When I was in my store and more involved in retail, I sold many new, and modern clocks. One question that always came up during, or after, the sale was " How often should we get it oiled " ? Everyone was always surprised with my answer which was "Never". Of course this was only for modern clocks, not antiques.
It's not that oil is a
bad thing for clocks, it's just money that doesn't need to be spent. A
clock is a machine with a hundred parts. They all move up and down or
rotate around. Most of them are a metal against metal contact. The ends
of the gear arbors (pivots) are steel. The plates with the holes that
the pivots rotate in are brass. Even with oil these will eventually wear
out especially when a little dust sticks to the oil. Now you have an
abrasive. A typical wall clock has a pendulum that swings back and forth
about 120,000 times a day. That's not a typo. So why would anyone
think it will not eventually wear out.
Here's the math
for a typical Howard Miller mantle or wall clock. Never touching the
thing you could expect 18 years or so. The owner of the largest
movement manufacturer says 15 years, but that might be underestimated a
bit. Oiling the clock every 2 years could extend the 18 years to maybe
20 - 22 years, but it's still gonna wear out. Go back and read the last
paragraph. You could change the oil in your car every week, but at
some point it's gonna wear out.
Removing the clock
movement from the case, oiling, minor adjusting, re-installing in the
case, putting the hands back on, and testing could be anywhere from $100
to $120. Over 18 years, that would total $900 - $1080 just in
maintenance. A new, identical movement, from the same manufacturer as
the original, possibly with some improvements over the original, could
be installed in the clock for an average of $500. Then you are
basically starting over with a new clock and possibly another 18 years.
That's $400 - $580 you just saved. These numbers are actually low,
because to properly maintain the clock, the industry recommends a full
tear down and cleaning of the movements after 4 - 5 oilings to get rid
of all of the old oil (now gunk) which has either been used up or
evaporated and cleanings are much more expensive than a simple oiling.
are some repair shops that recommend oiling the clock every year, so
double all of the numbers above. That is some serious wasted money.
Once again, this is my opinion regarding modern clocks, not vintage or antiques.