Clock Fixers Now Facing High Noon

Bob Prince closed the Clock Shop of Monticello at the end of December, dealing another blow to the clock repair industry.

Prince, who will turn 83 on Wednesday, had been repairing clocks since 1961, but decided to walk away from the business that he operated out of a metal building in his backyard because his wife was having health problems.

“I could have had all the business I wanted,” said Prince, who repaired clocks mainly as a hobby. “But I didn’t try to expand because I didn’t want to.”

While the demand might be there for clock repairmen, it’s difficult to attract the next generation to the profession, said Amy Dunn, marketing director at the American Watchmaker-Clockmakers Institute of Harrison, Ohio.

“We need to figure out how to help more clockmakers come into the industry,” she said. “There’s definitely a need.” 

The AWCI has about 2,000 members nationwide. About 800 of those are clockmakers and only two are from Arkansas, Dunn said. A Google search, though, showed about two dozen people in Arkansas who are tied to businesses that repair clocks.

Last year, a clock repair school operated by the National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors of Columbia, Pa., stopped offering certificates for completing the one-year program, said Steven Humphrey, executive director of the association, which has 16,000 members worldwide.

“It was just hard to attract students,” he said. 

Humphrey said there’s only one other school, Gem City College in Quincy, Ill., that teaches clock repair.

Younger people don’t want to get involved in the business because they don’t have the patience, said Patrick Daniel, 70, president of Danwerke International Inc. of Little Rock, which repairs hundreds of clocks every year. 

“It seems like they want to be able to push a bunch of buttons and get the results they want,” he said. “It’s just different technology than they’re growing up with.”

Repairing an antique clock is more art than science, said Harris Crane, owner of Crane Clock Repair in Fort Smith.

“Because everything in that clock is continually working … and wearing,” said the 72-year-old Crane, who has been in business for 26 years. “To get some old things to run, sometimes you have to be very creative.”

Daniel, of Danwerke International, said one of the trickiest parts of repairing an antique clock is finding replacement parts — and that’s often impossible.   

“There’s no other choice but to hand-make the parts,” Patrick said. “There are very few parts that you can buy that you don’t have to hand-make.”

And every gear made has to be precise, or it will throw off the time, he said.