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Chinese Clocks

The world’s first mechanical clock was invented in China by a Buddhist monk named Yi Xing in 725 A.D. Hundreds of years later, 1092 A.D during the Song dynasty, astronomer and mechanist Su Song developed a mechanical clock. This 35-foot-tall clock kept time with the motion of the planets and had 117 mannequins made to ring bells and gongs as they displayed the time every hour.

Chinese water-powered mechanical clocks, due to their inefficiencies that resulted from evaporating water and other environmental factors, are no longer in use. Instead, the value of Chinese clocks lies in the intricacies of the decoration, whether it is in cloisonne, bronze, or lacquered wood.

The embellishments vary from the flamboyant patterns as seen on Chinese ceramics to the dynamic compositions of Chinese wood and bronze sculptures. Most clocks are decorated with a casing that totally obscures the interior mechanism, only leaving the face of the clock visible.


Quick Facts

  • Su Song’s clock was able to stand for 79 years, but was disassembled and stolen by the Jin army in effort to replicate the grand feat. This water clock has never since been successfully replicated to this day
  • It took Su Song 8 years to complete the water clock after being commissioned to do so by the emperor
  • Some Chinese clocks are encased with glass so that a pendulum most likely containing mercury (though some are just polished metal cylinders) can be seen swinging under the face of the clock

Recommended Items at Auction

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Chinese Bronze & Cloisonne Regulator
Dec 10, 10:00 AM EST
Chinese Bronze & Cloisonne Regulator
by Alex Cooper
Est: $1,000- $1,500
$5000 Bids
A Chinese hardwood Nanjing clock, Republic period
Dec 04, 9:00 AM EST
A Chinese hardwood Nanjing clock, Republic period
by Oakridge Auction Gallery
Est: $100- $200
$1000 Bids
Large Chinese Wood Mantle Clock.
Dec 04, 11:00 AM EST
Large Chinese Wood Mantle Clock.
by Palmyra Heritage Gallery
Est: $800- $1,200
$6000 Bids
Chinese cloisonne table clock
Dec 17, 2:00 PM PST
Chinese cloisonne table clock
by International Auction Gallery
Est: $150- $350
$500 Bids
(2pc) CHELSEA DESK CLOCKS
Dec 04, 10:30 AM EST
(2pc) CHELSEA DESK CLOCKS
by Butterscotch Auction Gallery LLC
Est: $200- $300
$1200 Bids
Chinese Cloisonne Regulator Clock
Dec 10, 10:00 AM EST
Chinese Cloisonne Regulator Clock
by Alex Cooper
Est: $700- $900
$3500 Bids
CLOISONNE AND BRASS VINTAGE CHINESE MANTLE CLOCK
Dec 07, 9:00 AM EST
CLOISONNE AND BRASS VINTAGE CHINESE MANTLE CLOCK
by Affiliated Auctions & Realty LLC
Est: $100- $200
$300 Bids
A PENDULUM WALL CLOCK WITH DATE DISPLAY AND WOODEN BOX CARVED IN FINE RELIEF
Dec 07, 9:30 AM CET
A PENDULUM WALL CLOCK WITH DATE DISPLAY AND WOODEN BOX CARVED IN FINE RELIEF
by Nagel Auction
Est: €400- €600
€4000 Bids
A Chinese Quartz Cloisonne Clock
Dec 03, 1:00 PM EST
A Chinese Quartz Cloisonne Clock
by Designer Homes of Central Florida
Est: $400- $4,000
$4000 Bids
Antique Chinese Incense Clock
Dec 03, 1:00 PM EST
Antique Chinese Incense Clock
by Designer Homes of Central Florida
Est: $2,800- $28,000
$2,8000 Bids
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GILT CLOISONNE CAST CLOCK
Dec 03, 11:00 AM EST
GILT CLOISONNE CAST CLOCK
by Empire Auction House
Est: $600- $800
$4000 Bids
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GILT CLOISONNE CAST CLOCK
Dec 03, 11:00 AM EST
GILT CLOISONNE CAST CLOCK
by Empire Auction House
Est: $600- $800
$4000 Bids
CHINESE 1940S MECHANICAL CLOCK WITH BIRD IN CAGE
Dec 10, 10:00 AM EST
CHINESE 1940S MECHANICAL CLOCK WITH BIRD IN CAGE
by Antique Arena Inc
Est: $100- $150
$500 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Chinese Clocks


Alex Cooper

Alex Cooper

Designer Homes of Central Florida

Designer Homes of Central Florida

Empire Auction House

Empire Auction House

Nagel Auction

Nagel Auction