Is it Time for Maintenance on Your Clock?

Angie Hicks
Written by Angie Hicks
Updated October 30, 2013
Experts recommend professional clock cleaning every two to three years to keep the clock parts in good, working condition. (Photo by Gilbert Boucher)

To preserve their value and keep clocks running accurately and working as they should, it's important to have routine maintenance performed every two to four years.

Walk in almost any home and you’ll likely see at least one clock on a wall, on the floor, or on a mantel. Often, a clock can hold sentimental value to its owner, whether it’s an antique passed down over generations, or a gift that marked a special occasion.

To preserve their value and keep clocks running accurately and working as they should, it’s important to have routine maintenance performed every two to four years.

“Routine maintenance is preventative maintenance,” said Bill Moore, of Custom Time, a mobile service that repairs modern grandfather and floor-standing clocks in greater Indianapolis.

“So often, I think people are led to believe a clock can run forever with nothing being done. That’s not true with modern-day mechanics. They are precision instruments and require routine service to keep the lubrication levels up, or the bearings will wear out. That’s the biggest thing I see, is just neglect where the consumer wasn’t told or didn’t know this is an item that needs to be maintained.”

Just a few decades ago, clock repair specialists were prevalent in numbers. However, those numbers have diminished greatly in numbers over the years, making it difficult now for clock owners to find qualified professionals.

Bill Moore — like his brother Thomas, who runs Thomas D. Moore Certified Clock Repair in Indianapolis — is a third-generation clock repair specialist in his family. Their great grandfather began performing clock and watch service in the late 19th century, a skill that was eventually passed on to their father.

Once a licensed trade in Indiana, clock repair specialists are no longer required to hold any professional designation.

“I can remember as kid when my dad was a watchmaker back in the 1960s, there was a watchmaker on every corner,” Bill Moore said. “I think the best judge (in finding a qualified repair specialist) is who has been around the longest. There’s a difference between a hobbyist doing it for 20 years and a professional who makes a living doing it for 20 years.”

Thomas Moore, who has worked on clocks dating back to the 18th century and services nearly all types, said clocks can be passed down from generation to generation if they are well-maintained and taken care of by their owners. He recommends on-site repair whenever possible, to minimize the risk of damaging the clock by moving it.

“Moving a grandfather clock or even a wall or cuckoo clock is not as simple as moving a lamp or couch,” Thomas Moore said. “Owner responsibility has a lot to do with a clock functioning (properly.)”

Clock repair can start at $35, Thomas Moore said, though some clocks can require parts that cost several hundred to a couple of thousand dollars. Bill Moore said his on-site clock maintenance calls start at about $150.

“Pretty much anything windup or mechanical is repairable,” Thomas Moore said. “There are more clocks I work on than ones I would not.” 

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on January 29, 2011.