What other machine have you acquired that has worked continuously since it was made 150 plus years ago and still does the job it was intended for? Mechanical clocks revolutionized people’s perception of time by displaying neutral, uniform units that showed the passage of time. Though not as accurate as the modern electronic timekeeper the mechanical clock remains a marvel of engineering and innovation.

The constant search for clocks

Locating antique and vintage clocks involves travelling, meeting fascinating people and discovering a clock’s particular history. Each story is unique and some stories are sad. I recently arranged the purchase of an antique French shelf clock, arrived to pick it up and discovered that the person was terminally ill and selling off his clock collection to provide for his wife after he had passed. I really felt sorry for the fellow. Of course, many stories are happy ones.

I enjoy clocks for what they are. I often think about the men who conceived them, built them and the craftsmen working in small factories in places such as New England with primitive (by our standards) tools and the harsh conditions they endured. Life to them was a day-to-day struggle. That the clocks are still with us today is a testament to the pioneers of clock-making.

Miniature Vienna Regulator
Miniature Vienna Regulator wall clock, circa 1870

There are a lot of clocks I find intriguing. There are some people that collect complex clocks and I appreciate them as well but I lean towards beauty in simplicity. For example, the miniature Vienna Regulator pictured above is a time-only clock made during the Austrian-Hungarian empire (1870). It is simple, little can go wrong and after nearly 150 years it is still running strong.

There is a certain joy in collecting and repairing clocks. The hobby of clock-making allows one to escape from negativity, put aside worldly matters, effectively manage stress, and dispense with everyday concerns. Occasionally clock problems are very challenging however, the joy in discovering a solution is immeasurable. Beyond that, clocks are an art form and should be appreciated for what they are.

As a collector, the number of clocks I have is not important. The size of my collection is also not important but by trimming my acquisitions from time to time I keep it manageable.