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Collecting Mania: Caring For Antique Clocks

Updated on May 30, 2010

Up until the early 1800's a clock was a symbol of prosperity. Every part was painstakingly handmade and a single timepiece would take months to produce. A buyer would pay dearly but in return they would receive a masterful example of old world craftsmanship which not only would work flawlessly, but would also serve as a family heirloom which could be handed down for several generations to come.

Today clocks are so plentiful and inexpensive, we take them for granted. There are many wall mounted clocks available in low end department stores which can cost less than five dollars! However, no LCD or battery-operated instrument can replace a handsome mantle or majestic grandfather clock. Somehow, they seem to give a home its heartbeat.

Despite the seemingly effortless precision with which clocks operate, they do require some attention to maintain their peak timekeeping abilities. Here's how to keep yours ticking along:

Clocks run best when they are not subjected to extreme temperature changes. That means keeping them away from stoves, sunlight, and radiators. Ironically, mantel clocks, despite their name, should not be placed on a mantel - at least during a working fire. Rising soot and temperature fluctuations can impair efficiency and threaten longevity of the movement.

Keep antique pieces wound with a snug-fitting key, being careful not to overwind. Experts also recommend that you get in the habit of winding at the same time every day.

See to it that clocks sit or hang level, especially pendulums. A balanced swing will keep the clock "in beat." Always remove the pendulum before moving the clock. Otherwise it throws off its rhythm and damages the spring.

Over time, clocks accumulate dirt. The oil in the movement thickens and becomes gummy, and eventually the clock will stop running. A telltale sign of coming trouble is if your clock stops when a room gets extremely cold and then starts working again when temperatures warm up.

Visit a clock doc, more formally known as a horologist, every three years for a proper cleaning and oiling. A horologist will remove the movement from its case to make sure parts are rust-free and not unduly worn, and to inspect the teeth to check they are not bent. Consider a professional overhaul every 10 years or so.

Treat wood cases as you would any piece of fine furniture. Dust them with a soft brush or untreated cloth on a regular basis and protect them from direct light and extreme household dryness or dampness. The condition of the wood is an important part of the clock's value.

Not surprisingly, functioning clocks are generally worth more than their tick-tockless counterparts, but restore with caution and keep in mind that replacing major parts devalues a clock's worth. That would seem to place a collector in a difficult position as if a clock is purchased that is inoperative and it requires the simple replacement of a few minor parts, should that process not be undertaken? It is a choice which each collector must make for themselves.


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    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 7 years ago from south Florida

      This hub, Hal, has been written by a person with a true love for collecting beautiful items. If clocks and watches are one of your interests, take a look at my hub on the World's Most Complicated Watch. I think you will be fascinated by it.