Is your clock worth fixing? That depends on many factors which I will explore in this article.

People acquire vintage and antique clocks for many reasons and in this article I will examine four reasons why your clock might be worth fixing.

1) Sentimental value: The first is a clock with emotional or sentimental value.

It may be an antique that has been passed down through a family member and the current owner intends to pass it on to their children. The clock might also hold some special sentiment or meaning to the individual such as an anniversary present, a retirement gift, a gift from a close friend and so on. The most important factor here is not its replacement value, but its emotional value. This type of clock would be considered “one of a kind” and is irreplaceable. It is well worth the cost of a professional repair. If the repair is being done in a proper manner by a trusted professionally certified repair-person (horologist), and you love your clock, it is well worth the cost regardless of what its resale value might be.

My 114 year old Gustav Becker 2-weight Vienna Regulator was a retirement gift purchased by my wife. It was advertised as a project clock on EBay and while it looks stunning today it took many additional dollars to have it run correctly. In a case such as this. the repair becomes an operating expense rather than an investment. You will pay whatever it takes to repair your clock.

Gustav Becker two weight regulator
Gustav Becker two weight regulator, a retirement gift from my dear wife

I have a Ridgeway grandfather clock that I intend to pass on to my children. It has sentimental value because it reminds me of a clock that my wife and I almost purchased. 30+ years ago we backed out of a deal on a grandfather clcok but promised ourselves that we would someday have one. In 2012 we bought a Ridgeway Hamilton Country grandfather clock, made in 1996 and in pristine condition. When it fails and someday it will, the cost of the repair would equal the value of the clock, but a repair is worth it in my view.

RS Ridgeway clock_2
Ridgeway Hamilton Country Westminster chime tall clock

2) A decorative item: The second is a clock that has no emotional value to a person at all; it is simply a functioning clock that no longer works but has decorative value.

It might have been intended as a decorative piece that you might have found at a flea market; you managed to get it working but now it no longer functions. You have two choices, let it sit or repair it. If you decide to repair it, the replacement value of the piece should be a factor in your decision. If the clock is going to cost more to repair than it is to replace, you might as well replace it. If you have the tools and the knowledge to repair it yourself, consider your time and the cost of new parts.

Even a complete overhaul of the clock movement is going to cost less than the clock’s actual value if it is a quality clock. Common antique clocks such as American mantel or wall clocks will frequently cost very close to or perhaps more than their actual value. For rare or unusual pieces the repair cost will be lower than it’s value.

3) Collector value: The third are those with collector value.

If the clock has been purchased for “investment” purposes or for resale, or simply to have in a collection, the cost of the repair must not exceed the value of the clock. If the clock is high grade and in need of repair and the parts are unobtainable you should question whether or not you should have it repaired. If you plan to sell it you should keep in mind that buyers almost always desire a working clock.

I recently acquired this miniature Vienna Regulator that is not only in good working order but is in exceptional condition for a clock that is 145 years old.

one-weight Vienna wall clock
One-weight Vienna miniature wall clock, circa 1870

For collectors, determining value is not easy as clock prices have fluctuated wildly in the past few years but there are certain clocks such as quality French bracket, English lantern, carriage clocks and jeweler’s regulators that have managed to retain their value. Unique, exquisitely made, low production, one-of-a-kind clocks are more valuable than common mass-produced clocks.

4) Quick re-sale: The last are clocks intended for quick resale.

Many people engage in the commerce of antique and vintage clocks. Online for-sale sites and those who sell clocks do so for the sole purpose of making a profit. Acquiring a clock for a reasonable cost with the intent to sell it means factoring in your time and the cost of parts/repair if you intend to make a profit. Buyers almost always desire a working clock and a fully serviced clock is more desirable (and worth more) than one not serviced.

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This Ingersoll-Waterbury mantel clock (see photo above) was bought at a flea market for a very reasonable price. The clock was completely serviced.  If I sell it I must recoup the initial cost plus my time and supplies.

Many clocks are sold to unsuspecting buyers on online sites. Sellers often make the claim that the “clock is in excellent running condition but may require adjustment after shipping”. On the one hand If you are in the buy and sell camp be aware that buyers want a bargain and on the other you may not always get what you think your clock is worth.

Final thoughts

There are many reasons why people acquire antique and vintage. Whether they are worth keeping and worth fixing depends on whether you acquire them for profit, sentimental reasons or if you are an avid collector like myself.