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Antique Clock Care

Expert Guide for your Antique Clock Care


An antique clock has its own unique little personality and you will slowly learn how often it likes to be wound and how picky it is about where it is placed. First of all setting up your antique clock and it’s care, starts with where you decide to place it. The mantlepiece is a good place to start, Don’t have one, a shelf will do. Let’s go through our expert advice on rare clocks care.

Cardinal Rules for Antique Clock Care

antique clock  care and setting the time
an antique clock and it's care
  1. It’s ok to move the hour hand (gently and if it is hard to move stop) to set time or correct bell ring but NEVER move the minute hand other than clockwise. Moving it counter-clockwise your antique clock will damage your the mechanism of your antique clock for home.
    Another method of setting the correct bell chime is to move the minute hand to the 11 and then back to the 9 until the clock strikes properly. Generally, for the best antique clock care, be sure to set the time by only using the minute hand, stopping slowly just before the hour and half hour, giving the bell a chance to set up.
  2. Do not move any antique table top clock, or other type, with the pendulum attached and swinging freely. Remove it first. Otherwise you will damage your timepiece.
  3. Never put a marble clock on its side as they are cemented together and built to stand erect. This is not good antique clock care, when it breaks. 🙂
  4. Wind yours every five to six days (so it does not become sluggish in 7th or 8th day) and wind both of the holes on it until they are tight. Despite the common saying, you CANNOT overwind your 19th Century antique mantel clock. 
  5. Good antique clock care requires that adjustments should never require great amounts of force. If so, it is probably due sooner than later for a cleaning and oiling.
  6. Don’t be intimidated, as pendulums were typically designed to be set up and maintained by their owners without the benefit of an expert to insure the best antique clock care. Remember, if you care for yours, it will outlive YOU!

antique clock care and set up

Your most important tool  in your antique clock care kit will be a small, inexpensive pocket level for caring antique clock. With this you will need to make sure that wherever you position yours, that the surface is very level, especially from left to right.

If it is a multi-level tall clock, then put the level on top layer as well. The swing of the pendulum which hangs down and swings from right to left will be affected if it is not level and it will prevent your antique and vintage clock from running well, if at all.

The front to back level should also be reasonably level because you do not want the pendulum resting on the bell or back wall or it will not run, but not necessarily exact level. Next is placing the pendulum on the rod.

This can be done by opening the swinging metal door on the back (assuming you have a door and not just an opening) or you can remove the back panel on many. The pendulum rod (located in the back of the movement) is where you will place it on the hook at the bottom of the rod, or if silk suspension on the thread hook, being careful not to move the rod upwards while doing so.

Moving the rod in your antique clock upwards may displace it. Once done you can either gently lift the clock just a bit on its end and gently down again, or move the pendulum to start it swinging. You will then be listening for an even tick tock. a tick tock that is uneven means that your timepiece is not level and will stop sooner than later.

RARE CLOCKS Time Adjustments (Beat)

A timepiece out of beat is a cause of poor time keeping. An even beat or tick is the sign of a well running old clock. A limping or uneven tick is the sign of a sick one mantel clock. The tick tock should be even in a well running one.

Should the tick tock not be even and yours is not continuing to run, you will need to do the following: If you are a beginner and if your vintage clock is not level, you can adjust the side up that your level indicates with coins, shims, washers, etc. so as to raise it to become even from side to side of your shelf clock. 

For the experienced owner, if the surface is even, you can slightly and gently bend the crutch (the wire that the pendulum slots into) in the direction of the shim or the end you raised in order for the clock to beat evenly.

This will allow you to put your mantel clock “in beat” without having any potentially unsightly additions on your mantelpiece. For silk string old clock mechanisms you can slightly bend the pendulum rod. French clocks are more precise and less forgiving than American vintage clocks and will require a bit more effort to set them up.

If you cannot wind your vintage clock before leaving town, gently stop the pendulum because if the strike runs down first it may jam the timekeeping of your precious mantel clock (or running) train, and it will not start evenly when rewound.


After the shipping of your mantel clock, the chime hammer may need to be adjusted in order to appropriately strike the bell  of your  vintage clock. The slight and gentle bending back and forth as well as up and down of the strike hammer rod allows you to adjust how the hammer falls on the bell of your old clock.

In order to achieve the tone and resonation you desire, firmly hold the hammer rod at the middle with a needle nose pliers and use your free hand to raise or lower the hammer head end of the rod, allowing a minor space between the hammer and the bell.

Sounds Do Not Match The Time ON OLD rare CLOCKS

1. Bring the minute hand (longest hand) to the hour and count the number of strikes.

2. Move the hour hand (shortest hand) to the number struck ( forward or backward, but never the minute hand backwards or counter clockwise). (If it reads 12:00 and strikes 8:00, move the hour hand (shortest) forward to 8:00. (See also above)

3. Set the correct time on your vintage table top clock or other style timepiece.

4. In some rare instances, and I have seen this with carriage clocks, where someone may have put the hands on incorrectly, the only way to adjust the hour is to re seat the hands correctly.


A weekly regular feather dusting of your old clock, will help reduce dust build up, but twice per year use a vacuum cleaner nozzle with a soft brush attachment to fully remove all dust from crevices and cracks on your shelf clock.

Please avoid moving your vintage clock around when dusting the surrounding area. Dial glass can be cleaned by applying a very small amount of Windex directly to a clean cloth and the glass carefully rubbed and then wiped dry with a clean paper towel or soft cloth.

Here is a good link for information:  National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, Inc.

Dive into the charm and refinement of rare clocks with our exceptional range of finely crafted antique mantel clocks. Don’t forget to explore our other exquisite timepieces, including American mantel clocksFrench clocks, Art Deco clocks, and antique carriage clocks, each with its unique charm and history. 

I hope you found our antique clock care page of value. If you have any additional questions as to antique clock care please contact us and we shall endeavor to answer any questions to the best of our ability that we can. 

If you require service for your antique timepiece, whether a mantel clock or carriage clock, and clocks in general, I highly recommend the people I use to repair my mine when I buy old clocks. I have and do use two different companies for my collectors clocks.

On the West Coast I use JOHN NICHOLS AT MONTANA CLOCK SHOP.  1617 Montana Avenue Santa Monica, CA 90403 (310) 394-0711. On the East Coast, I use JOHN HARTMAN AT THE CLOCKWORKS JACKSONVILLE. 621 Chaffee Rd N Jacksonville, FL 32220 [email protected] (904) 389-5618. When it comes to repairing anything from a vintage Art Deco Clock to a masterpiece by Raingo Freres mantle clock, there is nobody better to repair your cherished very old clock.

Please also visit our other pages so you may see our current antique clocks for sale, including French clocks, American clocks, and antique carriage clocks, each with its unique charm and history.


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