Ask A Worthologist Question: Imperial Clock

Arnold H. bought this clock at a yard sale, thinking it was a late 19th-century French clock, similar to what he had seen on the “Antiques Roadshow.” Upon further inspection, he suspected that it might actually have been made much later than he thought. To find out for sure, he engaged WorthPoint’s “Ask A Worthologist” service to discover just what he had.

Arnold H. bought this clock thinking it was a late 19th-century French example. Its previous owner didn’t know much about it, as it had been purchased as an antique by a great aunt, now passed on. Now, Arnold suspects the clock is not as old as it first appeared, so he contacted WorthPoint’s “Ask a Worthologist” service to check out its pedigree.

“I picked up this clock at a yard sale for $300. It was dusty and old-looking and I figured it had to worth at least what the guy wanted for it. The guy running the yard sale said it had belonged to his great aunt, but he didn’t know anything about it, having inherited it about five years ago. The clock looks like 19th century French bronze clocks I’ve seen on the “Antiques Roadshow,” but the inside works are stamped Franz Hermle, which sounds German to me. I’d like to know what I have, when it was made and what it’s worth”

Here’s my response.

I’ve been seeing a lot of these clocks lately; all that resemble 19th-century French mantel clocks, but don’t match others I’ve seen over the last 35 years. Any time this happens, it sets off alarm bells for appraisers.

Any time an item suddenly appears on the scene in fairly large numbers—an item one has never run into before in the last 35 years—it generally indicates someone is making reproductions. Based on what I can see in the images provided and the marking, your clock is a late 20th-century reproduction in the style of late 19th-century French mantel clocks. You’re correct about the “Franz Hermle” marking; Hermle is a German company that only dates back to 1922 and produced movements for other makers, as well as its own. None of its clocks match this one.

I’ve seen this particular clock the last few years sold on its own or part of a matching garniture set that came with two matching candelabras. Of the ones I’ve run across, they were marked by two makers: “Imperial” or “Lancicni,” although some with no maker’s mark were simply labeled “Made In Italy.”

The Imperial examples that match yours were made by the Italian company Farbel Fonderie D’Arte, which has been producing reproductions of 19th-century clocks since 1966. The company still makes this clock, along with a full line of reproductions based on 19th century French clocks.

The good news is even though your clock isn’t an original 19th century French mantel clock, the Imperial examples are extremely well made and fetch high prices even at auction. Just last month, a clock matching yours, along with the matching candelabra, sold for $750. Another back in February sold for $1,000. The clock on its own, without the candelabra, has sold at auction in the $350-$550 range over the last two years.

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.


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