Grandfather clocks

Grandfather Clocks Antique or Not

08.31.09

Well this is a subject that the author of this blog post has been stewing about for some period.  Grandfather clock sellers, and for that matter sellers of wall clocks and mantle clocks as well, will frequently describe their specific grandfather clocks or other clocks as antique, even when it is ONLY ten, twenty, or thirty years old!

By that definition, I am an antique as well … but I sure do not feel like one.

When I was growing up, an antique anything always had to be 100 years old, at the very least, to qualify as an actual antique.  This is the definition we at 1-800-4CLOCKS.com have always used as  that milestone when an item moves from the vintage milestone to the antiques description!  Or occasionally, we might take the liberty of time definition if something is near antique, such as 90 years old or something.

OK, now before both taking the moral high ground and potentially looking like an idiot on our Grandfather Clocks Blog, I am about to look up the actual definition!  Be right back, or as many might instead time today, brb.

INTERESTING … not as cut and dry a definition as I might have thought.  I have learned something new.  When used as a noun and according to USA Customs law, an antique is in fact defined as something more than 100 years old.  But when used as an adjective, there is apparently a LOT more flexibility in the meaning.  Look below at the dictionary definition excerpted here from Dictionary.com:

–adjective

1. of or belonging to the past; not modern.
2. dating from a period long ago: antique furniture.
3. noting or pertaining to automobiles approximately 25 years old or more.
4. in the tradition, fashion, or style of an earlier period; old-fashioned; antiquated.
5. of or belonging to the ancient Greeks and Romans.
6. (of paper) neither calendered nor coated and having a rough surface.
7. ancient.

–noun

8. any work of art, piece of furniture, decorative object, or the like, created or produced in a former period, or, according to U.S. customs laws, 100 years before date of purchase.

So cars can be referred to CORRECTLY as “an antique car” if it ONLY ABOUT 25 YEARS OLD!?!?!?!!!!!!!

Live and learn!!!!  Even though realize I may now be defined as an “antique blogger”, at least I am still able to learn and adapt, even though a may have been born from a period long ago according to the definition, let’s say, of my children, or indeed of many out there.

Here’s where I think we antique clocks folks may still have the advantage of the younger (or vintage :) ) folks.  How many younger people today know the difference between a noun and an adjective, and even more so, when to properly use each one.  I submit that in this day and age older antique people will be much much better at this then their younger counterparts.

OK so how do we get back to grandfather clocks and how to classify them.  I guess I first may owe an apology (even though I did not say anything this time, I just thought it) to the young man who tried to sell us his battery driven antique grandfather clock that used to belong to his grandmother who got it as a gift twenty or thirty years ago.

Live and learn.  Time and time again!

Grandfather Clocks Movements – Replace or Repair

08.27.09

In more modern grandfather clocks, there are 3 major categories of grandfather clocks with related movements, which are cable driven grandfather clocks, chain driven grandfather clocks, and quartz grandfather clocks, which are battery operated (there is also a tubular chime grandfather clock which has yet a different movement, but these clocks, while perhaps the most collectible, are the least collected because of their high price tag — so not addressed in this post).

The finest of the 3 movements, in our opinion, is the cable-driven mechanical clock. These magnificent timepieces, especially when the movements are made by the leading German movement makers Hermle and Kieninger, can in our experience expect to have a true heirloom life expectancy of 50-100 years with proper care, literally spanning several generations. The movements are generally 8 days, so winding once a week keeps then running continuously. The chime quality is the best because one actually hears the hammer striking the chime rod on each note. And cable driven movements can come with many bells and whistles, such as automatic nightime shut-off options, and many have triple chimes, with 2 in addition to the Westminster Chime. The downsides are there is no volume control for practical purposes, and grandfather clocks with these movements tend to be the priciest, though within a wide price range.

Grandfather clocks with chain-driven movements have some advantages and disadvantages as well. The movements themselves are smaller, so they are generally put in smaller cases, resulting in grandfather clocks with less height and depth than average. Many are attached to chain-driven clocks for sentimental reasons, especially if one grew up with one in one’s home. They are generally less expensive. They are also mostly 8 Day Movements, so if one “winds” the three weights by pulling down on each of the 3 chains once a week, the clock will run continuously. The only downsides we see with this type of movement are that the associated grandfather clocks do not generally have the same “bells and whistles”, e.g. automatic nighttime shutoff, or a moving and working moonphase dial. Perhaps the biggest downside in our experience is that the lifetime expectancy on a grandfather clock with a chain-driven movement is perhaps roughly half of what it might be for a cable-driven grandfather clock movement — in our experience maybe 25-50 years for a chain-driven grandfather clocks vs. 50-100+ years for a cable-driven grandfather clocks.

Now quartz grandfather clocks, which are battery operated, have a separate set of pros and cons. The pros are they are the least expensive to purchase, they have volume control, most have auto-night shut-off, and one does not need to remember to wind one! The cons are that the cases tend to be not as nice as those grandfather clocks housed with mechanical movements, and the sound of the chimes is not as good as with a mechanical grandfather clock. The reason for that is with a quartz grandfather clock one is actually listening to the chimes on a sound chip, and it has a higher pitch and “tinnier” sound. In our experience, a high quality quartz movement for a grandfather clock might be expected to last 10-25 years.

The good news for all 3 of these types of clocks is that the movements can either be repaired or replaced, even many many years later (we will go out on a limb here, be futuristic, and say they should be available for the next 100+ years, if a replacement movement is needed). Proper care and maintenance of a clock, including a “check-up” with cleaning and oiling every 5 years, is a must to preserve the longevity of your clock. When parts where out, and they will, there is always the question of whether it is cost-effective to simply replace the movement, or to fix the worn or broken parts, e.g. worn pivots or a broken wheel.

Quartz movements are generally most cost efficient to have replaced. They are inexpensive. With cable driven and chain-driven grandfather clocks, one really needs to look carefully at the pros and the cons of each action, with a special focus on the cost and likely longevity factor weighing in with either choice for a grandfather clock. Currently, there would not seem to be a reason to keep the clock “all original”, but tell that to the kid who’s mom threw out his old junk baseball card collection in a house clean-up. The conventional wisdom and collectibility factor could be a set of changing rules over time.

Have a grandfather clocks service center that you trust makes all the difference. We might also recommend getting 2 opinions if that is possible in your situation.

If one is horologically inclined, one could even order a new movement directly from an authorized supplier, such as Merritts.com or BlackForestImports.com. One needs all the numbers and markings on the back of the clock to be most certain-likely to get the “exact” or close to exact movement.

Any specific grandfather clocks questions or comments, please feel free to post them here at GrandfatherClocksBlog.com, operated by 1-800-4CLOCKS.com.

Replacing A Grandfather Clocks Movement

08.04.09

With the advent of consumer electronics and the industrial age, many quite valuable mechanical grandfather clocks, as well as wall clocks and mantel clocks, had their works replaced when they broke down, with battery operated movements.  In most of these instances, the mechanical movements were simply tossed into the garbage as broken worthless remnants of a bygone era.  And many of these movements were simply replaced with new “state of the art” battery operated quartz movements.

This was as true for mechanical watches as it was for antique grandfather clocks and mantle clocks and wall clocks.  The reality, as many discovered years later, is that essentially threw away, or allowed to be gutted, the very core of the mechanical clock or watch, and with a critical component of the value of the timepiece.  As most all serious clock collectors know, a mismatched case and movement, whether for a grandfather clock or a pocket watch, are known, rather ironically, as a “marriage”.  Serious collectors as a general rule will not even collect a marriage, and Dealers who try to pass of a “marriage” as all original would be frowned upon as untrustworthy.

Some forward thinking individuals, perhaps with the help of their grandfather clocks repair person, suggested that individuals keep the movement even when it was broken, but just store it separately.  This was a very wise move indeed.

In this post we have focused on replacing movements in antique grandfather clocks, wall clocks, and mantel clocks.  We will soon also post here on this Grandfather Clocks Blog what the considerations are when deciding whether or not to replace vs. repair a movement on a more modern clock.  Different thinking and logic frequently applied.  But that is what people thought when they replacing Rolex mechanical movements with quartz battery driven ones.  Anyway, stay tuned for our advice on more recent clocks, to discuss our current wisdom.

Oh, but if we only knew we and our ancestors would have held on to our old Model Ts, Packards, and Studebakers.  And do not forget the many many thousands of baseball card collections that were thrown out by parents during home clean-ups.

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