Servicing clocks and dealing with clock suppliers

I want to share my experiences dealing with clock suppliers and let me begin by saying that my experiences have been largely positive.

I have been repairing and restoring clocks for the past 10 years and since I live in Canada I generally deal with one mechanical clock parts supplier out of Toronto, Ontario, Perrin. They are excellent for most of my needs, but they do not have everything and from time to time I must locate special or unique parts through other suppliers such as Merritts, Timesavers, and Ronell from the USA and Meadows and Passmore in England.

For example, I recently completed the restoration of an Ingraham Grecian shelf clock, circa 1871, and it required a new set of hands. The hour hand that came with the clock was too short and the minute hand was the incorrect style. My goal in this case is a clock that is as authentic looking as possible and incorrect hands always takes away from a clocks appearance.

My Canadian supplier did not have the correct hands and eventually my search brought me to an out-of-country supplier, Timesavers.

Ingraham Grecian Harris and Sons auction photo
Ingraham Grecian Harris and Sons auction photo
Ingraham
Ingraham Grecian with correct sized moon hands

Had I ordered just a set of hands the shipping cost would have been substantial.

In order to justify the purchase I added additional parts; 2 smoothing broaches, a Seth Thomas #2 maintaining spring, brass weight cable, a riffler set, and a bob wire set. The total came to $36US. The shipping and processing fee is $24US. Factoring in the rate of exchange the order cost me $82CDN.

If my Canadian supplier had everything I needed the cost would have been $20 less. It was not a significant difference in this case but it was worth it to find the correct hands.

What are the costs?

The sourcing of parts from various suppliers especially outside Canada can be expensive when administrative costs, shipping fees, exchange rates and import duty are included.

Some suppliers, however, require a minimum order. Others apply a credit card fee for international transactions, still others apply a processing fee and occasionally there is import duty. In almost every case the cost is higher and in some cases, it may not be worth it.

There are a number of choices for shipping but the cheapest method is not always “cheap”. Ground shipping in Canada is fairly inexpensive. Many out-of-country suppliers ship by air and the cost can be significantly higher.

That little $2.99 part can easily cost $20 or more after all costs.

Parts Availability

Seth Thomas Regulator #2
Seth Thomas Regulator #2

Not every supplier is going to have what you want. There are similarities from one supplier to another but there are also differences. For example, one is likely to find brass carriage clock feet from an English supplier because bracket and carriage clocks are much more common in that part of the world. English suppliers will also carry more tall case, and carriage clock parts and obviously, American suppliers will have many parts for clocks made in the USA.

The upside is that by knowing the various suppliers and their inventories I am able to satisfy most of my clock parts needs. If I only need one part I will always add additional items to justify the shipping and other costs.

My strategy for sourcing parts

If I were in the clock business and required one part, I would pass all costs on to the customer. I do not run a repair service and can afford to put a project aside if it needs parts and wait till I can justify an order.

I build a list of parts using an Excel spreadsheet, and when I feel there is enough to justify an order I pull the trigger. I can afford to wait.

As far as prices are concerned, companies such as Timesavers in the US have locked in their prices till 2022 while prices for some items at Perrin, a Canadian supplier, have increased marginally in the past year. Still, I buy Canadian when I can.

When ordering, if there is an offer of a free parts catalogue I always ask for one.

I also take advantage of every opportunity when I find pendulums, clock keys and other sundry items in flea markets and antique shops and snap them up, IF the price is less than I would buy from a supplier.

Clock parts are not cheap. If you are looking at clockmaking as a hobby factor in the cost of basic and more advanced tools but know that consumables can cost much more in the long run.

From my experience, most suppliers are excellent to deal with are and the service is speedy and professional. Just be mindful of all those other fees. It can really add up!


2 thoughts on “Servicing clocks and dealing with clock suppliers

  1. My watchmaker friend who since 1964, began in a family run business, tells me vintage parts often hard to impossible to find. If the part is even found, then it may be priced through the roof. Especially if coming from States. Pretty hard to tell a customer a repair estimate may exceed the market value of timepiece. Nor this condition to improve. Speaking of the USA, “Free trade” is a myth. Ordering anything from there is far from.

    Like

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