The Perceived Value of a Longcase Clock

After many years of working in the clock repair and restoration business I now know that the perceived value of a longcase clock can be greater than its monetary value.

Call the Clock Repairer

When visiting one of my many long standing customers, an elderly lady who had been widowed for many years who had called me out to look at her c1820 mahogany swan-neck longcase clock and as she defensively informed me “its stopped, I haven’t touched it, its stopped for no reason” which always amuses me as a clock always stops for some reason even if it is only that it needs winding up.

So I found myself at 6 o’clock on a dark winters evening in a small hamlet in East Yorkshire, you know the type I mean, the ones with no street lamps and entering a little cottage to find a longcase clock jammed into a recess between the fire breast and the adjacent wall in a very over furnished and undersized kitchen, come dinning room, with only inches of space either side of the clock to work in.

After moving the armchair and paper rack which was conveniently placed in front of it, I took off the hood and commenced with my inspection. The pendulum was still attached and the suspension spring was still in one piece, good I thought, gut lines were ok, not over lapped, yes the clock was fully wound up everything seemed to be in order. So I concluded the problem must be in the train or the escapement, which would mean I must take it into the workshop.

Informing the old lady of this she was not perturbed and like most customers I’ve found, thinks this is standard procedure, which I know is for most clock repair people.

After the inevitable “would you like a cup of tea” which in most cases my answer is always “oh yes please, two sugars” she went on to tell me about how she and her husband had acquired the clock in 1953 from a dubious member of her husbands family, “a bit of a dealer” she said, for the extortionate price of six pounds.

She went on to say “it was in a bit of a state when he brought it; I spent all day washing it down with soap and water to get it clean. It’s been such a good buy, it’s part of the family now, when my grandchildren come they spend hours looking at the clock and waiting to count the chimes, just like their mum and dads did when they where little, I will miss it so much when you take it away.

I sat there cradling the cup of tea in both hands and sipping the hot, strong, sweet tea, I love it like that, some people make milky weak tea you know, no good for a man like me with the pallet of a forty year smoker.

A moment of thought.

As I gazed into the glowing embers and the flickering flame of the coal fire, glancing about the room with its mix of old utility furniture and photographs of long gone and new arrivals of family members, I realised I was looking at the images people have in their minds when they think of a longcase clock.

These images seem to give us a feeling of times long past, maybe of our own grandparent’s home, of times when things were not so fast and so complicated. The tick tock of a longcase clock can drum up images that can help us to once again have those feelings of warmth and love, which for a brief moment give us a feeling of security.

The feeling of security that only a child knows, the feeling that comes from old but still strong arms and hands that cradle it as it sits on its grandfathers knee, or the big hug and sloppy wet kiss a grandma gives a grandchild when it walks through the door.

How should I make your Clock?

longcase clock making

In my early days of making clocks, when people asked me to make a longcase clock, you can see how to make your own longcase clock here, I would be amused at the answer they would give to the question of what type of wood shall I make the case from, oak, mahogany? 

Many would answer “oh it doesn’t matter, I’ll leave that up to you as long as I can hear it tick, and it has a chime, you know the type, my grandmother had one, Westminster chime I think”.

Understanding the true value of a Grandfather Cock.

Now I’m older I think I understand, many people don’t order a reproduction clock from me, but order a clock that can reproduce thoughts and images that only a longcase clock can give, with its slow methodical tick and the ting of its bell as it rings out and strikes the hours in the quiet still night of a sleeping home.

I am sure this is why clocks and watches have stayed so popular and sales have been sustained in a reclining antiques market, it’s the hidden perceived value and there is no other antique with so much perceived value as a longcase clock.

So I got up from the chair and handed the cup and saucer to the old lady thanking her for the tea and I loaded the movement and dial into my car and bid the old lady goodnight, and promised I would have the clock back to her as soon as I could, knowing to her it was like having one of her family away from home.