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 online
As a Clockmaker, I have seen a lot of clocks bought off of Ebay that were supposedly serviced or repaired prior to
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. Typically, the
buyer does not know whether or not the clock they bought was actually serviced or repaired prior to being sold,
and the seller knows that most buyers will not open the back to see if it was; even if they could, they probably
cannot tell if it was.
There is very simple way to determine, in most cases, whether or not a seller/clockmaker has serviced a clock
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 first two
items are simply the degree of skill required to properly clean a clock and the amount of time that is required to
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 out there.
|Various Clock Servicing Strategies
Depending on 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 three
categories; beginner, adventurous and skilled.
Typically, 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 lubricants
penetrate the old oil and work its way into the pivot holes. Unfortunately, the oil also gets onto parts that should
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 and stains
This is the most profitable way to get a clock going for sale as it requires very little skill and time. The beginner
moves directly to oiling the movement and skips all the important steps that a competent clockmaker would
have included. Some of these sellers actually believe they are doing a great job, all the while your clock is
grinding to an expensive halt.
An 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 movement apart.
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 have been
destroyed during this learning phase. The movement is typically soaked in some cleaning solution to loosen the
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 break
down the applied lubricants.
Skilled Clock Maker
Some Adventurous clock persons become Skilled. A skilled clock person acquires tools that match their skills and
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 there are
some that will spend several days on a particular clock. The more time spent, the more thorough the work will be
and the more it will cost.
A beginner cannot repair anything on the movement since he cannot remove it. The adventurous types can only
repair minor items if anything at all. A skilled person can see and repair everything interior to the clock's
movement and most importantly will be able to clean and polish all the moving parts ensuring a smooth almost
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.
An important 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 gauge
whether or not a seller has provided the services they state they have. There are clockmakers that are so skilled
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 example sale
and examine the cost to determine the quality of the work performed.
Since I specialize in Westclox, not that I cannot work on other clocks or watches, I will take a look at a Westclox
sale. If you buy a supposedly serviced and warrantied Big Ben for $45, what quality of work has been performed?
Assuming the seller must have acquired the clock, lets use $10 as a price they spent to secure the clock. Now,
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 parts--------------20 minutes
Pre-soaking Movement----------------------------------------------------15 minutes
Cleaning the movement (soak, brush and ultrasonic)----------15 minutes
Polishing the pivot holes and pivots----------------------------------45 minutes
Reassembling the movement-------------------------------------------60 minutes
Timing the Movement------------------------------------------------------15 minutes
Installing movement into case------------------------------------------- 5 minutes
Total time spent----------------------------------------------------------------2 hours and 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 lets
calculate something very important. The hourly profit or wage. The clockmaker in this case made $35 and worked
2.75 hours; that calculates to $12.72 per hour. What if the seller claimed to have changed out the mainspring?
Well, they typically cost $5. So that drops the hourly wage to $10.90. Making matters even worse, the typical Big
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 clock
for $30 and see what he says; you may just get a laugh. Someone making $5.45 per hour surely cannot afford the
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 seller can
decrease their time spent on the servicing to match the sales price. Which one would you buy from? When you
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 reading,
taking courses and hands on practice to become a proficient and good clockmaker. Why would a clockmaker be
happy making $5 to $6 per hour? Believe me they wouldn't be, as soon as you understand and accept this, the
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 clock
has been properly gone over; only that it runs long enough to secure a good rating and profit. I have had clocks
that were supposedly serviced come in six months or a year after a sale needing an inspection/servicing because
the clock simply stopped or something starts slipping. The owners tend to claim the seller restored it, but the
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 for a
clock, keep this in mind and don't expect to get a fully and correctly serviced clock with a warranty at such low
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 as
described, sold as is and require extensive work by a competent clockmaker to restore. In fact, Ebay is frowned
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 standard.
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.
When I provide a servicing at such a low price, 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 a service?
Well, first I like what I do. Second, 6 out of 10 clocks that come in for a servicing require some form of repairs
either from normal wear or from incompetent work from a previous servicing or repair; not unusual for an item
over 40 years old. This is a simple fact and to warranty a clock for two years requires me thoroughly inspect a
clock to ensure my work is not harmed by something I missed. For instance, if a clock comes in and requires a
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 and secure
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 from
scratch and re-rivet it back in place. Just takes too long and some simply have not thought of doing this. The
repairs boost my hourly profit and by doing these repairs I ensure that my work is second to none. Believe me,
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 how
to correct and prevent all issues. A lot of clock hobbyists and clockmakers can service a movement, but very few
know every brand and every problem that can come up in any clock at any given time. So, it is important to find
someone that specializes in your brand or model. For instance, there are clockmakers that only work on 400 day
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 needs
more that a simple servicing, I am putting my reputation on the line. I am not going to service a clock without
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 that I
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 primarily for
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 differing
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 repairs;
mainly unwilling. So it is very important to find a skilled clockmaker that specializes in your brand and model. A
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. Always when
I am done, it feels like I did something worthwhile. And, why not? I am preserving a part of history. 50 years from
now my work will ensure that future owners will enjoy a true collectable and another clockmaker will be able to
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 pay the
same amount for a fully restored one. The customer is always right and I don't care which one you are. When a
customer decides they want a restoration, I can determine what course is needed to preserve the clock for future
Dials are a serious issue among collectors. There are a lot of replacement dials out there being sold by clock
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 part is
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 require the
proper environment to be preserved. Take a look and see how rare an untarnished nickel plated clock is. Typically
they are brassing, corroding and pitting away. Some to the point that no distinguishable markings of the maker
can be found.
Preserving the nickel or brass plating on a case is another issue. Basically there are three differing opinions. Of
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 highly
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 email each
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 they are
not making these parts anymore. Not a bad thing, but from differing eras and models; dials and hands that were
never together. Even worse, there are quite a few fake and modified dials. Some so called war clocks that were
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 up; sometimes
paying way too much for these clocks. The best thing for a buyer is to educate themselves by reading reference
books on what you are collecting. You can also search the web and find sites that contain like minded collectors
with plenty of advice and knowledge. Nothing is better than a good knowledgeable background; so go and read
and mingle with other clock collectors.
|Differing Levels of Restoration
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 worked on.
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 hidden and
are clearly visible. Using the range of production years as a description and not knowing the date of actual
manufacturing shows a lack of detail. What other details have they missed? Most buyers will never open the
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 a
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 for some of my clients.
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 and a 2 year warranty was placed on it.
The 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 condition.
Another great restoration of a Style 4 Chime Alarm. The nickel plating on the base was restored and the old finish
was removed and restored. The clock's movement was repaired and serviced. A two year warranty was placed on
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 dial is warrantied for 5 years against fading and flaking. The
paint will glow for 8 to 14 hours.
Typically, the original 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 are
repaired and cleaned up. It takes several hours just to clean up the dial and repair the scanned image to produce a
The application of luminescent paint is painstakingly applied with a loupe and appropriate tools. The time depends
on the size of the dial and fonts. This dial took nearly 4 hours to apply. A total time of 8 hours to reproduce.
I love it! Everything is perfect. The dial and casing are especially fine.
You are an artist. Feel free to use me as a reference should you have any potential customers...
The next 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 interior
and exterior. The hands were incorrect for the model. The clock was fully restored; all case parts internally and
externally. Movement was repaired and serviced. A two year warranty was issued.
This black style 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. A complete restoration was
completed and a two year warranty was issued.
The dial was reproduced to bring back the old magic.
Here is another one, a very nice Style 4. This clock came in with the wrong dial and hands; dial was marked war
alarm and was a fake. The case screws were a mix of differing types and the bottom was attached with incorrect
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 see the
results. This clock looks factory new.
Well, Jim you've done it again. I'm running out of superlatives with which to thank you for your magnificent work.
Just can't believe that poor, sorry specimen I sent you has been so transformed. It really looks new.
(And is keeping perfect time)
Amazing. Just amazing.
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 highly polished.
Then several layers of primer are applied and sanded to a smooth finish. We then put on several layers of Oil
Based Enamel Paint; it is then finally protected with several layers of lacquer. The final result is a smooth, rich
and glossy finish.
Simply sanding and repainting over the old paint will not produce a final product that I will only be satisfied with.
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 bad
shape and the front was brassing. I of course reproduced the dial and had all the nickel plated items re-plated.
The brass bezel ring was stripped, polished and re-coated with lacquer. I reproduced the switch indicators
directly from the original. Finally, I repaired and serviced the movement. This clock came out truly stunning.
Just love these.
Of course I 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 per month.
Definitely 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 of
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 stumbled onto
some Westclox Big Bens and started where I left off. Luckily, I did not forget any of the things my
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 I will
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 this
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 others.
Any questions or comments can be addressed to Jimmy@CloxMonkey.com.