Watchmakers in the Douglas Family


Photos and an account of the restoration of this clock

by Martin Gatto of Tavernicus

James Douglass of Chertsey ca 1733 - 1805              




ACTIVE 1768-71

 This clock is now restored and in full working order. By choice it will receive a further minor repair to the motion work, as I am a perfectionist. However the need for perfection needs to tempered by the very necessary discipline of restraint as restoration of these clocks very often results in their ruin.

 I bought this clock via a telephone bid, unseen apart from one photo, about two years ago; it was in a very distressed state. The bottom had been blown out by a falling weight and repaired with plywood as a chisel-ended foot and the right hand side of the trunk was in serious trouble being pinned together with screws and leather pieces. The lacquerwork had been over painted and much detail lost.

 And so the labours commenced, first the trunk was repaired with the foot having the correct moulding overlaid and the side of the oak trunk being repaired. Two new side access doors were made and pinned in place with leather hinges. The shield dial had “blown” and had to be clamped and stabilised.

 The lacquerwork was then painstakingly cleaned and some old layers removed to reveal the remnants of what had been lost over the 230 years since this clock was made. The artist then touched in or re-instated the lost material and then aged the new work to match the old. Many restorers would have simply repainted this clock and ruined it. It is a very time consuming process to conserve and restore and very expensive but the end result is a clock that still looks the age it is whereas a re-paint will always look like it was done yesterday no matter how hard the artist tries to age the finish.

 The movement was dismantled and cleaned. It had 9 washers in the movement to adjust the running and these have all been removed and corrections made to make the movement function as it was designed to do. The anchor was badly cracked and it had to be remade to the pattern. The anchor was hand cut from gauge plate and hand filed to as near a replica as possible. The hands were cleaned and hand polished. The weight is not original and something more in keeping needs to be made but all is working order for now. The motion work needs a minor correction but these are points of perfection.

 So, after two years this clock has returned to its origins and runs beautifully. It has been the most satisfying experience to give it another 200 years of life and the visual result is a clock that has been restored but only to the degree that it will now gently and gradually drift into the patina of a 300 year old clock with all its detail intact. All it needs now is an owner to cherish it whilst I move on to further horological rescues.


Martin Gatto


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