Conservation: Clocks & Watches

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The quiet tick-tick-ticking of a clock is like the very heart beating. It is a representation of our life now and a connection to a life long ago.

Clocks come in a variety of types and sizes, and use a multitude of materials to create one timepiece. In the creation of a clock, the materials used can vary from wood to metal to paint. Because of this incredible variety there are many different conservation issues. The different combination of these materials creates a unique situation for a conservator.

In terms of metals, anything from silver to copper to brass to steel may be used, each one with different requirements. The main deterioration to a clock is the mechanism that is in constant motion and the friction that occurs from this motion. The basic care of your clock truly depends upon the skills of an expert.

Due to the fragility of the interior of the clock, it is essential that appropriate care be given. If the clock is cared for, there is no reason it can not be a working part of a home.


  • Always be sure the clock is secure in its location
  • Clean nothing but the outside of the clock
  • When cleaning, only dust
  • Do not use cleaning solutions, or polishes of any kind
  • Consult a conservator for appropriate light, temperature and humidity settings
  • Keep clocks a safe distance away from heat and/or air-conditioning sources
  • Every three years have the clock oiled by a conservator
  • Every ten years have the clock cleaned by a conservator
  • Document all repairs made to clock
  • Use as few new parts as possible
  • Keep all original parts with the clock
  • If your clock is older than 1850 do not ultrasonically clean it
  • Ask a conservator about the appropriate method for winding your clock


  • For long journeys, or any storage, a conservator should be consulted to pack your clock, as well as unpack and set in its new location
  • To move a pendulum clock a short distance, remove the pendulum or firmly stabilized it (never with tape)
  • If the clock uses weights, remove them after allowing them to run down

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