The time has come to determine the best clock acquisition of the past year. As a clock hobbyist, I have had little difficulty locating interesting clocks over the years, and despite the seemingly never-ending pandemic, I have scored a few in 2021 though the past year has been leaner than most.
In the early days of collecting, simple time and strike vintage mantel clocks were my principal focus so that I could take them apart, repair them if necessary, and generally advance my learning. Many of those clocks have been either sold or gifted. For the past three years, I have shifted my focus toward collecting interesting clocks, rare clocks, or clocks that have a special provenance that even includes the odd mantel clock.
My wife is my best clock finder. Our discussions often go something like this; “did you see that wall clock on Facebook?”. “Let me see. Yeah, it looks good, what do you think? Make an offer?” and off we go. Sometimes I will accept the offer from the seller without negotiating because I feel it is a fair price and other times there is some wheeling and dealing prior to firming the sale.
At the end of the post, you will have an opportunity to vote on what you think is the best in 2021.
In no particular order, here are my finds for 2021.
Sawin banjo clock
This is a garage sale find and even though it was purchased in the spring of 2021 it is still a work in progress. The clock is over 180 years old and in pretty decent shape.
It is a weight-driven banjo but it has no markings. An educated guess is that it was made by John Sawin of Boston or one of his associates on or close to 1840. I have completed minor veneer work on the case and have replaced the broken glass dial. The movement has been serviced but I am now looking at clock parts supply sources to replace a badly bent suspension spring. I want to avoid paying an outrageous price for the complete assembly; suspension spring, leader and spike.
Gilbert mantel or Shawville clock
I call this the Shawville clock because it spent most of its life in Shawville, Quebec (Canada).
It was a family clock for many years and following a death in the family, all possessions were either sold off or given away, a very common practice today. It has a time-and-strike Gilbert movement in a mahogany tinted case that has led a kind life since its manufacture in 1917. It is simple and unadorned and that’s what I love about it. I serviced the movement, cleaned the case, replaced a broken hour hand and now it is on prominent display in our home.
New Haven tall-case clock
An interesting $90 acquisition is this New Haven tall-case clock with a secret. Wow, a tall-case clock for $90, you say. Despite the look of a weight-driven clock, it is, in fact, a spring-driven clock. I was unaware of this until I walked through the door of the seller. I bought it anyway.
The weight cans are empty shells and they are simply there for show. The movement is quite large, eight-day, of course, and looks to be very robust. Despite my best efforts to determine if it was originally weight driven it had to have been spring-driven from the start, in other words, no evidence of a seat board or any additional holes for mounting the movement to the case. This appears to be an early “kit clock”, i.e. movement, dial face, hands, pendulum, “weights”, and ladder chains bought from the New Haven Clock Company and fitted to a pre-made case.
The case was very dark from years of accumulated dirt and grime and vigorous scrubbing revealed a wonderful red oak finish.
Waterbury Wren mantel clock
Another clock with a secret is actually a disappointment. I found it in an antique store and it reminded me of an Ansonia Syria I had worked on for a friend last year, so, I was drawn to it.
It has a Waterbury case and what I thought was a Waterbury movement, but no.
It is missing the brass bezel and glass which is easily replaced but what is most disappointing is the mismatched movement, a Seth Thomas time and strike, which obviously replaced the original movement presumably because it was worn out. The movement is well-made and runs well but at the end of the day, the clock is destined to be sold.
Schatz Schatz carriage clock
This is a Schatz carriage clock made by August Schatz and Sohne of Germany. Thousands of these were sold and given as gifts through the 60s and 70s. It has an interesting lower visible escapement and an exposed movement.
Although it is working and keeping time it runs for about 4 days and stops. A cleaning is called for (on my list). It has a wind-up key in the back much like a typical alarm clock. It says West Germany on the dial and made, I would say, in the 1970s. August Schatz and Sohne closed in 1985, a victim of slow sales and a shift to quartz clocks by other makers.
Chauncey Jerome ogee clock
This clock is original in many ways, with a nearly flawless case made of mahogany veneer over softwood, moon hands, a wood dial, and a movement that matches when the case was made. Even the pendulum bob looks original. It was missing the suspension spring and rod and a wooden movement block, all easily sourced.
It cleaned up nicely and was a good candidate for a fresh coat of traditionally prepared shellac. I have three other 30-hour ogee clocks and this one is the most original of the bunch.
E. Ingraham Grecian shelf clock
This is a very nice shelf clock from an estate auction. It is an Ingraham Grecian clock with an alarm feature. If you have ever used the alarm on an old antique clock your first impulse is to throw it through a window, it is so loud and it goes on and on till the spring winds down.
It came with incorrect hands and I had the darnedest time sourcing them but searching various suppliers in Canada and the US paid off. The case has been cleaned and the movement serviced including the infuriating alarm.
Fleet Time Co. mantel clock
An inexpensive clock that had huge potential but left me frustrated. Fleet Time Co. of Montreal had a short life of 4 years before the Second World war when they lost their source of German movements.
I stripped the case and re-glued some sections, applied a walnut stain and I was very pleased with the final result. I serviced the movement, wound the time side completely, and BAM, kerplunk! the sound of a mainspring exploding. Sometimes you can get away with just replacing a mainspring and other times, like this, it took out the barrel teeth and a leaf pinon on the second wheel. I placed it in a plastic bag and it is now on a shelf in the basement awaiting donor parts.
Hamburg American Clock Company. (HAC) mantel clock
This German-made mantel clock has an interesting 14-day movement, an early production type from HAC. HAC is short for the Hamburg American Clock Company, a German company which had a long history up to the time it was absorbed by Junghans in the late 1920s. This clock was made in or around 1895.
It was another estate sale find. The case is nondescript and nothing special, but quite elegant.
Tell me what you think and I will reveal what I believe is my best acquisition this year in the next post. Let’s see if we agree.