HAC/HAU shelf clock is attractive but the dial needs work

The movement has been serviced and the next step to bringing this clock back to life is cleaning a very grimy, tarnished and worn dial.

For those unfamiliar with HAC or, The Hamburg American Clock Company (Hamburg Amerikanische Uhrenfabrik), it is a well-known German company that was incorporated in 1876 as Landenburger and Lang, later with a name change to HAC in 1883 and was eventually acquired by Junghans in 1926.

Its best-known trademark is the “crossed arrows” symbol found on the movement plate and the coil gong. Unlike most HAC clocks there is no cross arrows trademark on the gong though there is one on the movement behind the pendulum rod. The name “Hamburg” was chosen at the insistence of one of its investors and “American” refers to similar American-style production methods.

I have a number of German clocks including Junghans, Mauthe, Hermle, Jauch, Gufa, and Gustav Becker but this is the first HAC clock in my collection.

Bracket clock
HAC clock auction photo

I bought this clock online at an estate auction in February of 2021 and because of the pandemic I had it shipped to me. The only thing I had to go on were the auction photos but it is no different than taking a chance on an eBay or similar site. Once I opened the package it is what I excepted, no surprises.

While it is an attractive design it is dirty and likely has never been cleaned. There are no parts missing, a bonus, but the case and dial require attention.

The most distracting element is the dial. In short, it is a mess.

HAC dial
HAC dial closeup

Two options

One is to replace the dial from a donor clock but given the small amount of money put into it, the fix would have been pricey. Those I have found in my internet search are going for more than I paid for it. The second option is to clean it up and make it as presentable as possible.

Cleaning the dial

Normally I use a good water-based cleaner to remove grime from a dial but in this case, the blackish-grey tinge you see in the above photo is actually 100 years of built-up oil, grease and grime. I am sure an auto mechanic owned the clock and adjusted it before he washed his hands.

Drastic measures are called for. I knew that I would be stripping the remainder of the cream-coloured paint from the dial but as I discovered, there is so little paint left that it would not have made a difference. The numbers were also rubbed away after years of use.

HAC clock is attractive but the dial needs a lot of work
HAC clock is attractive but the dial needs a lot of work

I took the dial out of the case and using Q-tips and a cleaning solution took away as much grime as possible. Some 50 Q-tips later I managed to remove most of the dirt. After rinsing with water and wiping the dial, I filled in the numbers using water-based acrylic black paint, a fine-tipped artist’s brush, and a fine-tipped .6mm permanent marker for the chapter ring.

HAC dial
HAC dial after cleaning and numbers touched up

The dial came out marginally better and the original patina has been somewhat retained. I am pleased with the result but that is as far as I will go.

From a distance, it is presentable and less distracting.

HAC clock on display

Next and last is refreshing the case.

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