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Caring for a Mechanical Clock: the Basics (#027)

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HUGOLearn the Basics in Caring for a Mechanical Clock. On the practical side, you should know the basics of clock ownership, otherwise be willing to pay someone else to do it.  To keep your clock happy, functioning, and preserved, there are a few front-line things you can very easily learn to do yourself and avoid costly visits to your local clockmaker.  Know that these are easy things to learn.


  • Winding. Sounds pretty rudimentary and intuitive? But, many new clock owners don’t know or are overly cautious when it comes to adding power to their clocks.  It’s a simple matter, so don’t be afraid of winding your clock.  Know that some clocks require daily winding, and others require it at least once each week.  Include the winding of your clock in your routine.  You can find more information on winding from various sites, but the best one I’ve seen can be found at the Tick Tock Tony Antique Clocks Website.

    Important! Handle your clock with care. How I’ve learned! Recently I damaged the pendulum crutch on this beautiful French Portico clock – due to mishandling.

  • Handling and Moving.  Most of the damage I’ve caused on my clocks was directly related with how I handled or moved them.  Recently, I broke the pendulum crutch on a French Portico clock due to careless handling. You bet I was mad! Know that it’s best to minimize handling or moving them when they are functioning properly (except those designed to be portable).  If they have to be handled or moved, be cautious and protect their most delicate parts. Use gloves like Cotton Lisle Gloves or Powder Free Nitrile Gloves.
  • Regulating.  Know that a clock needs to be regulated when it’s not keeping proper time (running slow or fast).  “Regulating” a clock refers to adjustments made to the pendulum to effect the speed of the movement.  Know that there are many factors that contribute to your clocks speed: pendulum length, weight, material construction, temperature changes, and its hanging/sitting position.  You can find more information about regulating a clock at Bowers Clock and Watch Repair website.
  • PendulumSetting the Beat.  A clock is in “beat” when the escapement oscillates (back-and-forth) at even intervals.  A clock that is in beat will produce a smooth and evenly spaced tick tock sound.  A clock must be in beat to function properly, otherwise it may stop or run incorrectly. Know that clocks can very easily get out of beat by handling or moving them, from existing damage, due to dirty mechanisms, from temperature changes, or from bad orientation. Depending on the type of clock, getting it back into beat can be an easy matter or may require expert help.  Know that if a clock is not in clean working order, it may require servicing by your local clock shop before you try getting into beat.  You can find more information on setting the beat from this tutorial at the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors website.

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Good luck with your clockventure!

G. Palos

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