How To Choose A Mantel & Tabletop Clock

Both decorative and functional, mantel and tabletop clocks provide a stylish way to keep up with the time. While many of us look to our phones to find out the time, mantel and tabletop clocks can also provide a sense of nostalgia and purpose even in today's high-tech world.

As such, it may have been a while since you've shopped for a mantel or tabletop clock. If you've done any type of browsing so far, you know there are so many clocks to choose from! We've created this handy guide to help you home in on your perfect timepiece and wind down your search quickly.

Table of Contents Hide

What is the difference between a mantel clock and a tabletop clock?

  • A mantel clock is designed to sit atop a shelf (mantel) above the fireplace. These clocks are decorative and have been a mainstay for mantel décor for centuries. They generally have an outside casing of wood or metal and a face with hands pointing to numerals as the internal mechanism keeps time; as such, they are considered analog in function.
Brown Traditional Wooden Mantel Clock
Gray Elegant Wooden Metal Mantel Clock
Black Stylish Metal Mantel Clock
Blue Traditional Rustic Mantel Clock
Brown Elegant Wooden Brass Mantel Clock
  • A tabletop clock sits atop a table or shelf and can be decorative, utilitarian, or both. They come in both analog and digital displays (digits reflect time instead of the clock face with hands and numbers.) They come in all styles, shapes, and materials.
Brown Industrial Rustic Bronze Tabletop Clock
Gray Classic Metal Tabletop Clock
Silver Elegant Metal Analog Clock
Black Classic Digital Tabletop Clock
Brown Contemporary Wooden Digital Alarm Clock
Blue Modern Digital Tabletop Clock

What Types of Mantel & Tabletop Clocks Are There?

When is the last time you heard a clock chime, gong, or tick-tock? Taking the time to read the hands of an old-school analog clock face can bring immense pleasure. Or if you are into contemporary style, a silent modern digital clock in brilliant metal will give you a sense of timeliness. No matter, there is a clock type to suit your taste and needs.


Often brass or silver mechanism with ivory or white face enclosed by a glass dome. As its name suggests, it runs approximately a year without changing the battery or winding the key. For use on a mantel, shelf, and tabletop.


A metal face clock with a decorative wood case and handle on top. Tends toward traditional style. Square or rectangular in shape.

White Traditional Metal Tabletop Clock
White Elegant Metal Analog Clock
Red Vintage Metal Tabletop Clock
Gray Industrial Metal Tabletop Clock
Brown Vintage Metal Table Clock
Silver Elegant Metal Tabletop Clock


First created centuries ago for use in horse-drawn carriages, these clocks have a large handle at the top for holding. They are best used at the bedside or sofa side as they are smaller than most mantel clocks. Come in brass, gold, and silver casing with decorative faces and hands.


With its distinct camelback shape, this traditional clock is the most common type of mantel clock. It is most often made of smooth wood with a round clock face.

Brown Elegant Wooden Tambour Mantel Clock
Brown Traditional Wooden Tambour Clock
Light Brown Classic Wooden Mantel Clock
Brown Traditional Tambour Mantel Clock
Dark Brown Classic Mantel Clock
Dark Brown Elegant Tambour Mantel Clock

Old World/Maritime

Made from wood or metal, these clocks keep time as well as additional measurement devices like air pressure and direction.


Can be vintage with alarm bells on top or digital with alarm speaker. Come in a variety of shapes and styles from traditional to contemporary. Ideal for setting at the bedside or on a table.

Silver Classic Metal Twin Bell Alarm Clock
Black Elegant Metal Tabletop Alarm Clock
Black Contemporary Cube Desktop Clock
Black Modern Bluetooth Speaker Desktop Clock
Silver Classic Metal Tabletop Alarm Clock
Black Modern Curved Mirror LED Alarm Clock

How to Select the Right Style of a Mantel or Tabletop Clock?

A myriad of clock styles to decorate your mantel, tabletops, and shelves can be found. Some have decorative faces, while others have cases made of pure brass. To help you determine the clock for you, consult the décor styles with correlating detail suggestions below.

  • Traditional: Wood or metal casing, ornate detailing, decorative clock face with Roman numerals, accent legs or pedestal, handle top, glass dome. Analog.
  • Contemporary: Analog or digital, numberless face, modern numerals if any, geometric or round shape, stainless or nickel casing.
  • Vintage: Analog, round or oval case, brass or stainless finish, alarm bells on top, decorative face, roman numerals, rounded feet.
  • Modern: Medium to light wood or leather casing, mid-century style, retro numerals, and slender hands. Analog.
  • Antique: Pendulum style mechanism, wood or metal casing. Analog.
  • Eclectic: Decorative themed faces and casing - nature, birds, flowers, sports, beach. Wood, metal, plastic. Digital or analog.
Dark Brown Traditional Standing Clock
Black Contemporary Curved Tabletop Clock
Dark Brown Vintage Sewing Machine Tabletop Clock
Black Modern Decorative Accent Table Clock
Golden Black Antique Decorative Desk Clock
Eclectic Bicycle Tabletop Clock

What Types of Mechanisms Do Table Top Clocks Come With?

From quartz clocks to digital alarms to antique models, the mechanism used to power these timepieces typically fall within three categories:

  • Battery-Operated: Battery power offers smooth movement that keeps excellent time. No-fuss and low-maintenance. Available in both mantel and tabletop clocks. Tabletop travel clocks are also made with batteries.
  • Key Wound: These are typical of antique clocks, and luxury made clocks. A key is inserted into a hole then wound on a dial to activate the clock's mechanical mechanism. These clocks need to be wound every 8, 14, or 31 days depending upon the movement setting.
  • Electric: Common to digital and radio clocks, an electrical cord is plugged into a wall socket to power the clock's timekeeping mechanism.

What do mantel and tabletop clocks cost?

Both type clocks run the price scale from ten to thousands of dollars. Antique mantel clocks will run at the top of the scale, while digital alarm clocks start as low as a few dollars. Once you decide on placement and budget, then you'll be able to figure what clocks fit within your price range.

Top Tips for Choosing Mantel & Tabletop Clocks

  • A stately wood and brass mantel clock set above the fireplace surround makes an impressive focal point in the traditional living room or study.
  • Battery operated tabletop clocks are ideal for decorating spaces where electric plugs are sparse.
  • A decorative desk clock can keep you on track while working from home.
  • Use a large digital tabletop clock beside the bed to track time when eyes are bleary with sleep.
  • Gift an anniversary clock to a special couple in honor of their milestone.
  • Choose a tabletop clock with filigree scrollwork and decorative face for a touch of French style on a shelf or table.
  • Perch a tabletop clock on a stack of books for alongside a table lamp for a pretty vignette.

A mantel or tabletop clock can add style and function to any room from the bedroom to the living room. These classic pieces can be used in a variety of ways to enhance your décor and lifestyle.