If you love antique clocks but don’t know exactly where to go to find out more about how to maintain them, this article should fill in some major gaps for you. From local shops to online sites, here is a basic list of information that could come in handy when you need it most.
First of all, I want to be clear that I am not a clockmaker nor do I build or repair clocks for a living. However, I have learned (the hard way) about how to find reputable dealers and information about antique clock repair. We inherited an heirloom grandfather clock and an inept repair person did significant damage to the clock. I blame myself because I could have easily avoided that situation by doing a little research online.
Don’t make the mistakes I did. I suggest you start here: www.awci.com/ , which is the American Watchmakers and Clockmakers Institute and then I’m going to immediately tell you that this organization is the basis for some controversy in the antique clock community – especially among those who repair clocks.
Here’s why: Horology (the study of art and timekeeping devices) has a tradition of being learned through apprenticeship, observation and “hands on” (excuse the pun) training. However, the AWCI decided that there needed to be certification standards and developed courses to teach the basics. You could even take those courses yourself, if you wanted to really learn the basics. Go to the site and look around and investigate that possibility. Figure out what is included in training.
Personally, I think that years of experience, a good reputation and a proven track record in repairing and maintaining antique clocks counts for something, too…maybe even more than certification. But that is just my take because a “certified” clock repair person broke our clock. So I’m a bit biased. I’m sure there are some excellent, certified people out there, too.
Here is a little-known secret: By going to the AWCI site and simply paying for membership, you have access to a forum where people can trade and find antique parts for their clocks. However, you are not required to prove you are a certified or expert repair person. Have a look here: www.awci.com/join.php
A local clock dealer informed me that anyone can apply for membership and that seems to be true. Once you do, you can then access the forum, located here:
You can also search the site for more information about antique clock repair and find repairmen (or women) in your area. Use the directory there if you want to find a certified repair person but do read what qualifications are required to be certified. Then decide if certification is important or you’d rather use someone who has been working on clocks for generations in a family business, certified or not. Antique clock repair is seen as an art by many, not just something to be learned through a course. Again, this is a controversial area so I suggest you decide where you stand on this issue. I’m just laying out the facts.
I strongly recommend one other site there, the Independent Horology Forum (remember, Horology is the study of anything related to time, including antique clock repair). The forum is located here: forums.timezone.com/index.php
This is a looser, more informal group of folks who chat about anything and everything related to antique clock repair, watches and all things relating to time.
Finding parts for antique clock repair:
Here is another great resource for those hobbyists and others interested in learning how to find expert help or learn how to repair antique clocks themselves. It is Abbey Clock Repair, located here: www.abbeyclock.com/clocklinks.html You could spend hours at this site (and I have). If you want to find tools and parts for your clock, access this page on the Abbey clock site: www.abbeyclock.com/tools.html#sup
This page will tell you the best tools you need. You’ll also learn that there is a huge difference in which techniques and tools work for American, German and other types of clocks. Each antique clock repair differs, as do the tools, depending on what type of clock you have. The information given by Abbey Clocks is an education in itself! From miniature lathes to ultrasonic cleaning machines, this page has the details you need.
This may be one of the most valuable tips in this article:
At the Abbey Clock site, you can actually download an Ebook here: www.abbeyclock.com/clocklinks.html on clock and watch escapement mechanics! A free ebook, right there for you to use.
Online sources for catalogues and parts to repair antique clocks:
1. Timesavers at www.timesavers.com/ This site has been in business for a long time and has a huge catalog of parts, cleaning solutions, clock case restorers and more. Highly recommended!
2. Klockit can be found at www.slarose.com/ From this site, you can find everything you need to build or repair an antique or new clock. They have quartz movements, mechanical movements and clock kits.
Local or ” brick and mortar” repair shops, courses or antique clock restorers – Use the “find a clock repairman” guide at either Abbey Clocks or AWCI to find a local repair service. Both sites have directories and information. Finally, I’d suggest you call a local historical society or art museum. Both have often bought or sold clocks. Historical societies may have had to hire people to restore large, architectural clocks on the exterior of vintage buildings. They may be able to guide you to information you need.
Good luck and have fun as you travel down the path of horology.