Antique Clocks — Refurbished or Not

Antique clock are freely available on the internet and in shops nowadays. With the economic downturn making a second fly past the markets are all buldging with antiques for sale. In fact, we experience an over supply in both South Africa and the UK.

As a collector and dealer we are inundated with clocks for sale. How does one choose in a market like this? A first reaction is to buy everything one fancies and short on its heels a caveat — I don’t want to be taken for a ride now, do I? Is it OK then to purchase the best looking clock? A clock that looks like new?

Remember an antique clock is a clock older than a 100 years. This implies that a clock made in the early 1900’s also qualifies as antique nowadays. Let’s focus on older clocks made in the 1700’s and 1800’s by registered clock makers for the purposes of this article.

A clock is not just a piece of furniture. The mechanism will show wear after 100–300 years’ timekeeping, ticking 86, 400 seconds per day! The movement will require maintenance and repair work unless it was done in the past 5 years. Many antique clock on the market today are simply washed and oiled and presented as refurbished/repaired. That’s like washing a car, polishing it up and selling it as serviced. Repair and refurbishment of an antique should be done sympathetically. This simply entails that one doesn’t make it “look new” and the parts aren’t simply replaced for function but also in keeping with the age of the clock. Lastly the golden rule as with all other investments: If it looks too good to be true it probably is! If an antique clock, especially when looking at the wear on the movement and dial, looks new, it is most likely new. There are, as in all other trades, highly skilled artisans specialising in assembling clocks that will fool even the greatest specialists among us. We’ve burnt our fingers with derivatives, haven’t we? Because of these problems we prefer showing an interested buyer the clock as is and then refurbishing it to her/his liking and pocket.

In conclusion: The surest way not to be making a mistake is to purchase a antique clock that runs and chimes but that shows real signs of age. Surely that is more reliable than any certificate of authenticity. One can now discuss refurbishment and decide how much to spend on that. This way one will have the joy of being involved in the process whilst keeping your budget in mind