Whether it is for sentimental reasons, a collectors item or quick resale people acquire vintage and antique clocks for many reasons and in this article I will describe four kinds of clocks worth fixing.
Sentimental value: The first type is a clock with emotional or sentimental value. It may be an antique that has been passed down through a family member and the current owner intends to pass it on to their children. The clock might also hold some special sentiment or meaning to the individual, an anniversary present, a retirement gift, a gift from a close friend and so on. The most important factor here is not its replacement value, but its emotional or sentimental value. This type of clock would be considered “one of a kind” and is irreplaceable. It is well worth it whatever the cost of a professional repair. If the repair is being done in a proper manner by a trusted professionally certified repair-person (horologist), and you love your clock, it is well worth the cost regardless of what its resale value might be. My 114 year old Gustav Becker 2-weight Vienna Regulator was a retirement gift purchased by my wife. It was advertised as a project clock on EBay and while it looks stunning today it took many more dollars to get it running correctly and looking as it does in the photo below. In a case such as this. the repair becomes an operating expense rather than an investment. You are probably going to pay whatever it takes to repair your clock though where your clock was made may make a difference in the repair cost. French clocks, for example, are considerably more difficult to repair than German, British or American clocks.
For instance, I have a Ridgeway grandfather clock that I intend to pass on to my children. It has sentimental value because it reminds me of a clock that my wife and I almost bought 30+ years ago and we promised ourselves that we would someday have one. In 2012 we bought a Ridgeway Hamilton Country grandfather clock, made in 1996 and in pristine condition. When it fails and someday it will, the cost of the repair would equal the value of the clock, but a repair is worth it. However in this case, I will install a brand new Hermle replacement movement (still being made today) instead rather than repair the existing movement.
A decorative item: The second type is a clock that has no emotional value to a person at all; it is simply a functioning clock that no longer works. It might have been intended as a decorative piece that you might have found at a flea market; you managed to get it working but now it no longer functions. You have two choices, let it sit or repair it. If you decide to repair it, the replacement value of the piece should be a factor in making your decision. If the clock is going to cost more to repair than it is to replace, you might as well replace it. If you have the tools and the knowledge to repair it yourself, consider your time and the cost of new parts.
Even a complete overhaul of the clock movement is going to cost less than the clock’s actual value if it is a quality clock. Common antique clocks such as American mantel or wall clocks will frequently cost very close to or perhaps more than their actual value. For rare or unusual pieces the repair cost will be lower than it’s value. However, the clock’s emotional value should be considered first.
Collector value: The third type are those with collector value. If the clock has been purchased for “investment” purposes or for resale, or simply to have in a collection, the cost of the repair must not exceed the value of the clock. If the clock is high grade and in need of repair and the parts are unobtainable you should question whether or not you should have it repaired. If you plan to sell it you should keep in mind that buyers almost always desire a working clock. I recently acquired this miniature Vienna Regulator that is not only in good working order but is in exceptional condition for a clock that is 145 years old.
For collectors, determining value is not always easy as clock prices have fluctuated wildly in the past few years but there are certain clocks such as quality antique French bracket, English lantern and carriage clocks that have managed to retain their value.
Quick re-sale: The last type are clocks intended for quick resale. Many people engage in the commerce of old clocks. Many are on online for-sale sites like EBay buy and those who sell clocks do so for the sole purpose of making a little profit. If you pick up a clock for a reasonable cost with the intent to sell it, factor in your time and the cost of parts / repair if you intend to make a profit. Again, buyers almost always desire a working clock. Not only that, a fully serviced clock is more desirable (and worth more) than one not serviced.
This Ingersoll-Waterbury mantel clock (see photo above) was bought at a flea market for a very reasonable price. The clock was completely serviced, that is, the movement was stripped down, thoroughly cleaned, 3 bushings replaced, re-assembled, oiled and tested. In addition the case was refreshed. My intent is to sell it to recoup costs associated with the purchase of new clock repair equipment. While I am a collector, not every clock I acquire has collector value for me. This one has no emotional value for me. I should be able to realize small profit. When I post it on an online for-sale site I will include as much detail as possible. However, it is a “buyer beware” world out there. Many clocks are sold to unsuspecting buyers on online sites. Sellers often make the claim that the “clock is in excellent running condition but may require adjustment after shipping”. If you are in the buy and sell camp be aware that buyers want a bargain and you may not always get what you think your clock is worth.
There are many reasons people acquire clocks. I hope this article provides the reader with some guidance on clocks you might acquire whether they be for profit, sentimental reasons or if you are an avid collector like myself. If you have any stories you would like to share please drop me a line.