The term " Antique " does cover a very large grey area as to date of manufacture or origin of any clock. Personally I would class antique as before 1920.
Antique clocks come in a very large variety of cases, movements and makers. When you are first starting off as a collector or buying as an investment, there are certain things you need to ascertain before you purchase any antique clock. Firstly I would recommend that you research the type of clock you are considering whether it be a mantle, bracket or wall clock. Take a good look around the internet at styles and have a price range in mind. Then if you decide to buy from ebay, please buy from a reputable clock seller and check the feedback from other buyers.
Copies, reproduction or fakes...
All ideas are/ have been copied, very few are original. And in the same way as the mini skirt or hairy moon boots eventually come back into fashion, so do styles in clocks. The issue comes if you buy something that is listed as "old" when all your buying is something that "looks old"! Thankfully copiers tend to go for the high price/prestige items, but if your looking for that one "nice piece" it sets up a minefield of pitfalls. Here is a very berief list of what to look out for as far a copies/repros/rip offs are concerned:
Fusse dial / school /station clocks. First of you need to know that these were the "workhorse" of the time, they were everywhere. That said, it is their quality and history that draws the buyers now. Most copies/repros will feature a welknown name, why copy an unknown? Be on the look out for any dial clock movement stamped "London 6472" as this is a number the vast majority of imports have chosen to copy. Also look to the bezel, if the hinge is on the left, there is a good chance it is not right. A clock of 100+ years should have a "finger treacle" behind or around the dial surround, the peg holes should also look "used". If the dial is spotless, why is that? Has it been repainted or "just painted"? The repro fusee clocks floating around are not bad clocks, you could not put one together for the price, but they are repros. In 100 years they will still be old repros....not orginals, and thats the difference.
Carriage clocks: these are a lot easier to show the "Chaff from the wheat". A carriage clock should look refined, stylish and oooze quality. But what's readily avaiable is shocking. Do look at the detail. While the movement may look spot on, they never are. If the clock has enamel panels, how good is the detail? if it has inlay, is it fine? and if it has painted porcelain panels, why do all the people look Chinese? Again, these are not tests of great knowledge. One of the most copied is an "Elliott clock", but if you could shape, squeeze and work something so complicated into such a small package, would you have the name of your company name scrawled across the dial in such a slipshod fashion?
Do watchout for the £1 clock with a postage of £99 from China, they are not what they seem and many have paid but never recieved the goods!
Skeleton/mystery clocks: there are many, many of these clocks swashing about. Rolling ball, Congrieve, Big wheel, Scissor movements ect, mainly from the USA, but they can be found at many of our most welknown "antiques fairs", and hence on ebay. If you want something that was made last week, shipped this week and sold today, they are not bad. But again, they are repro, and always will be.
Ships clocks: Please beware of ships clocks marked "Henry Browne & Son", although this fine clock maker did make some wonderful ships clocks, most for sale are cheap reproductions ( I think they have now moved on to "made for the Royal Navy"). Beware, these are not original. Look at the headings they are listed in, read the listing. READ BETWEEN THE LINES.
The hardest part of a fake to fake, is age. It may look old, but does it look its years. Is there wear around the winder, if not, why not? Does the case have the usual knocks and dints that you would expect? is the dial perfect...and if so, why?? There are a lot of people on ebay selling a lot of items. Many are experts or at least "time served consumers", ask them their opion, most will give their time and opion happily. And if not... RESEARCH YOUR SUBJECT, there is a whole internet of info available, please use it.
Speaking as someone that has bought and been fooled by the "look" of a piece, I know its easily done. It still happens on a much too regular basis, but it need not if you follow a couple simple rules. Know a little about your subjct, buy from someone with good feedback and always read the description carefully. "I have no key", " I think its over wound", "just needs servicing", "I remember it in my Grandmothers house, so it must be old", or my favorite, "this is not an antique, as described by some other sellers"....beware.
I spy....code of conduct.
If you think you have come across a "reproduction" described as original or just plain "non truth", I used to advise that you contact the poor bidders to make them aware of your concerns, but alas that option is no longer available due to ebays policy of hiding the bidders ID. If it was my money I was spending, I would be grateful of any assistance/guidance (still am). Most of the buyers are first time clock buyers. Don't let some dodgy dealer spoil that first purchase. I used to mail those that are bidding on what I can see as "not right". Sometimes they would take what I have to say on board, sometimes not. At least they have had the choice!. Not an option now, but do be aware that not everyone and everything is as it seems.
I can see this "repro's"(I'm being polite!!) section becoming a life times work.
If there is something that you need to know, want to ask, or are just unsure about, please just drop me a line. If me, or my books don't know the answer, I know some very clever people who have had years more experience in the clock world, who will supply the answer...or we'll learn together.
If the clock you are interested in has a makers mark, take the time to research the maker if possible, there are some very good books available with price guides and makers marks to look for. We have known the occasional clock to go for high values, not because of the clock maker or the type of movement, but because of the maker of the case itself, specially French clocks with porcelain panels, if the panels are marked, it is a whole new ball game.
It is very unusual to find an Antique Clock without any damage or signs of its age.If you are looking to buy a clock which is over 100 years old, you have to expect some signs of its age, and to me personally, this can tell me that the clock is original and can add to the overall "feel" of the piece. However, a clock with a damaged dial, a movement that did not start life in the case it is in, or a "non worker", should only be purchased if you are prepared to accept the item as such. But most of all, buy what you like and will enjoy living with.
A few key words are:
Fusee: This is a means of releasing the power of the spring in an even and predictable way, thus giving superb time keeping (English in design, of course, and denoted by a cone shape within the movement!!)
Weight driven: the use of weights to power the clock as apposed to key wound spring (the first clocks used this method, although it has been employed ever since.)
Spring driven: the use of a spring/springs to drive the time and/or strike of a movement
Silk Suspension: a means of hanging the pendulum on a thread (usually associated with early French clocks).
Striking: calls out the half and/or full hours on a gong/bell/rods.
Chiming: same as above, although most accept this to mean it plays more than one note (gray area!!)
Timepiece: something that only tells the time, no chime/strike.
Clock: something that has the ability to tell the time, but also strike/chime.
Spelter: a white cast metal (usually gilded).
Pendulum: the rod and weight that hangs from the back of the clock and regulates the release of power and the speed the clock runs at.
Floating balance: another way of releasing the power and regulating the clock but without a pendulum.(thus no need for the clock to be perfectly level).
In beat: setting the clock up so there is an even "tick....tock....tick ....tock", not "tick.tock.....tick.tock".when not in beat, the clock may stop or is not working efficiently.
Suspension spring: the thin strip of metal that connects the pendulum rod to the clock.
Bezel: the surround that holds the glass that covers the dial.
These are my own explanations of the "key words". I do not profess to know everything in the clock world.....by a long, long way, and if these are not as exact as they could be, they are solely here to give guidance and help. As with all things, know thy subject. (I will add more as they come to me)
If you prefer to go to an auction and bid for any clock Please do check it out before you bid. Make sure that there is a movement inside the case as it has been known that the movement has been replaced by a battery. Make sure that if it is spring driven, that the springs wind correctly. That it looks as if all the parts belong together and that it will fit where you intend to display it (ie mantle width!!)
Most of all research your subject where at all possible and if in doubt ask for advice. While I sell clocks, this is a cover story for my general interest in anything to do with clocks. If you are in doubt, have a question or just want some advice, please drop me a line and I'll do whatever I can to point you in the right direction. As sad as it sounds, I will be interested.