What the term a “fully serviced” clock really means

Everybody appreciates a serviced clock when they are making a purchase. However, there is no acceptable definition for the term “Fully Serviced”. Fully serviced may mean one thing for the amateur clock collector and repairer and another to a professional clock repair shop.

Juba Schatz mantel clock
Juba Schatz mantel clock

The other day I was responding to a FaceBook post which offered a mantel clock for sale. The owner said that the clock, a 100+ year old antique, had been “fully serviced” so I asked him what he meant by that since I was curious. He said the clock was ultrasonically cleaned, the pivots were inspected, and the clock was oiled. He did not actually state that the clock was disassembled before cleaning but I assume that it was done properly although dunk and swish (or duncan swish) techniques are used more often that we realize. Dunk and swish involves immersing the entire unassembled movement into a cleaning solution and calling it “cleaned”. However, no reputable clock repair person (horologist) would employ this method. By using the term “fully serviced” the seller naturally expects to get several tens of dollars more for the clock.

No doubt who ever buys the clock will get a couple of years of service before it again needs attention. My concern is the state of the bushing holes and of course the pivots in a 100 year old clock and chances are it was not serviced properly in it’s past life.

I have disassembled and serviced a few clocks in my limited experience and my observation is that the older the clock the more the need for bushing and other repairs. My definition of servicing is this; disassemble and totally strip down, ultrasonically clean, springs unwound, inspected and oiled, pivots inspected and polished, pivot holes pegged and bushings installed / replaced if necessary, other parts inspected and addressed and the movement tested and regulated before re-installing in the case. My servicing also includes a case refresh. I serviced a 1920s Sessions Beveled No. 2 clock this spring (2016) that required 12 bushings.

Sessions Beveled No. 2 case
Sessions Beveled No. 2 time and strike in as-found condition
Fully serviced with case refresh
Fully serviced with case refresh

My Arthur Pequegnat Maple Leaf kitchen clock pictured here was professionally serviced in 2015 by a reputable clock shop and also required 12 bushings.

RS Pequegnat fan top (3)
Arthur Pequegnat kitchen clock in as-found condition

I am currently working on a 1940s Ingersoll Waterbury which was not too badly worn but still required 3 new bushings.

Ingersoll Waterbury clock
This American Ingersoll Waterbury clock, circa 1940, required 3 bushings,

If you poke around some of the clock for sale sites you will see a description that reads something like this, “all of our clocks are fully serviced and tested to ensure reliable running”. But if you bring up the profile on any one of the clocks offered for sale they generally do not describe how it was serviced and / or the actual service done on the clock.

I see plenty of antique and vintage clocks on the local online for-sale sites. Many have not been serviced as you would expect but some sellers claim that their clock has been fully serviced without providing any detail about what was actually done or whether it was a backyard tinkerer who did the servicing or a professional shop. The Juba Schatz mantel clock you see in the first photo might even be described as “serviced” but all I did was take the movement out of it’s case, inspect the pivots and other parts, oil the movement and return it to its case which took about 10 minutes.

“Fully serviced” to me means defining the term when selling a clock. A reputable for sale site should say something like this, ” has been fully serviced, having been totally stripped down, ultrasonically cleaned, reassembled, runs the full length of the wind and keeping excellent time, +/- 2 minutes per 7 day period”. A little more detail would be beneficial such as specific areas that needed to be addressed or particular repairs made if required but that is about as close as you will get and for those serious about a clock purchase it might be good enough.

Fully serviced means different things to different people. Always ask before you buy.

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