• Important Executive Director Announcement from the NAWCC

    The NAWCC Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Mr. Rory McEvoy has been named Executive Director of the NAWCC. Rory is an internationally renowned horological scholar and comes to the NAWCC with strong credentials that solidly align with our education, fundraising, and membership growth objectives. He has a postgraduate degree in the conservation and restoration of antique clocks from West Dean College, and throughout his career, he has had the opportunity to handle some of the world’s most important horological artifacts, including longitude timekeepers by Harrison, Kendall, and Mudge.

    Rory formerly worked as Curator of Horology at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, where his role included day-to-day management of research and digitization projects, writing, public speaking, conservation, convening conferences, exhibition work, and development of acquisition/disposal and collection care policies. In addition, he has worked as a horological specialist at Bonhams in London, where he cataloged and handled many rare timepieces and built important relationships with collectors, buyers, and sellers. Most recently, Rory has used his talents to share his love of horology at the university level by teaching horological theory, history, and the practical repair and making of clocks and watches at Birmingham City University.

    Rory is a British citizen and currently resides in the UK. Pre-COVID-19, Rory and his wife, Kaai, visited HQ in Columbia, Pennsylvania, where they met with staff, spent time in the Museum and Library & Research Center, and toured the area. Rory and Kaai will be relocating to the area as soon as the immigration challenges and travel restrictions due to COVID-19 permit.

    Some of you may already be familiar with Rory as he is also a well-known author and lecturer. His recent publications include the book Harrison Decoded: Towards a Perfect Pendulum Clock, which he edited with Jonathan Betts, and the article “George Graham and the Orrery” in the journal Nuncius.

    Until Rory’s relocation to the United States is complete, he will be working closely with an on-boarding team assembled by the NAWCC Board of Directors to introduce him to the opportunities and challenges before us and to ensure a smooth transition. Rory will be participating in strategic and financial planning immediately, which will allow him to hit the ground running when he arrives in Columbia

    You can read more about Rory McEvoy and this exciting announcement in the upcoming March/April issue of the Watch & Clock Bulletin.

    Please join the entire Board and staff in welcoming Rory to the NAWCC community.

When is it acceptable to change a part of a clock's original design ?

ChrisCam

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Hi Guys,
It must be the case some ideas used on clocks were less successful than others. It is also true some clocks are more valuable than others. If you are for example restoring a vintage motorcysle that used points the restorer could replace this with electronic ignition.

I am currently working on a clock, it happens to be my own but the issue is it has a design flaw or rather it could be improved in reliability without making a substantial change. The clock is a run of the mill antique, nothing special. or valuable.

The question is is it acceptable to change a part if it improves thje clocks performance. After a lot of thinking I argue yes.

But what do you guys think?

Regards
Chris
 

bruce linde

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Kind of depends, doesn’t it? What clock, what flaw, and how are you proposing to tweak it?
 

ChrisCam

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Kind of depends, doesn’t it? What clock, what flaw, and how are you proposing to tweak it?
Hi Bruce,
Yes of course the degree of change is important. Changing the entire case or even dial for a different one would in my opinion negate the make / model. But would changing part of the movement be in the same category. I argue a small change made to improve performance can be acceptable. If I was buying an expensive collectors item originailty becomes paramount though if a small change again made the clock more reliable I would at least see the case for it.

chris
 

bruce linde

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what part of what movement, and what’s the proposed change?

I mean if you’re trying to have a generic philosophical discussion you’re inevitably going to end up at the point where the best answer possible is “it depends”.

I can think of a number of problems with you doing what you’re proposing… not the least of which would be the next person to work on the clock would say, wow I wonder why someone did this? and restore it back to original... also, your idea of small could be the next person’s big.

Let’s get specific.
 

rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

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Hi Guys,
It must be the case some ideas used on clocks were less successful than others. It is also true some clocks are more valuable than others. If you are for example restoring a vintage motorcysle that used points the restorer could replace this with electronic ignition.

I am currently working on a clock, it happens to be my own but the issue is it has a design flaw or rather it could be improved in reliability without making a substantial change. The clock is a run of the mill antique, nothing special. or valuable.

The question is is it acceptable to change a part if it improves thje clocks performance. After a lot of thinking I argue yes.

But what do you guys think?

Regards
Chris
It's not.

Over and over parallels are attempted between clock collecting and vintage auto and motorcycle collecting and restoration. A clock needn't be road worthy. And the degree of restoration and even modification that seems to be acceptable and even expected in the auto/motorcycle world is just not acceptable in the world of antiques.

I watch Mecum Auctions on TV. I can't understand how those people spend $1000's on all of those highly polished bright cherry red ( I call it Mecum red) "restomod" things. It's also boring. One after another. I pray that mindset never takes a more full hold in clock collecting, thought amongst some it seems to have made significant inroads.

RM
 
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brian fisher

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i'm not sure i agree in total with bob on this subject.

here is my example:


this is a fairly valuable clock, but when i received it, it was pretty much a total POS. can you argue that i would have been better off leaving it as it was? sure. but i didn't want it that way. can you argue that it would have been worth more had i left it alone? I don't think so in this case. I would like to think my restoration did a fairly good job of maintaining as true as possible to the way it was originally. however, there were more than a handful of instances in this restoration where that simply wasn't possible. a good example would be the paper on the inside of the backer board. the reality is that when it comes down to it, this is my clock and i chose to restore it in a way that makes me happy. however, i do agree that there are things i could have done to this clock that i would find unacceptable. "shabby chic" would be an extreme example.
 

roughbarked

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Hi Guys,
It must be the case some ideas used on clocks were less successful than others. It is also true some clocks are more valuable than others. If you are for example restoring a vintage motorcysle that used points the restorer could replace this with electronic ignition.

I am currently working on a clock, it happens to be my own but the issue is it has a design flaw or rather it could be improved in reliability without making a substantial change. The clock is a run of the mill antique, nothing special. or valuable.

The question is is it acceptable to change a part if it improves thje clocks performance. After a lot of thinking I argue yes.

But what do you guys think?

Regards
Chris
I've done this to customer's clocks after I have described to them that it will change how it looks but that I will do my best to make the changes in keeping with the original style but that the change is necessary to the longevity of the clock as it otherwise is, without changing it to something else. ie: offer a battery movement.
 

bruce linde

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i'm not sure i agree in total with bob on this subject.

here is my example:

this is a fairly valuable clock, but when i received it, it was pretty much a total POS. can you argue that i would have been better off leaving it as it was? sure. but i didn't want it that way. can you argue that it would have been worth more had i left it alone? I don't think so in this case. I would like to think my restoration did a fairly good job of maintaining as true as possible to the way it was originally. however, there were more than a handful of instances in this restoration where that simply wasn't possible. a good example would be the paper on the inside of the backer board. the reality is that when it comes down to it, this is my clock and i chose to restore it in a way that makes me happy. however, i do agree that there are things i could have done to this clock that i would find unacceptable. "shabby chic" would be an extreme example.

Great to revisit your classic thread and see the care you put into restoring that clock. Sure not everything is 100% original, but the sad reality Is that very few people would put the time and care into a project like that… and certainly wouldn’t pay top dollar for the clock as you originally found it. Maybe 10 or 20 years ago, sure, but I don’t see that happening now. your restoration was done w care and respect... and (for me) preserved the integrity and value of the clock.

However… The original poster was not asking about restoration... he was talking about changing the design to affect performance. I am sooo not a car guy, but replacing the brakes on your classic 1965 Mustang with disc brakes would improve performance but make it no longer all original... for example.




it could be improved in reliability without making a substantial change
i want to know what constitutes ‘reliability’ and what simple change would make which of my clocks better?
 

chimeclockfan

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General rule is the factory design was good or at least workable from the get-go and would not benefit from any changes.
 

novicetimekeeper

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I wanted to put adjustable feet on antique tall case clock once, and the customer thought it would devalue the clock.
I said better that putting folded cardboard under the feet.
I don't know what is good yet for change.
I use a variety of things, wooden wedges, beer mats, I would never consider modifying the case. Once the clock is fixed to the wall I just need to support the front of the case so that it doesn't drop to match the drop in the floor. Not the clock's fault the floors have settled!
 

rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

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i'm not sure i agree in total with bob on this subject.

here is my example:


this is a fairly valuable clock, but when i received it, it was pretty much a total POS. can you argue that i would have been better off leaving it as it was? sure. but i didn't want it that way. can you argue that it would have been worth more had i left it alone? I don't think so in this case. I would like to think my restoration did a fairly good job of maintaining as true as possible to the way it was originally. however, there were more than a handful of instances in this restoration where that simply wasn't possible. a good example would be the paper on the inside of the backer board. the reality is that when it comes down to it, this is my clock and i chose to restore it in a way that makes me happy. however, i do agree that there are things i could have done to this clock that i would find unacceptable. "shabby chic" would be an extreme example.
I think you're comparing apples to oranges.

It's about alteration, not restoration.

RM
 

ChrisCam

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Thanks for posts Guys. The point of my post was sounding out if making any change to the original design and in particular the movement is sometimes acceptable as I had it in my mind it was probably not. But I was wrong as pointed out here it obviously depends on what is changed. If it is my clock and a small improvement would be beneficial and not look out of place I am minded to do so if it is the best of the alternatives I see.

regards
Chris
 

Schatznut

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Bruce, I appreciate your request to speak specifically, so I'll give a trivial example. The adjustable brass feet on Kundo torsion clocks came with dark brown rubber protective pads that snapped on over machined features like little knobs on the bottom. Over the years, those pads turn hard and crumble. New original pads, identical right down to the rubber material that turns hard and crumbles, are not available. So the options are to leave an otherwise nice clock with broken, missing or mismatched pads, leave off the pads altogether or make new pads of modern material. Protective feet made of clear polymer with adhesive backing are available at the hardware store, and although they are slightly larger, they are close in size. I've built a little jig that allows me to punch a hole right in the middle of them that will clear the machined "knobs" on the feet so that they are centered when installed and the result looks nice. Of course I'm talking about clocks that have little monetary value, unlike many of the clocks discussed in these forums, but that is immaterial. I strive in all cases to keep as much of the originality as I can in any clock I work on but sometimes it is not possible. Do I feel bad that I put clear vinyl feet on these clocks instead of leaving them with crummy broken or missing rubber feet? No.

Let's take it one step further - a broken part for which a correct replacement is not possible. Do we let the clock remain silent because "original" parts are not available or do we make a new part? Of course we make a new part. Is that new part a "modification"? I work in aerospace and in my world that is called a modification.

From my avatar, it is apparent that I work on cuckoo clocks, and I focus on Schatz 8-day clocks, which have marvelously-designed and -built movements. The cases are of good quality and materials, but because they were built shortly after the end of WWII, they were built hurriedly to help the makers dig out of the economic devastation of the war, so instead of taking the time to put good finishes on the cases, the Schatz people just coated them with some kind of brown paint that no doubt looked bad when it was new, and did not wear well over the ensuing years. I remove that finish with steel wool, exposing the original wood underneath that is actually very pretty - rich in color and grain. Do I then just recoat it with brown gunk to keep it original? No. I stain it and give it a light oil finish, as I am sure its makers would have preferred to do, were they not fighting for economic survival. This brings out the soul and beauty of the wood, and the finished clock looks proud.

One last point. These clocks we know and love were not made by gods - they were made by mortals just like us. And they were made against a set of limitations in time, money, material availability, as well as in engineering and fabrication experience. I always ask myself when working on a clock, "Why was this done the way it was?" Sometimes I never figure it out, but occasionally (rarely) my decades of engineering experience lead me to the conclusion it was just a bad design. If a small tweak down inside the clock, known only to me, makes that clock run longer or more reliably than it would than in its "as-built" state, I'll do it.

Sorry to run on so long on a topic that has already been well-discussed, but working on clocks allows one much time for meditation and introspection, and i think about this subject a lot.
 

Raymond Rice

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Hi Guys,
It must be the case some ideas used on clocks were less successful than others. It is also true some clocks are more valuable than others. If you are for example restoring a vintage motorcysle that used points the restorer could replace this with electronic ignition.

I am currently working on a clock, it happens to be my own but the issue is it has a design flaw or rather it could be improved in reliability without making a substantial change. The clock is a run of the mill antique, nothing special. or valuable.

The question is is it acceptable to change a part if it improves thje clocks performance. After a lot of thinking I argue yes.

But what do you guys think?

Regards
Chris
ChrisCam, Your clock = your choice!
Ray Rice
 

shutterbug

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Pretty much what Ray said. I have seen major modifications. One example that comes to mind is a 400 day clock that was converted to weights instead of a spring. It sounds like a learning opportunity. I would though, advise making detailed notes to keep with the clock so your great grandchildren will have something to talk about :D
 

leeinv66

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General rule is the factory design was good or at least workable from the get-go and would not benefit from any changes.
That doesn't work with 400 day/Anniversary clocks made pre 1950! Up until then these clocks were very bad time keepers because of the original suspension spring material used. In 1951 (I think that's the right year) Charles Terwilliger (the original owner of the Horolovar Co) invented a temperature compensating suspension spring, which dramatically improved the time keeping of these clocks. Now days, just about anyone who repairs one of these clocks fits a Horolovar spring or suspension unit. These suspension springs are not only a different composition to the originals, they are also a different color. Does this change effect the resale value of any of these clocks? Not one iota from what I have seen.

As to my personal transgressions to the originality rule, I have been known to fit a larger fly to some American mass produced movements to improve the speed at which they strike. Hang me ;)

Looks like we were typing at the same time Shutter :)
 

Jmeechie

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Hi Chris and all,
This becomes one of these ethical conundrums!
Is replacing a missing/broken ivory bushing in a wood movement with a Teflon or Delrin bush acceptable?
Replacing a worn escape wheel, fork or pallets with supply house (Timesavers or Merritt’s) on a ST 2 or Ansonia Pompeii alright?
Making from scratch and casting a pendulum bob that is all but impossible to find, wrong? (square NY Std Watch Co electric)
I’m currently making a maintaining power holding pawl for a pinwheel clock that is missing on one of my clocks. Old battery Electric clocks notoriously suffered from arcing when the switch points close, burning the contacts! Adding a ballast, capacitor or diode is accepted as an upgrade to allow these clocks to run and be enjoyed.
I know that some things I’ve said will be met with pushback and ultimately, it’s your clock and you, as the curator, must decide the best way of caring for & enjoying the clock while it’s in your possession.
Cheers,
James
 

rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

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This and repeated similar conversations of this type reveal some real fine lines better appropriate and not. Unfortunately, they also reveal some real confusion over what is appropriate restoration vs. conservation vs. alteration.

I think there must be some consideration of context, i.e., the object which is undergoing one of the above. To use an extreme (and yes a rather silly example). The repainting of Mona Lisa's smile because an owner liked a different smile better, they owned it so it was their right to do as they like, etc, so forth, exasperated sigh as opposed to altering a paint by numbers of Elvis on black velvet with the same rationale.

So, replace to one's heart's content stuff like the little rubber feet on a Shat clock. Think hard before doing things to anything else.

Ultimately, do what you want. It's going to be justified and probably supported by a chorus of like minded people which helps one to feel secure in their thinking and avoiding any genuine consideration or reflection.

I also realize that no one's mind has been or will be changed because of this type of thread of which there have been many in one form or another.

RM
 
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chimeclockfan

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That doesn't work with 400 day/Anniversary clocks made pre 1950! Up until then these clocks were very bad time keepers because of the original suspension spring material used. In 1951 (I think that's the right year) Charles Terwilliger (the original owner of the Horolovar Co) invented a temperature compensating suspension spring, which dramatically improved the time keeping of these clocks. Now days, just about anyone who repairs one of these clocks fits a Horolovar spring or suspension unit. These suspension springs are not only a different composition to the originals, they are also a different color. Does this change effect the resale value of any of these clocks? Not one iota from what I have seen.

As to my personal transgressions to the originality rule, I have been known to fit a larger fly to some American mass produced movements to improve the speed at which they strike. Hang me ;)

Looks like we were typing at the same time Shutter :)
I don't do 400 day clocks but I can see your point. Changing the suspension wouldn't be nearly as notable compared to... for example...... replacing the glass dome with a plastic cube made to look like cartoon cheese. The clocks I work with are almost entirely chime clocks which had to be workable from the get-go to perform effectively. Complete originality tends to go out the window as soon as a clock goes in for its first overhaul/rebuild - I have never seen an untouched, all original clock that actually works. Everything's been repaired at least once.
 

novicetimekeeper

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Where do you daw the line?
Would using a modern varnish on a clock case be acceptable?
It comes down to what you want to do with it later. A collector will be concerned about the cost implications of removing the varnish and repairing the damaged finish, plus whether that will be original enough for their collection. So if you are going to keep it yourself and let your executors worry about value then fill your boots.

If you are a collector of antique clocks your interest is more likely in originality and preserving them in the best state you can. I see myself as privileged to share my life with these clocks that will hopefully live far longer than me and which I leave in as good a state or better than I found them. Sometimes correcting dodgy repairs and alterations as I go.
 

Chris Radano

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It's an art form to modify your clock within the parameters that are considered acceptable to most.

If a modification or alteration is done with skill and discretion, I have no problem.

I've bought clocks with little alterations or even neat repairs that differ from the originality of the clock. I love them. Here is a modification:
First off, this type of clock is often found missing it's side doors. Don't like the plexiglass doors of the clock in the link? Take them off...that's what's knows as a "reversible" alteration. If you do something that is reversible, not many will complain.

Here's another reversible alteration:
Someone used the top of another clock and put it on this clock. Don't like the newer top? Take it off.

What, you did something to the movement to "improve" the operation of the clock? If your alteration is done with skill and good judgement...shows thought and consideration (or is reversible), then not a bad job.

Where do you daw the line?
Would using a modern varnish on a clock case be acceptable?
To me, not acceptable. Not when more correct finishes, such as shellac, are readily available.
 
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Steven Thornberry

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Someone used the top of another clock and put it on this clock. Don't like the newer top? Take it off.
This brings to mind that New Haven advertised interchangeable tops on certain of the their series, e.g. the Statesman Line, the Military Line, and t he Hustler Line. This post shows an example of such from the Hustler Line, on a clock called, appropriately enough, the Mayor.
 

jmclaugh

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I guess as it is your clock you can do whatever you like with it but an example of being unacceptable imho is an 18thC brass dial longcase recently posted on the MB which has had a rod gong installed to replace the bell. I know it can be considered reversible but all that comes into my head is why!
 

Sooth

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This is a very interesting topic. I can think of only one example that I can share, where original construction was modified. Generally I am in the camp of keeping clocks as close to 100% original and untouched as possible. Sometimes, however, that isn't really possible either due to losses, damage, or prior botched repairs.

One exception I made is on this Seth Thomas Ogee:
https://jcclocks.blogspot.com/2018/02/rosewood-seth-thomas-thomaston-ogee.html

It is by far not rare, not valuable, and had already been horribly botched in several ways. It had been refinished, the dial had been poorly repainted, and the original mirror was broken. None of those, however, are the design/construction issue I'm talking about.

This clock, for whatever reason, had a construction mistake. The vertical movement guide rails were cut too deep. By about 3/8". This had partially been addressed (possibly at the factory) by additional blocks added to the back of the seatboard, but the real issue was that the door was difficult to close, and the dial retaining "L" pins were grooved into the rear of the door frame due to the fit. I would think that this was just left "good enough" from the factory, but since the clock was apart, and that we know the dimensions were indeed incorrect, I did chop down the backs of the guide rails a bit. Was it right or wrong to do? Kind of a grey area (let me know if you feel differently). I did not cut them completely down to what would normally be the correct size (2 5/16" generally) so they're still a bit too deep, but they were trimmed enough to allow proper clearance for the door. Images/descriptions of the modification are shown in the "part 3" link in the blog post above.

I would say this is a very rare occurrence in any of my restorations. I normally would leave a flaw like this as-is, even if it was wrong from when it left the factory, but it really did put a lot of strain against the door latch and hinges. Maybe this wasn't as bad originally and some of the wood mouldings shrunk or settled differently over time. I'd welcome your thoughts on this. Would you count this as "changing the design"? Would you consider it a botch? Do you think it would devalue the clock further? (keeping in mind that I paid 20$ for it). There's also the small factor that the modification is 100% invisible as the material removed is attached against the backboard and nailed in place.
 

rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

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I guess as it is your clock you can do whatever you like with it but an example of being unacceptable imho is an 18thC brass dial longcase recently posted on the MB which has had a rod gong installed to replace the bell. I know it can be considered reversible but all that comes into my head is why!
Because one can doesn't mean they should.

RM
 
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