Dorrin K Mace, Horologost

Dorrin K Mace, Horologost
The Clock Man in a pensive moment

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Service/Repair/Restoration/Conservation of clocks

First, I should explain the meaning of the terms service, repair, restoration, and conservation, in relation to clocks: 
Service implies that all aspects of the clock are working and is analogous to a routine car service.  It usually involves stripping, cleaning and lubricating the clock. 
Repair means getting the clock working and possibly improving its appearance.  It usually involves fitting, making or repairing parts. 
Restoration is similar to repair but implies using the methods, materials and parts available at the time the clock was made. 
Conservation implies preventing deterioration without adding to, or altering, the clock in any way.  Taken to extreme, conservation implies that the clock is no longer allowed to tick!

In reality, the ‘repair’ is usually a combination of all four aspects.  However, whatever work is done, it should be done sympathetically, with due regard to age, condition, type, and cost of the clock.  For example, a 200-year-old clock must not be made to look as though it was made yesterday.  Of course, the clock repairer can only recommend a course of action.  It does not follow that the customer will (or can) take his advice – cost being an important factor. 
For this post, the word ‘repair’ is used to encompass all the above.  Also, the terms ‘clock repairer’ and ‘clock maker’ will be used in their strict literal sense to distinguish between someone who repairs, and someone who actually makes clocks.          

Decision to Repair:  To repair a clock properly takes time and skill, and that costs money.  The customer needs to consider whether to repair, scrap, replace, sell, use as decoration, or put the clock in the attic and forget it!  If the clock has no sentimental value then the decision should simply be a matter of raw economics.  Ironically, sentimental value, or otherwise, often determines the fate of a clock.       

The cost of the repair does not necessarily relate to the value of the clock.  For example, the work involved in repairing the movement (mechanism) of a mass produced, 1940s, chiming clock, which may have cost just a few dollars from an estate sale, is similar to that of repairing the movement of an antique chiming clock worth several thousand dollars.  In fact, mass produced clocks are often more problematic to repair because the parts are less hearty, the wear which has taken place is often greater, and the movements generally more difficult to reassemble. 

Another consideration is: Does the clock have investment potential?  For example, an English Dial clock cost $10.00 thirty years ago and is probably worth $1,000 plus today, so it was undoubtedly worth repairing.  However, it is not easy to predict what will, and what will not, be a good investment.

Unlike many modern appliances, most clocks can be repaired even if they are in poor condition.  Many parts are still available off-the-shelf, but parts which are not can generally be made by the skilled repairer or specialist supplier.  Again, it is a matter of cost.

Finding a good clock repairer:  Horology has more than its share of hacks.  In choosing a repairer, one should look for someone who has:  membership in fraternal horology groups, a long track record of good quality repair, and can provide references if requested.  In addition, one would expect to see evidence of the quality of their work.  Personal recommendation is useful, but the person recommending the clock repairers services needs to be knowledgeable.  The clock repairer should advise the customer on technical matters, history, current and potential value of the clock, as well as provide an estimate of the cost and time to repair. 

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