1.04 – How to Evaluate an Old Clock

Last Update: 10-01-2022 @ 01:48

What to Look for
when Estimating
the Value of a Clock?

  1. Age
  2. Scarcity
  3. Market
  4. Condition
  5. Price
An American Clock in an Antique Shop
(Image: All rights reserved, Bordloub)
(Image: All rights reserved, Bordloub)

1.04.1 – Age

A clock is antique when its manufacture date is at least a hundred years before its last purchase. To be vintage, it’s about thirty years. It means that some of your vintage clocks will eventually be antique if you live long enough. However, it is not that easy to date a clock. We will cover that subject in the next section. But the clock’s age does not prove anything in terms of value. Sometimes, a rare vintage clock designed by a celebrity designer will command a higher price than an antique one produced in enormous quantities. Finally, an ancient clock must be in excellent condition, as close as possible to its original state, to have excellent value. Its aesthetics, beauty, techniques, and overall quality influence its value. ⬆️

1.04.2 – Scarcity

The scarcity is related to a low presence on the market of a particular model of clock versus the quantity produced. A rare model is also a unique one. Prototype clocks, unique pieces or models produced in small quantities, built with valuable materials, richly decorated, or built for an event to honor someone will fetch a higher price. But most collectors, except museums, foundations, and estates, cannot afford these.

Scarcity is an essential criterion if there is a demand for a particular type of clock. Indeed, some vintage clocks, because of their scarcity, have more value than some antique clocks. Furthermore, antique clocks manufactured in massive quantities are not hard to find. So, their value is low. An example is the American oak kitchen clock. Only the ones with exceptional characteristics and preservation state are a good deal. However, you will note that porcelain clocks are of better value, especially the Royal Bonn porcelain clocks. Why? In America, their cases were importations from Europe, manufactured in lesser quantities, and fragile. Often, their owner accidentally broke them over the years. So, you will find fewer of these on the market.

A clock is antique when its manufacture date is at least a hundred years before its last purchase. To be vintage, it’s about thirty years. It means that some of your vintage clocks will eventually be antique if you live long enough. However, it is not that easy to date a clock. We will cover that subject in the next section. But the clock’s age does not prove anything in terms of value. Sometimes, a rare vintage clock designed by a celebrity designer will command a higher price than an antique one produced in enormous quantities. Finally, an ancient clock must be in excellent condition, as close as possible to its original state, to have excellent value. Its aesthetics, beauty, techniques, and overall quality influence its value. ⬆️

1.04.3 – Market

Often, it’s savvy collectors and interior designers that will significantly influence the marketplace of old clocks. Indeed, designers purchase or rent some old clocks primarily as decorative objects, regardless of their proper operation or not. They buy for the “look” before anything else. A designer whose mission is to create an Arts and Crafts decor for a client will purchase oak clocks. The Arthur Pequegnat Co. has made several models that blend well with this style. Nowadays, we know that vintage objects are trendy, and many people search for them. So, quality vintage clocks are sought after, independently of their actual value.

A clock is antique when its manufacture date is at least a hundred years before its last purchase. To be vintage, it’s about thirty years. It means that some of your vintage clocks will eventually be antique if you live long enough. However, it is not that easy to date a clock. We will cover that subject in the next section. But the clock’s age does not prove anything in terms of value. Sometimes, a rare vintage clock designed by a celebrity designer will command a higher price than an antique one produced in enormous quantities. Finally, an ancient clock must be in excellent condition, as close as possible to its original state, to have excellent value. Its aesthetics, beauty, techniques, and overall quality influence its value.

Fashions and trends

Fashions and trends of a particular era may influence the value of a clock. Let me take an example. For collectors well informed on the Canadian clock market, the value of an Arthur Pequegnat is much higher than other Canadian clocks of the same type. Why? Because the demand is high for these clocks. The Arthur Pequegnat Co. has an excellent reputation in Canada.

The Varkaris published a book on the family and their history, which was challenging to find and expensive. Pequegnat designed and built its clock cases and movements exclusively in Canada. Many of these are in museums. A few collectors acquired extensive collections of Arthur Pequegnat clocks over the years that they kept for a long time before auctioning them. Knowing this, collectors who have very few examples asked for prices accordingly.

All this created a unique market for Pequegnat clocks that command higher prices than Canada / Hamilton Clock Co. clocks. The latter, one day, will see their clock prices readjusted to their fair value.

Prominent collectors can also make the prices vary depending on whether they express their preferences for a particular type of clock. Therefore, being popular, these clocks become rare, the law of demand and offer takes place, and prices start to rise.

A clock is antique when its manufacture date is at least a hundred years before its last purchase. To be vintage, it’s about thirty years. It means that some of your vintage clocks will eventually be antique if you live long enough. However, it is not that easy to date a clock. We will cover that subject in the next section. But the clock’s age does not prove anything in terms of value. Sometimes, a rare vintage clock designed by a celebrity designer will command a higher price than an antique one produced in enormous quantities. Finally, an ancient clock must be in excellent condition, as close as possible to its original state, to have excellent value. Its aesthetics, beauty, techniques, and overall quality influence its value. ⬆️

1.04.4 – Condition

The more original a clock is, the more likely it is to increase value. A clock to be considered authentic must have a regularly maintained movement and a non-altered case over the years, except with the passing of time. It is expected, for example, that wooden clocks have a patina. Because at the time, clockmakers used shellac very often as a finish, some of these presented tiny cracks on the surface. As for the movement, the one with many bushings has less value than the well-maintained one during its life cycle.

Therefore, the more a clock is original, its value is higher. Collectors with deep pockets will look for “museum” quality clocks. Those are functional, but their cases are in perfect condition and look new! But most collectors rely on more affordable clocks. They collect for the love of clocks, not primarily for their value, some for the pleasure of bringing them back to life.

Restored clocks

So, what about restored clocks? Restoring a clock for the pleasure it provides, do not do without it! But doing it hoping to find a big profit is an illusion. Indeed, it will cost you much more than what you paid for the clock if you are dealing with a professional restorer. Doing it yourself is a considerable investment of time, and chances are you’ll get a lot of fun and pride but not a fortune in return. Suppose you are a prominent collector with deep pockets or represent a museum. The only downside is that the professionally restored clock, especially if it is an exceptional piece, will produce long-term value, though not as much as a perfectly well-maintained, non-touch original.

A clock is antique when its manufacture date is at least a hundred years before its last purchase. To be vintage, it’s about thirty years. It means that some of your vintage clocks will eventually be antique if you live long enough. However, it is not that easy to date a clock. We will cover that subject in the next section. But the clock’s age does not prove anything in terms of value. Sometimes, a rare vintage clock designed by a celebrity designer will command a higher price than an antique one produced in enormous quantities. Finally, an ancient clock must be in excellent condition, as close as possible to its original state, to have excellent value. Its aesthetics, beauty, techniques, and overall quality influence its value. ⬆️

1.04.5 – Price

As for any old or vintage objects, the law of demand and offer plays its role. Long-time experienced collectors will tell you that several years ago, the overall prices of antique clocks were higher than today, cost of money considered. It was the same for antique furniture. If you’re not convinced, look at antique buyer’s guides and compare the prices, considering inflation.

So, I suggest ignoring those guides as a tool to figure out the price of a clock, unless they are not more than one or two years old. You need to know that these guides’ prices result from a survey of the clocks sold most of the time by prominent auctioneers. These prices often reflect the high-end market. If you need to ensure your valuable clocks, chances are that a professional evaluator will rely on these guides. If you are just a collector because you love old clocks and not an investor, you better look at eBay to estimate the total price and compare it with antique online sites’ prices.

Finally, price is a very delicate and subjective matter. Indeed, if you fall in love with a beautiful clock, you will be willing to pay the price to have it. I hope that it falls within your budget! Sometimes, a beautiful timepiece in someone’s eyes is not necessarily the most expensive. For instance, a clock, a souvenir from your loving grandmother or grandfather, could be priceless for you!

A clock is antique when its manufacture date is at least a hundred years before its last purchase. To be vintage, it’s about thirty years. It means that some of your vintage clocks will eventually be antique if you live long enough. However, it is not that easy to date a clock. We will cover that subject in the next section. But the clock’s age does not prove anything in terms of value. Sometimes, a rare vintage clock designed by a celebrity designer will command a higher price than an antique one produced in enormous quantities. Finally, an ancient clock must be in excellent condition, as close as possible to its original state, to have excellent value. Its aesthetics, beauty, techniques, and overall quality influence its value. ⬆️

Next: 1.05 – How to Identify an Old Clock

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