Alpine Clock Repair


For Questions,
please call:

(505) 982-2204
Alpine Clock Repair works on all household clocks, from antique to modern, including “tall case”, grandfather clocks, mantle clocks, wall clocks, cuckoo clocks with or without music boxes and dancers,, “Anniversary” clocks (400 day types with the typically cylindrical glass dome), desk clocks, custom made novelty clocks and more.

We work on clocks equipped with early wooden movements, as well as all clocks with movements made from brass and steel. We work on mechanical clocks that are driven by weights or mainsprings, as well as AC electric and DC battery-operated clocks. We work on antique and contemporary clocks.

This is a reasonable question. When I’m asked to quote a job over the phone, I must explain that it’s not possible to provide an estimate unless I have the opportunity to see the clock in person. There is no mystery to our pricing formula. It’s simply a function of the total time required to do the job, plus the cost of applicable parts. An accurate estimate is prepared based upon actual findings, not guesswork.

Whenever possible, I try to complete a job at or under budget. In the event that complications arise, which may be due to hidden problems that cannot be observed until the movement is disassembled, a simple phone call is made to alert the customer, so we can arrive at the best course of action together. No work is performed without the customer’s approval, and the customer is always welcome to visit the shop while their clock is being worked on, with a mutually agreed upon appointment time.

In order to provide the most practical and appropriate service option in relation to the clock’s needs, we have developed a four-tier pricing system. Please visit the pricing page for more information.

I get this call quite often. When I inquire as to how they’ve come to this conclusion, I’m inevitably informed that it kept perfect time for years and never had a problem. If I then ask when the clock was last cleaned or oiled, the owner more often than not concedes that they’ve never had it done, or it’s been ten or twenty years since the last service. This is way too long for any machine in daily service.

The reality is that every machine works until it doesn’t, at which point we must discover the reasons why. By now, the old lubricant may have long since dried out, and the clock has run for years, metal chafing on metal, without a protective film of lubrication. Unless one is very fortunate, the clock may have passed beyond the point where the long-deferred maintenance alone will get it running again, not to mention long-term reliable. In this case, the clock has become a candidate for a quality rebuild.

Some of the more expensive older clocks were made with harder steels and brasses that didn’t skimp on thickness. The interacting surfaces of such clocks were often highly polished to minimize wear. These high grade clocks will better survive neglect, aging more gracefully than “popular priced” clocks, that were originally built to meet a lower price point and give good value and service for a few short decades. Many old clocks have already been worn out and rebuilt sometimes more than once, through the care of a previous owner who made an investment in their mechanical friend. Many of these clocks passed through generations before coming into your hands. By my observation, even the most common factory-made clocks are loved just as much by their owners as the most exclusive timepieces of their day. Each has its own history and unique story to tell.

A good record of long-term reliability from your faithful servant, regardless of original price, speaks volumes for the quality that was originally built into it, but is not an indicator of its present condition or future reliability in its present state. Other than archaic clocks with wooden gears and newer quartz clocks with plastic ones, most clocks are made of brass and steel, or as one of my astute customers calls it, “mortal metal”. As with your car’s engine or any hard working machine with metal parts, a protective film of lubricant around the bearings and on select other parts is essential to minimize wear and tear.

Relatively few owners give a thought to regular maintenance or oiling, because a clock that’s working reliably doesn’t generally draw attention to itself. The first thing to establish is whether it has remained in good enough condition for reliable results with basic maintenance, or needs more work.

When a clock comes in with minimal wear, perhaps from having been stored away for decades or is the beneficiary of a prior high-quality rebuild, a basic maintenance and adjustment will generally suffice.

Unfortunately, this is probably the most common call we receive. Most old machines can be made to give up what little they have left to give, simply by making their old parts more slippery with fresh oil and making a simple adjustment or two, such as resetting the balance of the tick-tock beat. For clocks that aren’t in too poor condition, subtle problems may simply have been overlooked during prior work.

Ultimately, there’s a vast difference between getting an old clock to RUN, and enabling it to run RELIABLY, for the long-term. An experienced, observant and conscientious practitioner should easily be able to differentiate between “worn” and “worn out”, so that the best course of action can be advised.

Even a thorough cleaning, followed by a fresh oiling and careful adjustment does not substitute for worn out parts that have already given their all over a prolonged period of years. Attempting a simple maintenance on such a clock is akin to closing the barn doors after the horses have run away.

Moreover, oiling and adjusting a very dirty or worn out clock movement can accelerate the wear. The new oil will rapidly deteriorate when it mixes with the old degraded lubricant, which typically contains bits of pulverized metal. If the clock wasn’t adequately cleaned prior to adding new oil, the fresh lubricant will liberate old contaminants and thicken. Abrasive metallic particles and acidic chemistry will continue to contribute to wear. Within weeks or months the clock becomes temperamental, cannot run unless perfectly balanced, may have chiming issues or fail altogether when the season changes.

There is a silver lining however. Many clocks, although already somewhat worn, can continue to provide meaningful years of additional service with the benefit of regular maintenance to keep them relatively clean, adequately lubricated and well adjusted. For such clocks, the smaller investment in getting them going again can be a good value. In clocks that are very badly worn however, the damage is already done. Oiling and adjusting won’t help except possibly very briefly.

Ultimately your best safeguard is the experienced eye and mechanical aptitude of a good practitioner, who can discern when a clock is simply “worn” but has miles to go, or “worn out”, warranting a rebuild.

This is the sibling of “My mantle clock will only run if I put something under one side”. In some cases, I can save you a visit to the shop on this one, with simple instructions over the phone.

In short, the pendulum’s “beat” is out of balance. We would call this “out of beat”. For a clock to run with the best mechanical advantage, the excursions of the pendulum’s swing should be equidistant of it resting position. If it is out of beat, too much upward swing is required for the escapement to “unlock” and the clock can easily stop. You can easily hear when a clock is notably out of beat by its odd tick-tock rhythm. The best way I’ve heard this described is that a clock that’s out of beat sounds like a man limping, while a clock that’s in beat sounds like a man walking.

For some clocks, a built in automatic reset adjuster enables the clock to reestablish being in beat. If it’s the type of clock that has this automatic adjuster, and this adjuster is functioning as it should, the owner can get their clock back in beat with just some basic guidance. If the clock does not have the automatic reset, it will need to be brought to the shop, so I can perform what in most cases is a simple procedure that I can do while the customer waits.

Most of the time I can locate the fault or conditions that are causing problems, and evaluate the overall mechanical condition within the first 20 to 30 minutes of seeing a clock for the first time. Customers are requested to allow this time during their visit, so I can assess their clock’s needs and provide service options. There is no charge for a verbal evaluation when a clear and rapid diagnosis can be given. I will point out to the client in real time, exactly what I observe. Existing conditions will be explained in straightforward language, and questions gladly answered.

Turnaround times for repairs naturally vary according to the extent of work required. For more detailed information on turnaround times, please refer to the WAIT TIMES section.

In truth, a clock cannot be “overwound” if it is otherwise in good condition. No matter how tightly it is wound up, it will always be able to run down. When it can’t run down, it is usually caused by old sticky lubricant, dirt, excessive wear and other conditions. These naturally occurring issues are common to all old machines with moving parts that have given many years of service. When present, the clock will become increasingly temperamental, or simply fail to run.

When this happens, winding the clock more tightly doesn’t usually help, although it might have done so for a while, before conditions deteriorated further. At this point, the clock must be brought in to restore reliable operation and to minimize or eliminate the possibility of overwinding.

A final word about this, is that weight-powered clocks that don’t have mainsprings cannot be overwound, and if a clock with weights fails to run after drawing the weights all the way up, failure is usually do to other causes.

In simple terms, turnaround times for repairs reflect your clock’s position in the queue; when it came in, and how many jobs are ahead of it. The number on your claim check guarantees that your clock will be worked on in the order of its arrival to the shop. Within this turnaround time structure, however, we have established earlier completion times for jobs that don’t require major work.

As you might imagine, this question comes up often. Naturally, owners would like to know whether the value of their clock would justify the cost of a minor or intermediate level repair, or even in some cases when conditions are mechanically very poor, a major restoration. To answer the question, first we must assume that we’re talking about the value of the restored clock, not a broken, as-is clock which would have little or no monetary value unless it has significant antiquity, extraordinarily high quality workmanship, celebrity provenance or was hand-made by a notable early clockmaker.

Assuming that the clock is not in one of these precious categories, as is the case with most manufactured clocks even though they may be well over a century old, I have two responses:

The first and most relevant consideration, is how the owner values their clock as a personal feeling, that may have little if any bearing on market value. I have one client who owns a very early Seth-Thomas tall case clock with a wooden-works movement (the works are made with oak plates, cherrywood wheels and mountain laurel pinion gears). This clock has been in their family since it was new in 1823. To the owner, this clock is utterly irreplaceable and priceless even though it was a mass-produced factory made item when new.

If you would only be satisfied to have a more nuts-and-bolts answer to the value question, you can consider that a clock in restored condition has a value that consists of two figures: The replacement cost of a nearly identical example of that clock, should the original be lost, plus the cost to get the replacement up to snuff. By the time most clocks have acquired significant age, they will have led an adventurously long life of family service, hopefully some occasional preventative maintenance, and likely a number of visits over the decades to various shops for repairs.

When we buy a clock without being able to personally inspect the movement beforehand, we generally expect it to have problems. It may be on its last legs, might be very dirty internally and well overdue for service, or have any number of creative prior repair attempts that have badly compromised its mechanical integrity. It’s cause for celebration if a random clock purchase, even one bought from a seemingly reputable shop, exhibits a mechanically fine state of preservation, cleanliness and recent professional quality service. Naturally such a clock, if the seller has paid for that work, may be priced higher than an average, mechanically poor example; a price that might well exceed the normal market value for a lesser example.

In conclusion, a clock is worth repairing if the owner is comfortable with the cost of having their cherished timekeeper ticking and chiming merrily away in their home once again, or If they wish to prepare it for a new life with the next generation, or if they consider that the real cost of replacing the clock would include not only a viable replacement, but also the cost of enabling the replacement to provide long-term reliable service as well. If on the other hand, the intent is to sell the clock, then the short answer is “no”, it’s not worth repairing, unless it’s in one of the above-mentioned more precious value categories.