When a seller
claims a clock is running and has been serviced, does
that put you at ease when you purchase it?
Keep reading and I think you will find yourself
wondering the next time you buy one off Ebay or other
As a Clockmaker, I have seen a lot of clocks bought
off of Ebay that were supposedly serviced or repaired
it being listed. After a clock stops, a
client will send it in to me through one of my
auctions for a
servicing/inspection. It's pathetic to see
what was done to many of these clocks by some sellers.
buyer does not know whether or not the clock they
bought was actually serviced or repaired prior to
and the seller knows that most buyers will not open
the back to see if it was; even if they could, they
cannot tell if it was.
There is very simple way to determine, in most cases,
whether or not a seller/clockmaker has serviced a
prior to selling it. Especially if the seller is
selling a significant amount of clocks.
My goal in writing this, is to point out two important
things and cover a few other items as well. The
items are simply the degree of skill required to
properly clean a clock and the amount of time that is
properly service a clock. Once you understand
these two items, you will easily see what type of
seller/clockmaker you are dealing with. So lets
first cover the different levels of skills that are
the skill of a clockmaker/hobbyist, a clock servicing
can be approached in substantially different
ways. The less skilled the person servicing your
clock, the less clean your clock will be. It is
important that a
clock's movement be thoroughly cleaned prior to
oiling. I will break down a seller/clockmaker into
categories; beginner, adventurous and skilled.
beginners have a limit amount of tools and no skills
at all, but they normally have some sort of
mechanical inclination. They tend to open up the clock
by removing the back and simply spraying some sort of
lubricant into the movement. Most of the time a
movement will start to run, simply because the
penetrate the old oil and work its way into the pivot
holes. Unfortunately, the oil also gets onto parts
not have any oil on them to begin with. A lot of times
so much oil is used that it works its way to to dial
This is the most profitable way to get a clock going
for sale as it requires very little skill and time.
moves directly to oiling the movement and skips
all the important steps that a competent clockmaker
have included. Some of these sellers actually believe
they are doing a great job, all the while your clock
grinding to an expensive halt.
Adventurous person is a beginner who decides to take
it to the next level. They are able to remove the
movement from the clock's case and clean it fully
intact. They are unable or unwilling to take the
Mainly, they are leery of not being able to reassemble
the movement. Of course, they will need to remove the
hands and dial. Even that requires the proper tools
and plenty of practice, so a lot of dials and hands
destroyed during this learning phase. The movement is
typically soaked in some cleaning solution to loosen
dirt and old oils; never mind what is used, only
important thing is that it is soaked a little. After
some time, it may
be brushed, swished around, rinsed and oiled.
This is not as profitable as the Beginner's method,
and it requires
only a half hour or so more time.
Depending on the cleaning solution used,
this method of cleaning can be even
worse than the beginners method. The solution
may not completely dry and cause corrosion or it may
down the applied lubricants.
Adventurous clock persons become Skilled. A skilled
clock person acquires tools that match their skills
have the ability to break down a movement to its
individual parts. Depending on the skill and tools
set, the degree
of cleanliness varies. But, the important thing is
that the clock is fully dismantled and the crud that
could not be
removed by the previously described levels can now be
removed. As the skills improve, so does the amount of
time taken to properly service a movement. Typical
clockmakers only work on a few clocks per day, and
some that will spend several days on a particular
clock. The more time spent, the more thorough the work
and the more it will cost.
A beginner cannot repair anything on the movement
since he cannot remove it. The adventurous types can
repair minor items if anything at all. A skilled
person can see and repair everything interior to the
movement and most importantly will be able to clean
and polish all the moving parts ensuring a smooth
frictionless meshing of all the clocks parts.
The skilled clock person has a substantial investment
in his tools, time of practice and most likely a very
extensive network of other clockmakers to call upon
for advise, parts and support. So when you buy a
clock, it is
very important to find a skilled clockmaker.
guide to use is Quality and Cost. You see, it is that
simple. As a general rule, the more a clockmaker
charges the more thorough his work will be. Yes, there
are exceptions to this rule, but it is a good way to
whether or not a seller has provided the services they
state they have. There are clockmakers that are so
that they are highly sought after and hourly profits
in the hundreds is not uncommon. Why would anyone pay
such prices? To ensure their treasure is thoroughly,
properly and unquestionably worked on.
After all, old clocks are a not just a center piece of
a shelf, but also an investment. So let's take an
and examine the cost to determine the quality of the
Since I specialize in Westclox, not that I cannot work
on other clocks or watches, I will take a look at a
sale. If you buy a supposedly serviced and warrantied
Big Ben for $45, what quality of work has been
Assuming the seller must have acquired the clock, lets
use $10 as a price they spent to secure the clock.
that leaves about $35 to contend with. Lets break down
the time for a full and correct servicing.
Removing the movement from the
case---------------------------- 5 minutes
Tearing down the movement into individual
Cleaning the movement (soak, brush and
Polishing the pivot holes and
Installing movement into
45 minutes (typically 3 hours)
Very simple so far, of course I cut right to the chase
and left out full descriptions of all processes. Now
calculate something very important. The hourly profit
or wage. The clockmaker in this case made $35 and
2.75 hours; that calculates to $12.72 per hour. What
if the seller claimed to have changed out the
Well, they typically cost $5. So that drops the hourly
wage to $10.90. Making matters even worse, the typical
Ben sells for less that $30, even those with
warranties and promises of this and that. The over all
profit in that
case is $5.45 per hour. Am I getting your attention
now? Call your local clockmaker, ask him to clean your
for $30 and see what he says; you may just get a
laugh. Someone making $5.45 per hour surely cannot
proper tools or even maintain a clock shop.
How can a clockmaker make any decent hourly wage when
the clocks he sells average $30 per sale?
Refer to section "Various Clock Servicing Strategies."
Keep in mind many clockmakers are masters of many
trades and they typically have backgrounds in other
technical fields. I know many that were auto
mechanics, electronic techs and retired engineers.
So to think that a
true clockmaker would service clocks for $5.45 per
hour is ridiculous.
If you add it all up, it just does not add up; unless
you are dealing with a Beginner or Adventurous
attitude in the
seller you have selected. Less money equates to less
time that will be spent to properly clean a clock's
So, a seller can either set their price to match the
time spent to properly service a movement, or the
decrease their time spent on the servicing to match
the sales price. Which one would you buy from? When
take into account the cost of equipment, tools,
cleaning supplies and parts, the cost of servicing
must be much
higher than the $30 to compensate the clockmaker for
his time, skill and efforts. It takes many years of
taking courses and hands on practice to become a
proficient and good clockmaker. Why would a clockmaker
happy making $5 to $6 per hour? Believe me they
wouldn't be, as soon as you understand and accept
sooner you will be on your way to securing properly
and fully serviced clocks.
Those selling Big Bens for $30 can only be doing one
thing, and that is not spending the time to ensure a
has been properly gone over; only that it runs long
enough to secure a good rating and profit. I have had
that were supposedly serviced come in six months or a
year after a sale needing an inspection/servicing
the clock simply stopped or something starts slipping.
The owners tend to claim the seller restored it, but
damage and unprofessional work is evident. The smell
of WD40 or sewing machine oil is common. I have seen
soldered parts, Jerry rigged parts and some of the
worst work imaginable. When you search Ebay looking
clock, keep this in mind and don't expect to get a
fully and correctly serviced clock with a warranty at
prices. As the saying goes, "you get what you paid
for"; it is always in effect, especially on Ebay.
Very few serious clock collectors use Ebay as a buying
forum, simply because much of the clocks sold are not
described, sold as is and require extensive work by a
competent clockmaker to restore. In fact, Ebay is
upon by many in the clock collecting circles.
Recently, a lot of very good seller-clockmakers are
showing up on
Ebay. Their prices are much higher and you can bet
their business practices are set at a much higher
Quality service means higher costs to the
collector/consumer which in turn results in less
hassles in the long run;
not to mention a clock that will appreciate in value.
provide a servicing, I ensure that I make at a minimum
$15 per hour. This is considered
to be very low in the industry. Why do I provide such
Well, first I like what I do. Second, 6 out of 10
clocks that come in for a servicing require some form
either from normal wear or from incompetent work from
a previous servicing or repair; not unusual for an
over 40 years old. This is a simple fact and to
warranty a clock for two years requires me thoroughly
clock to ensure my work is not harmed by something I
missed. For instance, if a clock comes in and
simple servicing, but the case is rusting inside, I
will not warranty the clock because the rust will
flake off and
bind up the movement. So it is imperative that I
require the case to be restored to prevent this issue
the warranty. I have seen style 5 and 6 Baby Bens come
in that have been service or supposedly restored with
the rubber gaskets rotting away and working their way
into the movement. The solution is to remove the old
gasket and replace them. The problem, many do not want
to take the time to break the rivets, make a gasket
scratch and re-rivet it back in place. Just takes too
long and some simply have not thought of doing this.
repairs boost my hourly profit and by doing these
repairs I ensure that my work is second to none.
very few Westclox Clocks sold on Ebay are gone over as
thoroughly as when I go through them.
If someone is going to service your movement, it is
highly recommended that they know what to look for and
to correct and prevent all issues. A lot of clock
hobbyists and clockmakers can service a movement, but
know every brand and every problem that can come up in
any clock at any given time. So, it is important to
someone that specializes in your brand or model. For
instance, there are clockmakers that only work on 400
clocks. Other's specialize in pendulum movements, and
others primarily in modern lever escapement clocks. I
specialize in Westclox, and there are very few good to
great clockmakers that do. So if I tell you your clock
more that a simple servicing, I am putting my
reputation on the line. I am not going to service a
ensuring all issues are corrected to ensure a smooth
running period under my warranty. By doing so, I risk
creating a disappointed buyer in the future. And, by
not ensuring that I am thorough, word can get around
don't know what I am doing.
Servicing is in no way a repair and vise versa.
Servicing is equivalent to an oil change. It is
removing the old oil and replenishing it to ensure a
smooth running clock. Repairs are a different matter,
servicing leads to repairs through inspection of the
entire clock. So again, we return to the three
sellers/clockmakers. The beginner and adventurous are
unable to see the entire clock and therefore cannot
ensure a proper servicing and/or repairs. Some
clockmakers cannot or are unwilling to make certain
mainly unwilling. So it is very important to find a
skilled clockmaker that specializes in your brand and
beginner and adventurous clockmaker will cost you
significantly more money in the long run.
I love taking a challenge whether it is a Westclox or
other brand, or even a watch. Just in my nature.
I am done, it feels like I did something worthwhile.
And, why not? I am preserving a part of history. 50
now my work will ensure that future owners will enjoy
a true collectable and another clockmaker will be able
see something even rarer than it is today.
When is a
restoration necessary? Some would say never. I take
the issue this way, I simply let the customer
decide. There are clock collectors that will pay top
dollar for a completely original clock and others will
same amount for a fully restored one. The customer is
always right and I don't care which one you are.
customer decides they want a restoration, I can
determine what course is needed to preserve the clock
Dials are a serious issue among collectors. There are
a lot of replacement dials out there being sold by
supply companies. Why? Because some collectors insist
on a flawless dial. Others frown on this choice.
NOS (new old stock) parts are nice, but keep in mind
many of the parts are rusting and corroded. Whether a
NOS or used, it must be inspected and cleaned to
remove and prevent corrosion.
Rusting cases will only get worse. Flaking paint will
lead to rusting cases. Even nickel plated clocks
proper environment to be preserved. Take a look and
see how rare an untarnished nickel plated clock is.
they are brassing, corroding and pitting away. Some to
the point that no distinguishable markings of the
can be found.
Preserving the nickel or brass plating on a case is
another issue. Basically there are three differing
course the obvious is to leave the case as is
regardless of how bad it is and how much is lost due
to the normal
process of metal trying to return to its original
state. The other two opinions are to restore the
plating. One group
would like to see a complete make over and
restoration; removing all evidence of use and wear.
The others want
to preserve the normal dings and characters of the
case and want the nickel to be simply restored to a
polished state. I definitely believe in preserving a
nickel case. If it is pitted and flaking, it will only
get worse and
should be properly prepared and re-plated.
The important thing to me is preserving a clock so
that it will be around 20, 30 or even 50 years from
now. Again, I
leave it to the customer. My preference is to keep it
original if it does not detract from the aesthetic
value. I love
the look of a mint untouched clock, especially one
that is well preserved. But, being rare, the next best
thing is to
restore one. Poorly reproduced dials and badly
prepared painted cases drive me nuts. I get about one
week inquiring into what types of paints and what
efforts I take to prepare a case. Some are interested
in how I
reproduce the dials, what process I use to repaint the
numbers and hands. The demand for these services will
only increase and only a handful can produce the
results I can be satisfied with.
There are several sellers that have a tendency to mix
and match clock parts. Easily understandable since
not making these parts anymore. Not a bad thing, but
from differing eras and models; dials and hands
never together. Even worse, there are quite a few fake
and modified dials. Some so called war clocks that
made well before and after the original ones were
manufactured. A lot of Black Americana Dials are
listed for sale
and all are fake. The clocks lose their
originality and many uneducated clock buyers buy these
paying way too much for these clocks. The best thing
for a buyer is to educate themselves by reading
books on what you are collecting. You can also search
the web and find sites that contain like minded
with plenty of advice and knowledge. Nothing is better
than a good knowledgeable background; so go and read
and mingle with other clock collectors.
Terms such as
cleaned, cleaned and oiled, refurbished, cleaned and
lube, serviced, restored, etc.
The degree of how well a clock has been cleaned is
described in so many ways and each person's definition
differs. Important questions should be asked. How was
the item cleaned? Was the case part of the cleaning
process? How long was the movement tested? Does it
keep time? What repairs were made and what parts have
been replaced? Do you warranty your work and how long?
Were there any date markings, marks and what were
they? All very important questions and all will help
detail how thorough a clockmaker/seller was when they
refurbished or restored the clock. Again, the final
price will give you the estimated time the clock was
Typically, a Westclox movement has a date stamp and it
is very rare that they don't. Persons claiming to have
serviced a Westclox should know the date. If they
don't, you should be very wary. The dates are not
are clearly visible. Using the range of production
years as a description and not knowing the date of
manufacturing shows a lack of detail. What other
details have they missed? Most buyers will never open
cases on their clocks and will never be able to
personally verify whether or not a clock was processed
as a seller
claims. Being armed with a little knowledge and common
sense, hopefully you will be able to see and decide if
clock is a true bargain or just a quick fixed sale for
profit. I hope I have enlightened a few buyers.
Here are some recent restorations I have processed.
This style 2
came in with a few small dents on the casing.
There was rust in the back bell assembly.
I removed the dents, remedied the rust issue and
removed and restored the paint.
The movement was repaired and serviced.
indicators were worn and discolored, so I scanned and
restored the display on premium glossy photo paper
and sealed it in a plastic coating.
I had not yet
secured a competent re-plating service. Now I can have
the nickel plating on the switch indicators,
winding and setting knobs restored to better than new
Another great restoration of a Style 4 Chime Alarm.
The nickel plating on the base was restored and the
was removed and restored. The clock's movement was
repaired and serviced.
The dial was
reproduced on premium glossy photo paper and sealed.
Commercial grade luminescent paint was
applied to the numbers on the dial and hands.
The paint will glow for 8 to 14 hours.
is scanned into the computer and the
digital image is cleaned of all blemishes, scars and
any other distractions. The markers are rebuilt if any
are missing and all the markings of the original dial
repaired and cleaned up. It takes several hours just
to clean up the dial and repair the scanned image to
The application of luminescent paint is painstakingly
applied with a loupe and appropriate tools. The time
on the size of the dial and fonts. This dial took
nearly 4 hours to apply. A total time of 8 hours to
Three were for the same client.
The cream style 5 had serious case issues. A previous
repaint was flaking and the back was rusting on the
and exterior. The hands were incorrect for the model.
The clock was fully restored; all case parts
externally. Movement was repaired and serviced.
5 Baby Ben had a worn dial from a previous
attempt to fix or service it. The hands were incorrect
for this model, the originals were probably destroyed
when the dial was damaged. The clock was completely
restored to my standards.
The dial was
reproduced to bring back the old magic.
another one, a very nice Style 4. This clock
came in with the wrong dial and hands; dial was marked
alarm and was a fake. The case screws were a mix
of differing types and the bottom was attached with
hardware. As a result the dust cover was bent
and the crystal was floating in the case. The
bezel and back were
in bad shape, very pitted. As you can see I
worked a miracle; definitely worth a lot more that
when it came in.
The dial was
reproduced from my image stock and is correct for this
model and era. The case was stripped and
repainted. I had the Bezel and Back including
all the other nickel plated hardware replated and you
results. This clock looks factory new.
One thing you
will notice is how smooth and glossy the painted
finishes are. I treat these the same as a paint and
body shop would treat your car. The cases are
stripped, cleaned, re-plated if need be and then
Then several layers of primer are applied and sanded
to a smooth finish. We then put on several layers of
Based Enamel Paint; it is then finally protected with
several layers of lacquer. The final result is a
and glossy finish.
Simply sanding and repainting over the old paint will
not produce a final product that I will only be
I have been asked if I had or have done any Style 1's.
Here is a restored Style 1A from 1925, for those that
love these. This came in and needed a little
help. The dial
was soaked with oil from someone oiling the movement
while it was in the case. The back was in pretty
shape and the front was brassing. I of course
reproduced the dial and had all the nickel plated
The brass bezel ring was stripped, polished and
re-coated with lacquer. I reproduced the
directly from the original. Finally, I repaired
and serviced the movement. This clock came out
Just love these.
do work on other clocks. Here is one of
mine, a beautiful 1939 Plymouth. Not worth more
than a few
hundred, my grand parents owned one just like it.
Fully restored. Case was very dry,
finish was cracking and
movment dirty. I restored the finish and
serviced the movement. Runs within a few seconds
need an electric clock, Here is a nice Telechron 8H61,
you will find a lot of these on Ebay. This one
looks factory new. I just love the old radio
look of it. I serviced the movement and rotor,
keeps perfect time.
I used to
hang around my grandfather's clock shop when I was
young, between the ages of 5 and 13.
About the age of age of 8 he gave me my first clock to
work on, a Big Ben Westclox Style 1a. Taught me
how to tear it apart. By the time I was 10, I was
servicing many different clocks, but not repairing any
them; he did that part. Around 12, I was repairing
many of the common ailments and I discovered girls
and well, drifted away from the clock making
hobby/profession. About 15 years ago I
some Westclox Big Bens and started where I left off.
Luckily, I did not forget any of the
grandfather taught me. I am constantly improving my
skills and adding to my tooling inventory. Even
though my work is considered to be very good by many
other clockmakers and sellers, I still feel I have a
ways to go. And, that is the way it should be,
constantly learning and improving. Hopefully, one day
be as good as my grandfather.
If you are willing to entrust your clock to me, I will
produce results beyond your expectations. I hope
information has assisted you and am thankful for you
reading this far. I feel it is important for the
consumer to understand the amount of work and skills
required to service and repair a clock. I
understand there are clocks being sold for much less
that what I sell them for, but guarantee the work
and final product is several levels above the others.
Once you get one of my restoration into your hands
and compare it with the others, you will see what I am
talking about. I am not conceited, but have had so
many confirmations of my skills compared to the
Any questions or comments can be addressed to Jimmy@CloxMonkey.com.