I love auctions. The main reaons for this is that I can look at a clock and give it a once over health check. This avoids buying clocks that look great but are mechanical write offs. So – what can you do as an amateur to reduce your risk buying a three legged donkey that looks like a racehorse?!. There are a few basics.
Is the main spring broken?
If a clock has a broken mainspring then run away. Clocks at auctions, specially those with broken springs, wont have a key included with them. This is deliberate so that you cant test the clock.
The solutions is to go any buy a set of “uiversal clock spider keys” from ebay. They are £7 including postage and have every key size on a cartwheel type of arrangement. Wind all the springs. If they are jammed then thats probably fine – you cant overwind a clock, thats a myth, and the clock is just fully wound. “Broken” clocks are just often clocks that have been assumed to be overwound but have simply been fully wound. They dont work because they are simply suffering from a completely different problem – usually an incorrectly mounted pendulum.
If the clock can be wound up a little and then you hear a gronking scraping sound, thats the broken spring slipping round inside the barrel. Add £300 to get this fixed on top of whater you pay. It can get a lot worse than that if the mainspring took out other cogs when it snapped – they go with quite a bang.
Has the clock sustained internal damage
The the first thing to check after the springs is if the escapement cog is turning as the pedlumum is set back and forth. You can see the esacepement cogs on all clocks through a gap at the top of the back plate. Look through the gap and move the pendulum back and forth. If the cog moves one tooth forward on each swing of the pedulum you know power is getting through and the clock is basicly mechanically sound. If it doesnt move add at least £200 for a clean and/or be prpared to discover cog problems or wear that is many hundreds to sort out.
Is there a chiming problem?
Make sure the chime spring is wound up and then turn the hands past the hour. Do this for three hours in sequence to ensure it strikes progresively each hour. If it doesnt do this then add £200 to £400 on top of what you pay. Or dont buy it might be better advice.
Does the clock need a service clean?
Is it cleanworse inside so budget £120 for a basic clean and service on pretty much any clock bought at auction. You might be lucky but in my experience one out of two clocks need work of some sort with the majority of those jobs being service cleans.
Thats the basics and should get you a much safter buying experience. Go and buy a clock!.
A Smiths Bakelite I have in at the moment (a plug, not advice – shame on me).
Ive got quite a few clocks at the antiques centre if you fancy a browse. I sell mine with 3 month guaratees and they are of the mid range £60 – £120. Ive got a nice Bakelite Smiths in at the moment in very good condition for £80 – all original including the pendum bob – and Ive relaquered it (bargain!).
Good clocking – I try and answer all emails if I can so do feel free to ask questions on follow up to the clock buying advice here.