Most of my repair work has been on smaller pieces, but I’ve done a few full-sized clocks lately, and have needed something more convenient to rig and test movements in process. Previously I set them back up in the case, which creates challenges accessing the back of the movement.

I got some ideas from looking at other commercially available stands and then hit the scrap bin.  These aren’t rocket science, and I have a substantial pile of odds and ends from previous projects to make use of. We’re still under Coronavirus lockdown, so I wanted to see how little extra I had to procure to make this happen.

The frame is pretty simple –  2 x 4 verticals and 1/2″ plywood cross members on the top and bottom. The width of the stand is pretty arbitrary – I settled on 20″ wide which should cover pretty much everything. The depth is more critical – it needs to be narrow enough to not get in the way of the hands in front and the pendulum in back. I cut down the sides of the 2 x 4 verticals to 2″, giving a 2″ gap between the cross members and about 3″ total depth.

I cut the legs out on my CNC router and added a couple of leveling feet.

I have been learning many things in my horological pursuits these last few years. I’m not new to building things, and I’m blessed to have a fairly well-equipped, if small, shop. One thing I wasn’t expecting to learn was to navigate the challenge of having good mess-free photography of shop projects in a working shop that is, well, a bit messy. I don’t think my shop is any messier than the typical shop, but the normal workings of making things – tools and project bits – tend to stay out on surfaces while the project is underway. This isn’t a huge problem for pictures of small items – it’s easy to frame the camera shot around the sawdust or tools, but larger projects like the stand require a shot with a wider field of view, which in the case of the center photo below, includes the open door on one of my benches revealing my high-tech cardboard box holding my shop rags. Conveniently cropped out of the frame on top of the bench is the half-reassembled remote control car I was epoxying back together for my son.

While the basic stand is straightforward,  the movement mount took a little more thought. It needs to be able to accommodate a wide range of sizes. Back to the CNC router, I cut a couple dog bones that can slide to handle whatever size movement I’m working on.

I made a couple long J bolts by threading a piece of 3/16″ zinc plated steel rod. Please excuse the crudity of the J bend – I don’t own a metal bending jig and made them with a vise and a couple pairs of pliers. I threaded the rod by putting the rod in a drill chuck in my mill and holding the thread die. The machine did the turning, I just held on.

The J hooks attach to the stand dog bones with a pair of angle pieces. I milled a slot in the top piece to allow for some positional adjustment, as some movement pillars have decoration or other obstructions that wouldn’t be able to be worked around with a straight up and down clamp arrangement.

The rods are long enough so the clamps can be tightened at the bottom of the dog bones which is easier to access than trying to reach between the stand cross members. 

I left the dog bones a little bit taller than they needed to be to clear the cross members. My original plan was to attach T nuts to the bottoms of the dog bones where hand screws would come up through the bottom leg of the dog bone, through the T nut, and then press on the cross member to clamp it in place. I may still do that eventually, but due to the magic of tight-tolerance machines (CNC routers are amazing), the dog bones have almost the perfect amount of friction against the cross members that they are plenty secure.

On the stand is a tall case movement from the first half of the 18th century – possibly 1725 or so. The open design of the stand allows the free end of the weight cord to be moved around for clearance. 

It’s a bit hard to tell from the picture, but the weight cords on this movement come off the left side of both the time and strike winding drums. The time drum (right side of movement) works out well with the free end of the weight cord to the right of the movement, and the time weight hangs almost directly below the time drum. Since the strike drum (left side of movement) winds in the same direction and therefore the cord comes off the same left side of the drum as the time side, the strike weight actually runs to the left of the movement drum, and the free end of the strike cord is a few inches on the left side of the movement. For clearance, I actually rotated one of the dog bones so the metal brackets wouldn’t be in the weight path.

The free ends of the weight cords were tied around a couple dowels. This movement mounts to a seat board and the weight holes are in the seat board. This stand should accommodate putting the seat board on with the movement, but I wanted to get a bit more clearance on the movement, and so improvised a bit. The thickness of the movement stand was calculated so the pendulum is outside the stand to the back, the weights fall through the middle of the stand, and the hands can rotate unobstructed in front of the stand.

This is an interesting and very old movement. In addition to the usual counting of the hours on the bell, this clock strikes the half hour as well. The date is shown through an aperture on the dial, driven by the gear at the bottom front of the movement with a metal flag sticking out. More on this fascinating clock soon!

 

Clocks are most useful when they keep accurate time. While very few mechanical clocks are as accurate as modern quartz movements and certainly will never match the absolute accuracy of your cell phone or computer’s USNO Master Clock-synched time, even fairly low-grade mechanical clocks are more than good enough for regular household use if you take a little time to adjust them.  Check out this article for basic care and operation of your clock.

The rate of a clock is determined mostly by the length of its pendulum.  Several other factors affect the timing of a clock to a smaller degree including the power curve of the clock’s mainspring (fully-wound springs are much stronger than nearly wound-down springs) and environmental factors like temperature and humidity.

It’s relatively straightforward to adjust a clock to correct rate keeping if you have a reference like a cell phone clock to compare against, however this can be very time consuming – especially if you are setting up a new clock that hasn’t been run in a while. You will have to watch the clock over days or weeks to fine-tune its rate. Technology has come to the rescue! The Adams Brown TimeTrax 185 timer is a relatively low cost device that listens to the escapement of the clock and reads the clock’s beat rate on a display. With nearly immediate feedback, you can make repeated rate adjustments and see their effect in minutes rather than days.

How it Works

 

Electronic timing machines like the TimeTrax or the more expensive but more sophisticated Microset use a piezo electric microphone very similar to a guitar pickup to detect the tick/tock of the escapement. The time between the ticks is counted against an internal quartz oscillator and the resulting BPH – beats per hour – is displayed on the screen.

Knowing the beat rate your clock is currently running at is only half the battle. What rate should it run at? That depends on the design of the clock. Large clocks like tall case/grandfather clocks often run at 3600 BPH which correlates to one tick per second. Smaller clocks can’t have a meter-long pendulum and therefore are geared to run at a faster beat rate. This article will help you determine the correct beat rate for your clock.

Setup

 

The TimeTrax’s pickup needs to be clamped onto something metal attached to the movement. For clocks without a center second hand, a winding arbor is generally the easiest place. For clocks with a center second hand, a winding arbor may still be the best place if the second hand is removable. If the center second hand is integral to the operation of the clock as it is on some pinwheel regulators, you will need to find something else to clamp to – a movement post or possibly the dial pan (as an alternative, the Microset timer offers an optical sensor that can be set behind the pendulum).

Using the TimeTrax

 

Once you’ve successfully attached the sensor, turn the TimeTrax on. The TimeTrax includes a beat amplifier that amplifies the sound of the ticks which can be helpful in adjusting the clock to be in beat, but for timing, move the switch to the far right position. After a moment, the device should start counting beats. The red light on the right side of the unit should be flashing with each tick. If the light does not light consistently for each tick or if the light blinks rapidly, the sensitivity needs to be adjusted. Increase sensitivity by turning the gain knob up if the sensor is missing ticks, or turn the gain knob down if the sensor is registering noise as ticks. The sensor is very sensitive to mechanical vibration. Set the TimeTrax down on a stable surface and try not to disturb the sensor cable during measurement.

 

Hit the Beats/Cycle plus key several times to increase the averaging to around 10 beats. The BPH reading should stabilize significantly. 

There is a trade off with averaging. A small sample size means the display updates frequently, however the reading jumps around. A larger sample size means the display more truly reflects the rate of the clock, however this significantly slows the display update rate as the TimeTrax only updates the display twice per sample set. At high sample rates, this means it may take you a minute to get a new reading.

If your clock is running significantly fast or slow, I find that an averaging setting around 10 to 16 beats produces reasonable results with fairly frequent display updates. After I make a couple rounds of pendulum adjustment and get the rate closer to the target, I increase the sample size to around 30 to continue to fine tune.

If you know how many teeth your escape wheel has, setting the sample size to twice the number of teeth on the escape wheel (each tooth is touched twice per revolution – one tick and one tock) will give you the best balance of accuracy and fast display uptime. A sample size different than twice the number of escape wheel teeth will double-count or under-count errors in the escape wheel, whereas a sample size of twice the number of teeth of the escape wheel will correctly average the whole wheel. Many escape wheels turn once per minute – typically larger clocks. For these clocks the number of teeth on the escape wheel is 1/2 of the BPM rate of the clock. For example, a 4800 BPH/80 BPM clock will normally have a 40 tooth escape wheel, so a setting of 80 beats/cycle fully represents the escape wheel. That’s a good place to start, but your clock may be different. Most smaller clocks with beat rates higher than 80 BPM perform more than one rotation per minute, so the above rule doesn’t apply.

Final Rate Adjustment

 

Getting your clock to show its rated BPM on the TimeTrax isn’t quite the whole story. The TimeTrax has a resolution of one beat. That gets you to 99.99% of the correct rate, however the TimeTrax will not tell you if your clock is running at 3600.4 BPM or 3599.5 BPM. Over the course of a week this can accumulate to an error of more than 2 minutes.

There is a second factor that can be significant- the state of wind of your clock when you timed it. While weight-driven clocks always have a constant force and therefore a constant rate as the clock winds down, spring-driven clocks run fast when first wound and gradually slow down near the end of their wind. This error can be a couple of minutes as well. The TimeTrax will get you close, but you will need to fine-tune your clock’s rate over a few weeks by comparing it to an accurate reference like your cell phone clock.

 


 

Balance Function

 

The TimeTrax has a secondary function to help put the clock in beat. To access the balance function, turn the timer on, wait a second for it to initialize, and then press the minus button until the display shows “bal” to indicate it is in balance mode.  

 

The reading will change with every tick of the clock. A perfectly in-beat clock with a perfect escape wheel will display zero for both the tick and the tock. This is not a realistic situation, as every movement has imperfections causing slight errors. A clock that is reasonably in beat will have numbers in the range of +/- 40 or less. If you’re seeing larger numbers, then your clock is not in beat.

Some clocks have imperfections in their escape wheel such that the clock sounds in beat some of the time and out of beat some of the time. Correcting this requires disassembling the clock and working on the escape wheel – either straightening the arbor or straightening the teeth of the escape wheel.

 


 

Putting Your Clock In Beat

 

A clock that is “in beat” will have evenly-spaced ticks and tocks. Clocks that are significantly out of beat will have a galloping sound. Correcting this depends on the type of clock you have.

The first place to start is to make sure your clock is level. Some wall clocks have beat indicators – a scale at the bottom of the pendulum swing. Tilt your clock until the pendulum (stop the clock) point to the center mark of the scale. For mantle or shelf clocks, you may need to shim one side to make the clock level.

If you are lucky, making the clock level will correct the beat issue, however sometimes further adjustment is necessary. Some clocks such as Vienna Regulators have an adjustment near the top of the pendulum – turn the screw to move the pendulum bob relative to the upper pendulum suspension. Make small adjustments and see if the clock is improving. If it is getting worse, turn the nut in the opposite direction.

Some clocks have a verge that is friction-fit onto the shaft so pulling the pendulum slightly farther than its normal travel in the direction of the short tick can help correct the issue. On other clocks, the crutch wire that connects the verge to the pendulum rod needs to be slightly bent. This may require partial disassembly of your clock and is best done by someone with some experience.

If your clock is slightly out of beat, adjusting the clock’s orientation so it is in beat but not level may be a reasonable compromise and won’t harm the clock.  On some clocks that may have lived a bit of a hard life, it might be hard to judge which of the non-parallel sides to use as your level reference anyway.

 

Rate calculation

The rate of a clock is determined by two things – the length of the pendulum and the total gear ratio of the time train of the clock. The length of the pendulum determines its natural oscillation rate, and it requires a fairly significant force to overcome its natural rate, which makes them ideal for regulating clocks. The gear train determines how many ticks are required to move the clock hands a certain distance.  While length of the pendulum and gear train are related, they are separate factors. The pendulum’s rate is determined by the laws of physics, while the gear train translates that into the human construct of the minute hand going around once per hour. 

Knowing how to regulate your clock requires either empirical testing over a period of time – comparing your clock to an accurate time source and making corrections, or using a timing device, which requires knowing the target beat rate for the clock.

If you have access to the movement and a careful eye, you can count the teeth in the time train and calculate the correct beat rate for your clock. This page includes instructions and an online calculator if you wish to try this method.

The table below is a list of rates of some clocks expressed in beats per hour (BPH) and beats per minute (BPM). This is far from an exhaustive list as there are a large number of different BPH combinations used over the years. Others have published much longer listsof clock BPH rates.

It is theoretically possible to work the other direction – to start with the length of the pendulum and calculate the BPH rate it would need to swing at to keep time, however in practice this is difficult, as the critical dimension is from the top of the suspension spring to the center of mass of the pendulum. Measuring the center of mass of a pendulum is difficult as it depends on the type and design of the pendulum. For lyre pendulums, the center of mass is above the center of the bob. For stick pendulums, the center of mass is usually slightly below the center of mass.

This is a work in progress and the list will grow over time. Please Contact Us if you have any beat rates to add to the list.

Clock Beat Rates

Clock ManufacturerClock ModelBeats Per Hour (BPH)Beats Per Minute (BPM)Tick Time (Seconds)Comments
AnsoniaCabinet Antique12500208.330.288
AnsoniaPrompt4440740.811
AnsoniaSymbol Crystal Regulator9068.6151.140.397
E HowardNo 70 Regulator5084.784.7450.708
EN WelchPatti No 2 (Baby Patti)10495.6174.9270.343
EN WelchPatti V.P.7523.27125.3870.478
GilbertNo 8 Regulator3600601
GilbertNo 16 Regulator3600601
GilbertNo 20 Regulator3600601
IngramKitchen Clock8489.8141.500.424
IthacaNo 2 Bank405067.50.889
Killam & Co Banjo470478.40.765
Lockwood & Almquist90-Day4800800.75
Seth ThomasAdamantine9777.9162.970.368
Seth ThomasElipse8372139.530.43
Seth ThomasNo 1 Regulator4800800.75
Seth ThomasNo 2 Regulator4800800.75
Seth ThomasOffice Calendar No 25760960.625This is a beat rate of the Office Calendar No 2 reported by others
Seth ThomasOffice Calendar No 25880980.612This is the beat rate of my Office No 2. Apparently a second movement was also used with a slightly different beat rate.
Seth ThomasOffice Calendar No 68372139.530.43
Seth ThomasSelf-winding No 172001200.5
Seth ThomasShips Clock180003000.2
Seth ThomasSummit9100151.670.395
VariousEnglish Dial9050150.830.398
VariousGrandfather/Tallcase clocks3600601
WaterburyRegulator No 34800800.75
WillardBanjo clock470278.40.765

 

Clocks are most useful when they keep accurate time. While very few mechanical clocks are as accurate as modern quartz movements and no mechanical clock will ever match the absolute accuracy of your cell phone or computer’s US Naval Observatory Master Clock-synched time, even fairly low-grade mechanical clocks are more than good enough for regular household use if you take a little time to adjust them.

 

The rate of a clock is determined mostly by the length of its pendulum.  Several other factors affect the timing of a clock to a smaller degree including the power curve of the clock’s mainspring (fully-wound springs are much stronger than nearly wound-down springs) and environmental factors like temperature and humidity.


The Impressive Escapement

I’ve been fascinated by mechanical timekeeping devices my whole life. Though my career is in Information Technology and I spend 40 hours a week on the cutting (and sometimes bleeding) edge of technology, there is something I find impressive about a relatively simple, hundreds of years old mechanical device.

 

Most clocks run 8 days on a wind and were intended to be wound weekly. A ubiquitous “kitchen clock” has a beat rate around 9300 beats per hour, which multiplied by 168 hours in a week, means the clock ticks 1,562,400 times per week. With a pendulum swing of around an inch, that means the pendulum runs a marathon – 26 miles – each week!

 

Mechanical clocks are also incredibly energy-efficient. Our example kitchen clock’s mainspring drives a gear ratio of nearly 3000:1 with a force of only a couple foot-pounds of energy.


Reasonable Expectations

Because of the sheer number of ticks a clock must make over the course of a week and the sensitivity of the mechanism, some errors are inevitable. A clock that gains or loses one minute per week – something that should be attainable by pretty much any antique clock if it’s in good condition – is 99.99% accurate. Weight-driven clocks often do even better than this as their driving force is constant, while spring-driven clocks tend to run a bit fast at the beginning of the week when the spring is strongest and then slow down slightly later in the week.

 

I true up my clocks when I wind them. The clock on your cell phone is a great tool for this, as its clock is always perfectly correct since it is synchronized with international time standards. You can carry around this perfectly accurate time reference as you wind your clocks and easily make slight time adjustments. Your phone clock will also reveal any clocks that are significantly out of whack.


Setting The Time

Most clocks are adjusted by carefully moving the minute hand. There are a few things to watch out for.

 

Advancing The Clock

Time-only clocks can usually be adjusted either forward or backward, and as long as you are gentle, you are unlikely to cause any harm. Clocks that chime or strike require more care. If you need to set the clock ahead, you may do that slowly as long as you stop to allow the striking or chiming sequence to fully complete before you move the hand.

 

Setting The Clock Back

Once again, time-only clocks can be adjusted forward or backward. Setting a chiming or striking clock backward requires extra care, as the chiming or striking mechanisms interact with the time train and can be damaged if adjusted incorrectly.

 

The safest way to set a chiming or striking clock backward is to stop the pendulum and wait until time catches up with the clock’s setting.

 

 With care, you can in some circumstances set a chiming or striking clock back. As a general rule, you can set a clock a few minutes backwards if it’s in the first quarter hour – between 12:00 and 3:00, or the third quarter hour – between 6:00 and 9:00.  These are the periods where the chiming or striking sequence has finished and some motion is possible. Do not try to move the minute hand backward across the 12, 3, 6, or 9 as you will likely damage something. If you feel resistance, then stop moving the hands! Stop the pendulum and restart it when time catches up with what the clock displays.


Adjusting The Rate Of The Clock

 
If my clocks are running within 2 minutes per week of the correct time, I will normally just move the hands to the correct time and not try to do further regulation, as often times due to changes in temperature or humidity, the clock will run at a slightly different rate the next week, and I may end up chasing my tail. If a clock is consistently running fast or slow, then I will try to adjust the rate of the clock.

The rate of a clock is usually adjusted in one of several ways – either by a nut mounted near the bottom of the pendulum, a small square shaft through the dial adjusted with a small key, or a lever on the rear of the clock. Adjustments that make the pendulum shorter cause the clock to run faster, and adjustments that make the pendulum longer cause the clock to run slower. 

 

Small changes in pendulum length can make big changes in timekeeping. For clocks with adjustable pendulum bobs, a quarter-turn is a good starting point for an error of a couple minutes per week. Through-dial adjustment shafts are similar – start with 1/4 turn or so. For clocks with a lever adjustment, make a small change of only a few degrees at a time.

 

I find that I adjust the rate of my clocks mostly in the spring and in the fall, when seasonal temperature and humidity adjustments are greatest.


Winding Schedule

Mechanical clocks require maintenance – at a minimum they need to be regularly wound. Some clocks need to be wound every day. It requires dedication to use a 30-hour clock regularly, but if you’re willing to put the time in to wind every day, go for it. Most clocks run for 8 days on a wind (assuming they are in reasonable operating condition – a clock that runs less than a week needs to be serviced), and they were intended to be wound weekly. Choose a day and time when you will normally be home to wind your clocks, and add it to the routine. I wind my clocks Sunday evenings while I wait for my children to get ready for bed. This works for me logistically as well as mentally – winding my clocks becomes part of my routine to get ready for the week.

 

I have a couple clocks that will run longer than a week, but I still wind them weekly so I don’t forget. I find it’s harder to manage a 30-day wind schedule than a 7-day schedule.


Service and Repair

Antique clocks are mechanical devices and, like your car, need periodic maintenance. With modern high-tech oils, clocks should be able to run for 5-10 years after being serviced. If you purchased a clock with an unknown service history or if it’s been more than 10 years since you’ve had your clock serviced, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your favorite clock repair person. Clocks that are overdue for service will likely be poor timekeepers and are at risk of damage as they are wearing at an accelerated rate.

 

A full service will include taking the movement completely apart, thoroughly cleaning it, addressing worn or broken items, and then reassembling and testing. This is a time-consuming process, and therefore the cost can be significant depending on what’s needed. With more common clocks that are purchased inexpensively, the service cost can equal or even exceed what you paid for the clock. This seems to be a common conundrum at the moment as clock prices are severely depressed right now. It’s up to you to decide if the cost is worthwhile, but I would suggest that you not look at this through the eyes of an accountant; rather look at this as an opportunity to restore a beautiful object that you purchased at a significant discount.

 

Once you have a clock fully serviced including taking care of all of the worn or broken items from decades of neglect, which is the normal state for antique clocks, future maintenance will be less expensive as all that will be required is cleaning and oiling.


Is It Worth It?

Many people don’t think the effort and cost of maintaining an antique clock is worth the work, but if you’ve read this far, that’s probably not you. With a bit of care and a few dollars a year saved for an overhaul every decade, antique clocks can bring interest to your home and satisfaction of maintaining a piece of history.

 

You have your eye on a clock that’s for sale. Maybe it’s at a retail establishment, maybe a garage sale. You give it a look. The case seems decent; all the pieces seem to be there. The seller says “Oh yeah, the clock runs great.” You’re pretty sure the owner would balk at your request to disassemble the clock. How do you know if the clock isn’t hiding some dark secret? How do you decide on a fair price for the clock?

Every collector occasionally overpays for a clock or finds something isn’t as was advertised. This tends to happen more often at the beginning of a collector’s experience; hopefully education reduces the likelihood of overpaying. Here are a few things to check to reduce your odds of feeling buyer’s remorse.

 

External Condition

Is the clock complete? Do case details like finials match each other? Do they seem to match the clock? If you know the model of the clock, do internet pictures match the clock you’re looking at?

 

Originality

Has the case been refinished?  

In a perfect world, a clock would have its original finish in perfect condition. That’s pretty unlikely, as sunlight, moisture, human touch, and time degrade the finish. Most collectors prefer a clock to retain its original finish and accept that some patina is inevitable and even desirable, though if the finish is in really bad shape, it is probably better if the clock is refinished as long as the refinishing was done well. I am not overly concerned about this – I own clocks that have the original finish and clocks that have been refinished.

Has the dial been replaced/refinished?

Just as cases age, dials can degrade. Painted dials tend to chip. Some patina is acceptable and may even be desirable, however there is a lower tolerance for dial damage than case finish patina. Dials can be professionally repaired or repainted by someone like the Dial House or they can be replaced with a paper dial. A professionally repainted dial looks great. Paper dials are better than an illegible dial, but not as good as a repainted dial.

 

Running Condition

The running condition of a clock can be challenging to evaluate without opening the clock, but there are a few clues.

The first thing I do when looking at a clock is to start the pendulum. I do this before attempting to wind the clock – I want to see the condition of the clock when I walked up to it. There are three possibilities – either the clock starts ticking and keeps running, it starts ticking but only runs for a short time before stopping, or it doesn’t tick at all. If the clock runs and keeps running, I will stall for time by shopping somewhere else in the store, chat up the seller, or whatever I can do to let some time elapse to see if the clock will keep running.

 

Checking If The Clock Is In Beat

Pendulum-driven clocks are sensitive to the angle the verge makes with the escape wheel. A clock that is in beat makes an even tick tock sound, with the same amount of time for the “tick” as for the “tock”. If the clock’s ticking is uneven, then the clock is out of beat. Clocks that are out of beat run poorly or not at all. Beat adjustment is not too difficult, but depending on the type of clock, may not be a good idea to attempt on a clock you don’t own. For the purpose of evaluating a clock for purchase, you may be able to tip the clock slightly to one side or the other to improve the beat of the clock. If the clock comes into beat by temporarily tilting the clock, then the beat issue can be corrected and shouldn’t be considered a negative issue for the clock you are considering.

 

Winding The Clock

I will next wind the clock, counting how many times I turned the key. While winding the time side, I will watch the hands of the clock. For many clocks, there is typically some backward movement of the hands as winding the clock is essentially a force that runs the clock backward during each turn. If the minute hand jumps back a minute or so or less, the clock is probably not too worn. If the minute hand jumps back more than a minute, the clock will likely need more service than a simple cleaning, including at least some bushings. If you don’t notice any movement of the hands when winding, then this test is not applicable to this particular clock.

Most clock movements take around 14 half-turns to run for a week. If the clock was unwound when you found it and it takes at least 14 half-turns to fully wind, you can tell that the clock ran for at least a week before stopping. This is a good sign. If the clock was fully wound or mostly wound (it only took a few key turns to wind) when you found it, either the pendulum had been manually stopped by the seller, or the clock isn’t running and needs at least a cleaning.

 


Realistic Expectations

Now that you have at least a few clues to the condition of the movement, should you buy the clock? How do you arrive at a fair price?

An antique anything is by definition a used item, so its physical and running condition isn’t going to be perfect (unless you’re purchasing a fully-serviced clock). The best way to evaluate the price of a clock is through experience and comparison to other similar clocks. Fully-serviced clocks will cost significantly more than unserviced clocks, as overhauling a movement is a labor-intensive process. Private auction houses are often the cheapest source of clocks and watches, but it’s difficult to inspect a clock hundreds of miles from where you live, so there is risk that needs to be factored into the low price. Clocks that you can see and inspect in person reduce your risk significantly, but you may pay for that privilege, especially if you are purchasing from a clock dealer that sells serviced clocks.

While my personal opinion is that desirable antique clocks will appreciate in value over the long-term (10+ years or more), it’s probably not a good idea to consider a clock an “investment”. With the realistic view that you’re buying a hobby object and not an investment and with the knowledge that nearly every clock you will see should probably be serviced which adds a couple hundred dollars to the total price of the clock, you can buy it if you like it, or not. Right now we are experiencing a buyer’s market for clocks and antiques in general, and there’s a lot of supply out there. There are good clocks available for half the price or less than they were 15 years ago. On one hand, now is a great time to buy; on the other hand, if there’s something not quite right with the clock you are looking at, there will always be another clock.