How to choose a mechanical clock as a gift

It is that time of the year when you begin searching for that unique gift. Of course, there are a multitude of choices but have you considered a mechanical clock as a gift? Let me provide you with a few tips.

Gilbert mantel clock
Gilbert mantel clock

Mechanical clocks harken back to the old days when life was simpler; no mobile telephones, no internet, and no streaming TV. Ah, those were the days!

Okay, so you are reasonably sure that a mechanical clock would be appreciated by the receiver. What to buy? There are a plethora of choices out there and certainly, clocks that would fit every budget from the simple and cheap American kitchen clock to a rare 19th century Boulle figural French mantel clock. Let me attempt to narrow your choices, not with a specific clock but a buying strategy.

Mechanical clocks appeal to those who enjoy the sound, the strike of a clock, or those who merely appreciate it as part of their decor. These factors will influence your choice as a gift.

Here are two examples of clocks I have gifted to my family. My son and his partner have a German Schatz W3 bracket clock in a custom case. It is in excellent mechanical in running condition but it stays quiet on their shelf. Nevertheless, it is the centrepiece for their fireplace mantel.

Schatz W3 in a custom made case
Schatz W3 in a custom made case

My daughter has a Sessions Raven 8-day mantel clock which sits atop a bookcase in their family room. It only runs when my wife and I visit.

Sessions Raven clock
Sessions Raven clock

But they love their clocks.

The following two categories might assist you in your decision to buy a clock for your loved one, a friend, or a business associate.

Category 1 – Those recipients who appreciate a running clock

You will want to avoid a non-working clock. Unless you have the skills in clock repair or know someone who can work on it, it is best to steer away from those. Many sellers use the phrase, “may need some adjustment” which is almost always a red flag for a clock that has issues. These are the cheapest clocks, and for good reason, they are simply worn out.

You may also get lucky and find that special mechanical clock that has been recently serviced and is in good running order but you will pay more because the seller is interested in recouping their investment in the clock.

Buying a clock from a reputable clock repair retailer is a good bet if the clock has been serviced and a warranty is provided but expect to pay significantly more.

Otherwise, there are many buy and sell online sites. I would shop locally and avoid eBay or other online auction sites. Auction sites are a real crapshoot complicated by high shipping costs and the risk that the clock might arrive broken. Yes, that has happened to me!

Arthur Pequegnat Moncton
Arthur Pequegnat Moncton, 15-day, double spring time-only

The sound of a ticking and striking clock in a room is very soothing for some. For others., not so much

Most clocks are 8-day running which means that they must be wound once per week. There are some quality 15-day and 30-day clocks but they are few and far between.

Daniel Dakota wall clock, one of Tempus Fugits more popular models
Daniel Dakota wall clock, made in China

Of the 30-day clocks avoid anything made in China. While 1-day clocks such as Cuckoo clocks and antique Ogees are plentiful and look terrific, winding a clock every day wears thin after a while.

George H Clark 30-hour ogee clock
George H Clark 30-hour or 1-day ogee clock

Check out this post on how to buy an antique clock.

Category 2 – Those recipients who want a mechanical clock as a decoration

Then, there are the folks who are not really that interested if the clock runs or not but want something that fits their decor and is a good conversation piece. A non-working clock with a good case is perfect. If it has the original movement but it is not working there is always the option of fixing it later. Personally, I would shy away from any clock that has its mechanical movement replaced with a quartz one.

Focus on the condition of the case. Is it missing any parts, has recent work been done it, does it look authentic? Does it catch people’s attention?

For example, here is a very attractive Seth Thomas 8-day round top in a bold Rosewood case that has had only one minor veneer repair and a replacement dial face, but it looks great!

Seth Thomas round top
Seth Thomas round top

You bought the clock but the case is very dirty. Clean it! Some folks might argue that one should not clean a clock case so as to maintain it’s original patina. But, isn’t patina just another word for dirt? Soap and water with gentle scrubbing will make a huge difference. Check out this before and after photo of the cleaning of a clock face.

Junghans clock dial
Junghans clock dial before cleaning
Junghans clock dial after cleaning
Junghans clock dial after cleaning with soap, water, and Q-tips

And this before and after photo of a gingerbread clock. You need not want to go the extra distance in retouching the dial but soap and water is an easy and non-invasive method of improving the look of the case itself.

Very grimy clock case especially the base section
After photo showing a clean case and a retouched dial
After, showing a clean case and a retouched dial

Final words

A mechanical clock makes an excellent gift and it is something that can be passed down from one generation to the next. My kids appreciate a mechanical clock from their dad and I will gift them one that is in excellent mechanical condition but I am not bothered if they use it merely as a decoration.


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