10 Things to Look out for When Buying Antique Clocks

Antique clocks are highly collectable items; they look simply stunning as an addition to your home, whether placed within a collection or as a stand-alone item, and where better to buy them than in the UK, writes Howard Walwyn? If you are new to the world of antique clock collecting or are simply in search of some tips, we’ve got a few golden rules which you may find helpful.

Get to know your local antique clock dealer

In the antiques world, knowledge is certainly power, and who better to turn to when you seek knowledge than a specialist antiques dealer? If there is a reputable antique clock dealer locally to you, it will certainly

A selection of antique clocks on show from Howard Walwyn
image credit: Howard Walwyn Fine Antique Clocks

benefit you to visit the shop regularly and create a relationship with the dealer. This can assist you in many ways, from helping you to source the rarest and most sought-after clocks to aiding you in selling your unwanted antiques to a new owner. They will also often be able to recommend other antique shops or dealers around the country where you might find the piece you’ve been searching for.

Research, research, research

It would be almost impossible to know everything about the antiques industry, its makers, marks and stories; however, the more you know, the better off you will be when seeking new treasures for your antiques collection. A few key things to learn about include: known makers marks, distinguishing era features, wood types and other materials (such as veneers). The better your knowledge, the better equipped you will be to identify whether an item is genuine or not. There are so many ways in which you can learn about these treasures, from books and online blogs to workshops and courses.

Buy what you love, not what’s ‘on-trend’

If you are investing in an antique piece for your home, or to treasure in your collections, you want to find something that you truly fall in love with. That is, however, not to say that you won’t fall in love with something that is on-trend. It is often worth looking at a variety of antique clocks before making your final purchase to see which one captures your interest the most. Seek out the pieces that take your breath away and captivate your interest first and foremost.

Buy in person

selection of antique clocks
image credit: Howard Walwyn Fine Antique Clocks

Doing your research online is a fantastic way to collect ideas and information, as well as to compare your options. However, when possible, it is best to go and view an antique in person before committing to your purchase. This is particularly important if you are buying from a website that is not owned by a reputable antiques dealer (which is not recommended), as they may be disguising issues or damage to the item that you will not discover until the item arrives. Going to view the object in person gives you a chance to discuss the history of the item with the owner, to review all aspects of the piece and to make a fully informed decision before committing.

Avoid items in poor condition

If an item is damaged and in desperate need of some care and attention then this will often greatly decrease the value. Although there are specialists who can restore antiques back to their former glory, without using the original finishes and materials it will likely stay at a decreased value as it is not in its original condition. If you do decide to invest in a piece with scratches, holes or other issues, then you will need to spend time finding a well-respected and recommended antiques restorer to be sure that your item will not be damaged any further.

Be wary of restored items

You will want to be wise when investing in an item that has been restored. If decorative features such as enamel are present, look closely to see if there are several layers of paint as this will likely be an indication that the design is not original or has been touched up. In many cases, antiques will have been poorly restored which is very unfortunate and will greatly decrease the item’s value. These restorations are often noticeable on the wooden casings.

Clock movements and parts

Inner workings of antique clock
image credit: Howard Walwyn Fine Antique Clocks

A key aspect of antique clocks, in particular, is their movement, as what use is a clock that doesn’t tell the time? It is important to be able to spot whether a movement is the original or not as if it is a replacement the value can be dramatically reduced. You can often tell if it is not an original as the front plate may have spare holes as it belonged to a different dial. If any parts are missing, or the case seems to be a little too big for the movement, the timepiece is likely to not have its original casing. These are just a few of the main factors to look out for when purchasing an antique clock.

Buy the best you can afford

In the antiques world, finding a deal that is ‘too good to be true’ can often mean that it really is too good to be true. We would always recommend buying the best you can afford, and buy for quality, not quantity. The wonderful thing about antiques is that if kept in good condition, the items will generally increase in value over time – items cheaply renovated or in poor condition are not likely to increase any further in value. It’s also important to have a rough guide to your budget for a particular item.

Patience is a virtue

If you are seeking out a specific piece to join your antiques collection and have not yet had any luck, you must remember to remain patient. Antiques are rare, treasured pieces that owners often are not quite ready to let go of, but when the time comes, your wait will have been worthwhile when that prized antique clock is finally yours. Don’t just buy a piece for the sake of it; the waiting game is all part of the beloved nature of buying and collecting antiques.

Clocks require special maintenance

Once you have invested in your antique clock, it is of paramount importance that you care for it correctly. Avoid using chemicals on any parts of the clock as this can damage the patina. If there are any faults with the clock or its mechanisms, be sure to take it to a clock specialist, as fixing it yourself may worsen the issue. Take your clock to a specialist to have the working mechanics cleaned on a periodic basis. You should also ensure that the items are kept out of direct sunlight and stored in a place where the humidity and moisture levels are under control.

Although antique clocks need careful care, maintenance and patience, it is all worthwhile to own a piece of such historic value and aesthetic.


Written by Howard Walwyn Fine Antique Clocks

Howard Walwyn’s love of English clocks began in the late 1960’s when he bought his first clock for a few pounds on his way to school. His passion for antiquarian horology has never diminished and he has devoted the past 30 years of his life to buying and selling English clocks, 20 years of which trading in London’s prestigious Kensington Church Street. 

Harold Walwyn Antique clocksWhether offering advice to the first time buyer or to the collector looking for the rarest pieces, Howard’s knowledge and integrity are all–important and have been instrumental in the growing success of the company. Clients are assured of a continually changing stock, with examples by many of the greatest makers. You will regularly find clocks by Thomas Tompion, the Knibb family, George Graham, Daniel Quare, the Vuilliamys, Dent and Frodsham.

Howard has sold a number of clocks to museums both in the UK and abroad and to major collectors worldwide both from his Kensington Church Street Gallery and at the leading International Antique Fairs in London and New York.


 

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