, turning a gear that causes the clock to tick and also makes the clock hands move to measure time.