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Buying an Antique Clock

Buying An Antique Clock

What you need to know before buying an antique clock

Buying an antique clock, whether as a gift or for yourself, can provide a great deal of pleasure. However, it is as well to be aware of the pitfalls that await the unwary or uninformed.

Clocks are mechanical items that have been running for many years and are made of various parts brought together and are therefore one type of antique that needs close scrutiny before purchasing. To this end it is generally regarded as common sense, especially to the less knowledgeable, to buy from a specialist dealer.

One who has a number of years experience in studying and buying clocks and who will give sound advice whilst answering any questions.

It must be remembered that in the earlier years of clocks they were seen as not only pieces of furniture but functional items with repairs and changes made without a second thought. As an example, a thirty-hour long-case clock that was made in the late 1700’s may have had an eight day movement made for it in the Victorian period for an owner who preferred to upgrade the clock rather than buy a new piece. Although not necessarily a clock to be dismissed the price should reflect this and sold as such.

The early 1900’s also saw ‘chopping and changing’ of movements to suit tastes, and cases were also altered for this reason. Some early oak cases are found to have been carved in later life to suit the fashion of the time and bases are sometimes cut down to allow the clock to fit in a room with a low ceiling. Simple clock movements could be discarded from elaborate cases and replaced by better movements from plain cases and although not felt to be ‘wrong’ at the time is still a practice to be wary of today.

There is also the problem of clocks being either reproduced or faked and which can catch the uninitiated off guard but will be obvious to the seasoned eye. Carriage clocks are a good example. Although first made in the early 1800’s they hit their peak of popularity in the late Victorian period and have been made ever since in a similar fashion. It’s important to be able to tell an early example from a late 20th century clock as the price difference can be huge and the differences quite subtle. Again the experienced dealer will have the knowledge and integrity to advise.

Another important aspect to buying an antique clock is the performance. Although not expected to have the time keeping of a modern watch the clock should still be able, after proper restoration, to run it’s full duration within accepted parameters.

A specialist dealer will have fully overhauled the movement and will guarantee it as such. It is important for any clock to be put through a reputable clock restorer and overhauled correctly. Damage done can often be costly to put right and serious if not detected.

If buying from a source where a clock is un-restored it is important to find a restorer to do the work properly. A good restorer will go through a clock with you and explain any major work that has been done previously and what’s needed to bring the piece up to an acceptable standard. Try to visit the workshops and see examples of work being undertaken and do not worry about asking questions.

A specialist dealer will normally deliver and set-up the clock and have undertaken research on both it and the maker. By going to a specialist you are buying not only a clock but his experience, knowledge and peace of mind.

To find out more about the antique clocks we have in stock at the moment, or to discuss the sort of antique clock you’re looking for, please call us on 01727 850098 or e-mail