Wait Times

Clocks that are taken into the shop for repair are categorized according to the extent of work needed, and worked on in the order in which they arrive, within each of three primary categories. Occasionally delays will occur, while awaiting communications, parts or materials.

Prepare to be Patient

Have you wondered just why it is that finding a professional clock repairer has become so difficult, and why wait times for certain categories of repair jobs can be up to a year or even longer?
 
As the 21st century continues to witness the near extinction of many traditional trades, the clockmaker* has joined the official ranks of endangered crafts**. Clock practitioners in general, and those who approach their work in an informed, conscientious way in particular, are in increasingly short supply, as rapidly diminishing active professionals age out of the trade. Current estimates suggest that there are, on average, only about five to seven clock repair options per state, with the highest number of repair shops concentrated in the east and upper midwest. Of those still standing, the majority have become home-based operations. Regardless of whether in a home workshop or a strip mall, quality, and consequently reliability, can vary greatly.
 
All of this translates to longer wait times than have ever been witnessed during the over seven hundred year history of the trade. This is an international problem and exists even in the traditionally clock-centric bastions of the United Kingdom, Germany and France.
 
In many shops, “short work”; those jobs that can be done quickly, for example maintenance with minor adjustments, are given schedule priority over lengthier rebuilding work. Even the appointments for short work are commonly scheduled months after the first phone call. All surviving clock shops struggle with the challenges of unprecedented demand. It can be painfully difficult to say “no”. At Alpine Clock Repair, we continue to evolve and experiment with ways to meet the challenge. All jobs on mechanical clocks begin with a detailed, systematic “Assembled Movement Evaluation”. 
 
This first-level inspection enables us to rapidly discern whether it’s practical to start on a job that can be completed while the customer watches and waits, or goes out for a cup of coffee or leisurely lunch, returning to the shop to pick up their clock on the same day, or if the job entails in-depth repairs that entail the consequently much longer turnaround time. From the evaluation we can also generally estimate the job cost. 
 
If the job is not a candidate for a single shop visit, we charge for only the time required to complete the evaluation, and offer a place in the queue based on the evaluation date. There is no obligation to follow through, and we are happy to provide photocopies of the completed evaluation paperwork, which we also keep on file. This in turn, enables us to quickly get up to speed when the clock is called back in, for its scheduled in-depth repairs. 
 
•”Clockmaker” was at one time a literal designation for a craftsperson who worked on clocks. While very few in reality make clocks, the competent practitioner should be able to make any number of parts from raw materials, which in some cases dictates designing and making a tool that facilitates turning out the replacement part. By extension, if one is able to make each part of a clock, theoretically a complete clock can be made. And while there are many who today call themselves “clockmaker” because this is the traditional name for a tradesperson who works on clocks, the reality is that only a very small percentage of clock repairers remain capable of actually making a replacement part in an accurate way, if at all.
 

How long will the shop need to have your clock?

When your clock is in the shop, its sojourn here consists of waiting its turn to be worked on, hands-on repair time, final function tests and regulating.

We are very fortunate to have a steady demand for our services. As a result, there is always a backlog of clocks awaiting their turn on the bench. Wait times for clocks requiring major repairs can occasionally be quite long due to the depth of the work, and the number of waiting jobs in that dedicated category. Clocks that require less time to return to reliable working order are placed in a queue that tends to move more rapidly.

In order to accommodate all of our clients and their respective needs, we have developed a 3-tiered system of wait times, as follows:

Simple repairs & maintenance

In general, simple repairs and basic maintenance may be performed while the customer waits in our intake room or patio, or for house call work, in their own home. In these cases, the customer reaps the benefit of the effort on the day that the work is performed. While we are always glad to service a clock with problems so minor that reliable repairs can be made in so short a time, more than half of clocks that have been in service for a prolonged period require more in-depth work, due to common factors of advanced age: Wear and tear, neglect, dirt and potential internal damage.

Clocks that are brought to the shop and left with us for regular maintenance and/or minor adjustments are typically ready for pick up in 3 – 4 months.

Intermediate-level repairs:

When clocks require more repair time than what may be practical for a customer to wait, a claim check will be issued upon approval of the estimate, which is based on a preliminary evaluation. Taken in order, most Intermediate-level clock repairs will be ready within 6-8 months.

This level of service applies to vintage and antique clocks in which we are repairing and preserving the original movement, as well as contemporary ones that have run for a generation or longer, and are simply worn out. For the latter, we can usually provide a new, imported German movement that exactly replaces the original equipment that was installed by the manufacturer.

Whether the clock’s movement is repaired or replaced, upon completion of the job it is run for 1 to 2 weeks, and adjusted to improve the timekeeping accuracy and optimize functions such as chiming, moon dials and calendars. Wait times may be longer if parts have to be sourced, or fabricated.

In-depth repair and restoration:

Many antique clocks have provided a century or more of steadfast service, during which time they may have had prior maintenance and/or several repairs, minor and major, long before the current owner acquired them. The quality of old repairs ranges from ill-advised amatuer patches and shortcuts (“fix it only if it can be done cheap”), to refreshingly professional (“I want the job done right so we can eventually pass it down to the kids”).

Clocks that have a high number of significant faults usually require total disassembly and restoration of each component in order to restore reliable operation to the whole. These faults may include but are not limited to: Contaminated with severely degraded lubricant and/or dirt, excessive wear, have a number of damaged or missing parts, several failed prior short-term fixes, or shipping/dropping damage.

Wait times for this top level repair are approximately 12 to 18 months, based on the average number of comprehensive rebuilding jobs in the queue.