For many wall and mantle clocks, the name on the dial will often be the retailer, not the maker. Take a look at the top illustration opposite from a 10in fusée dial clock, for example. Maples were retailers of fine furniture (until their demise in the 1980s) but they never actually made clocks.
Conversely, the second picture shows a 12in dial from a similar fusée clock signed by J Adamson of Thirsk. Now the only Adamson ever recorded as making clocks in Thirsk is John Adamson, but he worked there in 1773 and I don't believe this clock is really as old as that, though I could be wrong. It's spent a lot of time in the US where it was restored so the name on the dial could just be someone's fantasy. Maybe Jed Atkinson III from Arkansas! Who knows?
Longcase dials tend to be more reliable. Whether painted or brass, these dials will very often show the maker's name and place of manufacture, such as James Edwards of Godalming in Surrey (1828-1851) as the third illustration depicts. This dial is typical of the period from around 1800 until 1830 - any earlier and it would have had 'five minute' numbering instead of 'fifteen minute' - any later and there would have been no minute numbering at all.
But you cannot rely on this alone for all sorts or reasons. First, you cannot be sure that the dial is even original to the clock without making a careful study of the dial posts and even then it's not always certain. For example, the very earliest longcase clocks had square dials but a new fashion for arched dials came along in the 1720s and as the fashion caught on, some clock dials were updated either with a new dial or by bolting on an arch. Eventually, brass dials gradually fell out of favour in the provinces when the 'new' painted dials started to appear from 1772 so some clocks were undoubtedly 'updated' again by their fashion-concious owners. Also, small details about features like the style of the four posts, the shape of wheel collets and arbors help confirm a movement's age. And dials can be dated by the style of the chapter ring, the spandrels, engravings, even screw heads. For longcase clocks, if you let me have the name and place on the dial, I will undertake some research to help identify when it was made. I have more books on clocks that I care to count and certainly more than most libraries so email me the details and I'll check the details.
Of course you always have the trader who deliberately adds a name on a dial to increase the clock's value or to conceal its poor quality. Take a look at my page on FAKE DIAL CLOCKS and my concern about the abundance of suspicious clocks with the hinge on the left instead of the right, where the bezel is fitted with bevelled glass (almost unheard of for the period) and where the same number (6472) is stamped on the brass backplate.
For French and German clocks, you'll generally have to look inside the back of the clock and make notes on anything you see there such as a number, a name, a place or country, or just a logo. Stars, for example, are common but the fourth image is from a French pendule de Paris movement by AD Mougin taken from a four glass clock whilst the fifth is from a German wall clock made by Junhans. Photographs are therefore much better than description but they're only useful if in focus. So if you can't control the focus manually take several pictures, each one a little further away than the previous one and then when you've looked through them, send me the best of the bunch.
There is no charge for this service but here's the quid pro quo: in return I would like you to help me promote HOROLOGICA by clicking anywhere in this underlined sentence; it will open a new tab in your browser and take you to a new page - please then scroll down and click on the red button marked 'Write Review'. You can leave a review without registering and make it annonymous if you wish by just giving your initials where it asks for your name. Enter a suitable title in 'Subject' line (like 'Very fast'). Add 'tags' (like 'clock repair, horologica'). Then click on the number of stars you want to award me and just leave a couple of words by way of explanation in the box marked 'Review text'. When you've finished, just close the new tab that opened and you will be back here again. It'll take two minutes and I'd be very grateful.
If you can commit to that, send me a nice big cheque instead along with a description and include a note of the words and symbols that you see on your clock dial and on the movement inside. But please, no phone calls for this service - it's only a hobby and I have a proper day job to attend to in order to earn a living!