The Case of the Water-Soaked Grandfather Clock

By Steve Leone | April 24, 2017

Although our technology has allowed us to build extremely accurate atomic clocks regulated by the vibrations of cesium or ammonia atoms, mechanically powered clocks with cable anchors, chime rods, weights and swinging pendulums are still admired and manufactured today.

Photo credit: Brooke Campbell_Wikipedia Commons

Even a digerati luminary like Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos likes old-school clocks. He donated $42 million to a timeless project of the Long Now Foundation to build a 200-foot tall mechanically powered clock that ticks once a year with a “century hand” that advances once every 100 years. Aimed at posterity, the clock is buried 500 feet down in a mountain cave on Bezos’ property in Texas. Designed to keep time for ten thousand years, Bezos explained the 10,000-year clock will be “an icon for long-term thinking.”

The Situation

While the iconic millennium clock will be forever protected from harsh elements, the Enservio Select team was asked to provide a retail replacement value and comment on possible restoration of a policyholder’s grandfather clock that had sustained water damage.

The insured stated a claimed value of $23,500 and provided a photograph that showed the clock from across a room, but did not identify the model or other details.

The Case

Physical inspection of the clock found noticeable water damage on the outside and inside of the wooden case. The clock was identified as a fairly contemporary Howard Miller grandfather clock built in 1994, although the full extent of any mechanical damage was not entirely certain.

The team conducted further research with Howard Miller clock dealers and discovered this model sold in the range of $900-$1200 in 1994. This particular model is no longer being made.

The Result

Although a local clock shop may well be able to repair moisture-damaged clock works to a functioning state, the refinishing of the wood case would most likely not be restorable to a “Howard Miller” factory-state condition. Our appraisers concluded it would not be monetarily prudent to attempt a repair of this particular clock.

It was determined that a current Howard Miller model would be of like, kind, and quality (LKQ) to the 1994 damaged model. After sourcing from several vendors, the insured received the retail replacement value of the current model, $2,280, a difference of 930 percent from the initial claimed amount.

Steve Leone is a review appraiser for Enservio (, a provider of contents claim management software, payments solutions, inventory and valuation services for property insurers. He has held auctioneer positions at Cole auctions, Abdou auctions, Flanagan Auction Gallery, Carver Auction Gallery and the Stutz Blacker Auction Company. Leone’s knowledge of antiques and collectibles includes estate silver, porcelain, custom and antique knives, edged weapons, firearms, antique clocks, antique furniture and collectibles of all types.

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