In a previous post, I wrote about my passion for collecting fountain and dip pens. I noted that these pens were very much like people and that they teach me much about myself and my relationships with others.
The same is true for my other collection mania: clocks. I have more than 100 clocks. Some are fairly modern; some are vintage, and some are antiques. Some are weight driven; some are pendulum driven. Some are spring driven, and some are electric. Some are wall clocks and some are mantel clocks. Some are even vintage or antique alarm clocks.
Like pens, clocks teach me much about myself and my relationships with others.
Like people, some of my clocks need more attention and care than others. Some need winding once a week, others twice a week, and others daily. Some are temperamental and sometimes irritating. Some are laid back and easy going. Each clock (except those that are weight driven) gets wound with a different key. As in the real world, the world of clocks is not a one-size-fits-all world.
Old clocks need more than just being wound to work properly. As a rule, a clock must be perfectly level to function. When I first started collecting clocks, I used a bubble level to keep the clocks straight. Some clocks, though, would balk at being perfectly level. I soon learned the secret to leveling a clock: toss the rules and the tools and listen to it.
The ticking in clocks comes from the motion of a pendulum or a flywheel, back and forth. A working clock sounds like “tick” in one direction and “tock” in the other. In cases when levelling a clock with a level doesn’t work, I have to adjust it by listening to it. An out of sorts clock may sound like “tick-tick” or “tock-tick” or even “tock-tock.” Each clock is different. By listening, I learn what each clock needs to work properly. Just as with people, each clock is unique, and I must treat it accordingly. It all begins with listening.
I have a couple of wall clocks that simply won’t work unless that are so far askew that they are actually crooked on the wall. So I must accept the quirkiness of a clearly crooked clock hanging on my wall, and smile when I see it. I could insist that the clock hang straight, but then the clock would not work. I would have an aesthetically pleasing, perfectly level clock that would not tell time. It’s as if the clock is saying, “Please accept me for who and what I am, quirks, idiosyncrasies and all.”
Collecting clocks, like collecting anything antique, is a mixture of archaeology and anthropology. I dig through the internet to look for clues to the age or the maker of a clock. I scour the clock with a magnifying glass and a flashlight looking for dates, numbers, markings, words, anything that will help me place the clock in its historical context.
But there's also some anthropology involved. A Victorian inspired design is very different from an art-deco design. Each tells me something about the aesthetics and values of the maker and of the person who first made or bought the clock. I have more than one clock that proves the old saying, “There's no accounting for taste.” One of my oldest clocks has a common saying in Old Dutch written on it: “To each, his own!”
I wonder about previous owners and imagine the clock in their lives and homes. Perhaps this ornately carved gingerbread clock had pride of place on a mantel in a drawing room. Perhaps this lowly alarm clock wakened someone grudgingly to his daily tasks. (Old alarm clocks didn’t have snooze buttons!)
Some of my clocks are “fakes.” I do have a couple of Art Deco clocks from the early 20th century, but some are more recent, made to imitate an older design. Not every clock is what it appears to be. But I care for it the same as the genuine one.
Like a person, each clock has its own story, and I love to discover and listen to that story.
Many of my clocks strike the hour and half-hour. Some chime as well as strike, making a melody to announce the time. Some used to strike, but don't anymore. Some still strike, but not always the right hour. These clocks are still beautiful to me, even if age or abuse has limited their abilities. More than once, I have bought a battered old clock because my wife has seen past its ugliness to the beauty that might be restored with some loving care.
As with people, some clocks can have limited abilities, but still have great worth and a beauty of their own.
Over time, I learn to identify a clock by its strike or its chime, even if I'm not in the same room. As with people, I don’t actually have to be with the clock to enjoy it and to receive from it.
My clocks remind and teach me daily things about myself and my relationships with others. As different as each clock looks, sounds, and acts, I still take pleasure in caring for it, looking at it, and listening to it.
Each has its place. Each enriches me.
(c) 2017 Larry Pizzi
50 years of photographs and 35 years of keeping a commonplace book.