Antique grandfather clocks, made by potentially any skilled craftsman anywhere (but geographically concentrated in certain areas of Europe and the USA), are very different animals compared to the new Grandfather Clocks – made by companies such as Howard Miller Clocks, Kieninger Clocks, Hermle Clocks, Ridgeway Clocks, Bulova Clocks and others.
When one buys a new grandfather clock such as a Howard Miller Grandfather Clock, one can generally assume it will be working “right out of the box”. When buying an Antique Grandfather Clock, which may be smart for investment purposes, one needs to be prepared for a whole host of additional challenges, as well as some trade-offs, compared to a new clock.
When buying an antique grandfather clock, one needs to attempt to know:
1. Is the clock “all original”, or is it in clock terminology “a marriage” (meaning the case and movement are not original to each other), or is it even possibly one of the ever more present complete reproductions of an antique clock (fake antique clocks is a rampant and fast-growing problem). [Despite the USA's increased focus on "Family Values", Clock Marriages are generally deemed to make clocks close to worthless, at least for serious clocks investors, for anything but home decor value]. Generally, in our opinion, one needs a clock expert to tell the difference.
As much as we love eBay (and sell and buy, and plan to continue), we sadly say that our opinion is that eBay has become a haven for fake antique clocks and pocket watches, not to mention vintage watches and most definitely for new watches. Honestly, we fear for the poor clocks or pocket watches collector who is just starting out today with no expertise behind him/her. Historically, and sticking with clocks as an example, one only had to worry about a clock marriage, as described above. Nowadays, we see new movements in old cases, old movements in news cases, and reproduction movements in new cases, which is essentially a wholesale reproduction, yet theoretically branded by a noted clockmaker of yore.
2. Condition of the clock case – a new clock generally would have or should have a “perfect finish”, many times withwood cominations and inlays unimaginable by antique clock makers. An antique clock, unless it is already fully restored (or cared for immaculately over its lifetime), is likely to need some additional woodwork. NOT necesarily a problem, just keep your checkkbooks handy and be prepared forLONG lead times for people who are really skilled in this area. They are in great demand.
3. Grandfather Clock Movement and Strike and Chimes – the movements in new clocks generally give more chime choices, e.g. Westminster Chimes (like Big Ben Clock Tower plays), Whittington Chimes, or St Michaels Chimes). Most antique grandfather clocks, at least clocks in similar price brackets, will simply chime on the hour for the number of hours and once on the half-hour. Antique grandfather clocks with more complicated chiming mechanisms are certainly available, and yet carry a correspondingly higher price tag. Also, the movements, while generally made with what might be considered sturdier movements than new grandfather clocks, will absolutely need to make sure they have a full overhaul to help insure years of continous worry-free operation. Having said that, a “project clock” can be an invitation to a money pit for restoration, while seeking clocksmiths with scarce skills and and qualified woodworkers who are also in very short supply.
4. The Maintenance of an Antique Grandfather Clock, for all the reasons stated above, is likely to be much higher over its life. Having said that, for someone who prefers a genuine antique, with careful shopping and appropriate support lined up, it can be both a good investment and a rewarding shopping experience. Just mak certain you have the appropriate reliable expertise in your corner when it comes the time to make a purchase decison.
5. Anique grandfather clock repair, as with other types of clocks and pocket watches, have a great divide in the standardization and resulting ease of antique grandfather clock repairs both within and between countries. The 2 most important contributing factors to this are: 1. that European Grandfather Clocks are, generally, much older than their American clock counterparts. There were not common standards either across makers or countries, especially in the earlier centuries of Grandfather Clock production post 1650. Even in the 1800s, as there was beginning to be a reasonable amount of standardization with countries and betweeen manufacturers, finding common movements or parts was in most cases a fool’s errand. Many older Grandfather Clocks made in the USA were generally careful to do whatever documentation was required should the clock need to be fixed. If today you are purchasing a new Howard Miller Grandfather Clock, Hermle Grandfather Clock, Kieninger Clocks, Hermle Grandfather Clocks, Ridgeway Grandfather Clocks, or even one of the Seth Thomas Clocks, replacement parts should almost always be readily available and reasonably easy to find for years and years to come.
In summary, we would recommend BOTH new and antique grandfather clocks. Just be sure you do your homework, and go in with your eyes open. Each have their advantages, and aside from doing the homework, it can also very much be a matter of personal taste, or sentimental value of continuing to keep a grandfather clock in the family from generation to generation. BOTH ARE GREAT! BOTH ARE AND WILL BE TIMELESS!
Howard Miller Lindsey Grandfather Clock, Model 611-046, blends traditional antique grandfather clock look and sound with benefits of modern-day clock decorations and functionality