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Collections / Original collections / Watches, clocks / On Collecting Clocks.
On Collecting Clocks.

Clocks - The Basics
History of the Wristwatch
Curious Clocks
On Collecting Clocks.

Antique Clocks
 Private collections of this section

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The interest in clock collecting has grown tremendously over the past few decades. Why all of this fascination with old clocks? Well, it is a bit ethereal, but let me try to explain my own pleasures. I find antique clocks a delight on several levels. There is my admiration for the early scientists who imagined and executed the mechanical works that form the heart of a clock. Yes, scientists is the correct description of these men. They were the observers of natural phenomenon. They were the measurers, the men who wanted to understand the movement of the stars and planets. They were Galileo, Huygens, Newton and many less well known thinkers and engineers who came before and after them. There is also the fascination with time itself. We all have an intuitive notion of what time is, even if we find it difficult to articulate. If nothing else we have an understanding of its passing, of its apparent unidirectional movement. Then there is the beauty of the cases that house the clock movements. These range from the primitive to the incredibly elaborate. Many are true works of art. And of course there is their place in history and the fine craftsmanship from bygone eras. Clocks reflect a world view of their times and carry the imprint of their makers. Finally, I am continually fascinated by the fact that these machines are still capable of accurate time keeping even after a hundred or more (sometimes many more) years of operation. They are marvels of beauty, craftsmanship and engineering.

What to look for in an antique clock.

This is a topic that is both simple and complex. The first consideration is what you are comfortable with and what pleases you. I would never recommend a clock to a customer that I felt they would not enjoy for many years to come. If you have a particular place in mind for the clock, such as a mantel, table, desk or wall, then begin narrowing your search to those types of clocks.

Once you have chosen a clock consider the overall design of the piece and where you would like to display it. On a mantel, shelf, table or desk the clock should be proportional for the space and be stable. Pendulum regulated clocks need to be on a level surface. I suggest that wall clocks be placed such that at least twice their width be clear on both sides, more if space allows. Grand father or tall case clocks deserve a prominent setting. The entry way into the home, if the clock does not crowd the space, is a pleasing location. A living room or family room also works well. In any case, try to place it in a location that allows it to show off its attractiveness.

Some clocks are best elevated for better appreciation, while others are meant to be viewed at eye level. Proper placement will enhance your enjoyment of the clock. You may also consider illuminating the clock with a recessed or track type of lighting. Many clocks were meant to be appreciated for their artistic and esthetic qualities, so show them off well, place them as you would a painting or piece of sculpture.

Now, where are the best places to look for antique clocks?

Where to buy an antique clock.

There are many places to find these pieces. They range from garage sales and flee markets to auctions, general antique shops and antique clock specialty shops. There are no universal rules as to where to look, but some general principles do seem helpful. Garage sales and flee markets do on occasion provide fruitful hunting grounds, but by and large you will find the number of clocks and their variety very limited. The other problem is that the condition of the clocks is often poor and their running condition at best questionable. This is definitely a case of "let the buyer beware". This is not a perjeorative criticism of such sources, but merle my experience in hunting for antique clocks. If you don`t care if the clock runs, or if the movement is original then you may be satisfied with the occasional find. However, if you want a nice antique clock that has its original parts and is in good running order then you should probably spend your time looking elsewhere.

Auctions are fun and can be a fine place to purchase antiques. Clocks can be found at general estate auctions as well as special sales of clock collections. At auction all items are sold as-is, and in general all sales are final. This means that you should check out the items before the auction begins and then decide on a maximum amount that you will bid. It is easy to get carried away with the biding, but that is a matter of exercising self control. More difficult is determining the real value of the clocks; the general availability of similar clocks, the condition of the case and the originality and mechanical fitness of the movement. Is the clock in running order? Will it run once you get it home? Do you know how to set it up properly? If the clock is not in running order can it be made to work and do you know where to take it for repair? What will it cost to have it repaired?

General antiques shops are another source of antique clocks. Many dealers carry one or a few clocks and most will be honest about their running condition at the time of sale. However, they may or may not be knowledgeable as to the origin and history of the piece, or to the originality of the movement, dial and case parts. Don`t be afraid to ask questions. A quality dealer will tell you what they know and what they don`t know about the clock. In any case make sure that the shop will provide at least a limited guarantee that the clock will run.

This brings us to dealers that specialize in antique clocks. This is probably the best place to look. I say this not because I am an antique clock dealer, but because these are the places where you will find the most knowledgeable people and the largest selection of clocks to chose from. We know the pieces that we sell. Ask questions. We deal in antique clocks because of our fascination with them. We have spent many years studying them from the inside out. Since we specialize we are familiar with the mechanical as well as the case details of the clocks. We can tell you of the history of the clock and its maker or manufacturer, details of the clock`s construction and if the piece appears whole and original. For example, one area of concern for the customer is the "marriage" of movements to cases producing a complete but not wholly original antique clock. Often it is difficult to tell if this has occurred, particularly if the clock is rare and of considerable value if in original condition. Finally, since we are so familiar with antique clocks, we can guarantee the clock will run. These are but some of the reasons why it pays to deal with an expert.

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