Preserve, restore and/or consume – A clock owners perspective on intervention: Part II

Mauthe wall clcok CA. 1895

This is Part II of a 2 part series on a clock collectors predicament: preserve or restore and consume

In Part 1, I put forward the argument that if we acquire a clock that has been changed from its original state are we adding or subtracting from its value if we make further changes?

The solution to preserve or restore might not be the only factor to consider when addressing your newly acquired antique clock. Technical limitations of the collector (owner) must also be considered. Cost and time are other factors. A decision now might not be the same decision someone else might make or I would make at a different time.

Let’s now consider the movement and the case.

The movement

Beginning with the movement; should it be in running condition? Should the movement be untouched as a historic object? If it has not been altered and if there have been no changes during its life, doing nothing is an option. If changes have been made to the movement over the years which may include gear teeth repair, bushing work or new pivots or pinions, should these changes be considered in preservation or restoration? Should bad repairs be reversed?

Will additional intervention in terms of further repair alter the object or affect its value? Does a running clock have more value than a non-running one? Is value important? There are no simple answers to these questions.

Washer around centre cannon
A dirty and solder “infested” E. N. Welch movement?

The case

Should the case be returned to its original condition or should it be left alone as a historic object? If there are splits or chips including larger pieces missing from the case, should they be repaired? If it has not been altered and if there have been no changes during its life, doing nothing is an option.

Should a dial face be repainted or replaced? Should cracked clear glass panels be replaced with new-old glass? Should the hands, if they are replacements, be changed out if they are not period correct?

The aligorated finish on this Mauthe wall clock?

My position on preservation and restoration

Clocks are meant to be consumed. Clockmakers 150 or more years ago put little thought into how long their clocks would last and they would be no doubt impressed to see them running today.

In June 2019 I visited the American Clock and Watch Museum in Bristol Conn. On display were hundreds of clocks and some truly some fascinating examples but what impressed me the most were the “Old Cranks”. They are volunteers who come into the museum once a week to wind the clocks. Not every clock is wound but enough to give the visitor the sense that while they are very old they were meant to be run daily.

Rare Ingraham Huron found on a local online for-sale site
Rare E Ingraham Huron shelf clock

If I acquire a clock in poor condition and the initial outlay is low I have no qualms making significant though period-correct changes to the clock. The more I pay for a clock and the better the condition the less I am inclined to intervene although, no matter the cost, I am always in favour of a thorough cleaning and a clock that runs correctly.

There are as many opinions as there are clock collectors and not every piece of advice from the experts has merit and not everything comes down to value. I hold the view that all antique and vintage clocks, however seemingly delicate, are meant to be run.