Conservation has become a 'buzz word' and is perhaps over used, but in the field of Horology as in other disciplines that deal with old artefacts, it is important.
It is often said of the clocks we own, that they don't really belong to us, we are keeping them for future generations. In which case we ought to ensure that the clock those future generations receive into their keeping is the same one that we have now.
This is particularly difficult in the case of clocks. Unlike say a piece of art or furniture, in order to be appreciated they need to be working. Unfortunately a working mechanism wears. If we don't maintain it, it will eventually wear out. The rectification of that wear changes the clock, but if left worn and not working it may be discarded. Here lies our principal dilemma!
It may well be helpful to define some terms now to help us understand the complex issues involved. These definitions are generally accepted in the field of Horology and have been taken from 'The Conservation of Clocks and Watches' published by the BHI in 1995.
The mending, that is, the putting into functional order of a clock. This can include work on a part or the whole of the mechanism. It may involve fully dismantling, cleaning, re-assembling, lubricating and adjusting a clock. The outcome of the work will be that the item is fit for further use without risk of damage or rapid deterioration.
The reinstatement of a clock to its conjectured former state and function. The item would be restored to the condition that it is believed the maker intended. It is likely that research will be necessary to determine the design and finish of damaged or missing components. The degree of intervention will depend upon the type of item and its un-restored condition:
- Inappropriate components can be removed.
- Missing components can be replaced.
- New parts may be purchased or made, or similar parts adapted to suit.
- Previous changes from its original state can be reversed.
- Surface finish can be returned to the style of original.
- It is not acceptable to alter the 'structure' of the clock to accommodate new components.
The stabilisation of a clock so that it is preserved in its existing state. The conservation of a working clock will necessitate periodic cleaning and lubrication; any further work should be, as far as possible, reversible and be limited to the necessary minimum intervention:
- The clock will be cleaned to remove surface dirt, congealed oil, etc.
- The patina present on plates, etc, should remain.
- Restoration of component/s is only considered appropriate to safeguard against future damage which would result from breakage of a part or accelerated wear because of worn or unsuitable components.
- Design faults that seriously affect the operation of the piece may require modification to ensure reliable working or to prevent future damage or accelerated wear.
- Corrosion should be treated to prevent further deterioration, but there is no attempt to refinish areas to remove signs of corrosion.
- As far as possible, all aspects of its 'life' up to the present are considered to be part of the history of the clock or watch and should be retained.