While they obviously have monetary value based on age and scarcity, are antique clocks a good investment? Firstly, what does the term antique mean and how is it different to vintage? There is a tendency for unscrupulous or ill-informed sellers to label any old or worn collectible item as vintage. In reality, this should only be applied to items (especially clocks) between 50 and 100 years old. Any clock older than this by definition falls into the antique category. At the time of writing this brings us up to the start of the 1920s, just before the boom in popularity of Art Deco timepieces.
It is worth noting that the term investment does not just apply to an item purchased to sell at a later date for profit. If this is your plan, antique clocks are helpfully classed as ‘wasting assets’ with an expected life of 50 years or less by HMRC. This means they are exempt from capital gains tax (CGT) when sold, regardless of value. As most art, antiques and collectibles are subject to CGT when sold as personal possessions rather than through a business, antique clocks are a wise choice in this case. Investing your money in an antique clock could be motivated by many factors other than personal profit. Perhaps you intend it to be a family heirloom, an item to pass down to your children as a reminder of you or as security, given its higher value in the future. Many antique clocks have lasted for hundreds of years and treated properly, your clock may well outlast you. It can form a beautiful yet functional centrepiece to your home and will never need to be replaced. In older houses, it can enhance the historic feel of your home, bringing a new level of character and charm to its surroundings. Finally, in some instances it may be cheaper to buy an antique clock than a modern one of comparable quality. If you are investing in an antique clock solely for your own pleasure, buy the best original example you can comfortably afford. It is almost inevitable it will rise in value over time, perform well and give you joy simply from owning it.
While ‘high-end’ antique clocks have maintained their value over recent years, the middle to lower range have seen something of a downturn. But, as with all antique items, antique clocks experience ups and downs in popularity and this is unlikely to be permanent. If you are looking to buy an antique clock for later sale, now is a good time to take advantage of the lower prices resulting from this. A little online research will soon show which types and models have fallen furthest in price and which are rising again. For those with the budget and time to speculate, this can be an invaluable guide to purchases. In addition, searching the internet greatly increases the chance of finding a bargain for relatively little effort. It is important to be patient as you will not see a quick return on your purchase, but few investments of this kind yield quick profits. However, judging the future appeal of a clock based solely on price can be a mistake and misses the point of what makes it desirable in the first place.
It has been speculated that younger collectors have little interest in antique clocks as they prefer the accuracy of modern quartz movements. However, any collector will tell you the aesthetic qualities and history of an antique clock are the true reasons for its appeal. Mechanical watches are now far more popular than modern quartz equivalents with younger collectors for similar reasons. As antique clocks are primarily decorative domestic items, it also stands to reason that those yet to buy their own homes have little use for them at present. Even with the market currently in decline, antique clocks are still something of a premium item and relatively expensive. Until the potential buyer has the disposable income to afford them, they remain out of reach.
Research and guidance are the key to understanding the elements and features that characterise a particular make and style of antique clock. Simply following the herd and snapping up whatever is currently selling increases demand and drives prices up. It also means that in years to come you will be trying to sell the same item as most others, making it more common and less valuable. Learn the history and horological importance, rarity, quality and availability of certain styles and makers. If possible, consult dealers and reach out to those selling in the market, they will be able to help you make an informed choice. As enthusiasts themselves, they will be happy to share their knowledge and help you to find exactly what you want. Whether you choose to consult an expert or take the time to learn and research antique clocks yourself, either can prevent costly mistakes. Poor renovations or a ‘marriage’ of parts from different clocks intended to deceive can affect future value and proper operation. Originality (all the components being from the same original clock) has a huge impact on value. For example, a new face added to the original movement or vice versa, or a replacement case from a later period will significantly lower value. Always ask for a written guarantee of condition to ensure the clock is operating properly and proof of any repairs or servicing.
Clock Corner is a family run business specialising in exclusive, premium timepieces from all eras from the 18th century to the present day. We stock a wide range of antique clocks of many styles and types and offer restoration, repair and servicing where needed. If you are planning on investing in an antique clock for any reason but are unsure of exactly what you want, contact us. Our friendly, helpful staff will be happy to offer advice and guidance, whatever your needs.