Beyond face value: Avon clockmaker on why we keep old clocks ticking

Story and photos by Chris Cornwall

Perhaps no one understands the value of time better than Dan and Patricia Jackson.

The Avon couple, owners of the Jackson’s Clockworks home-based repair shop, once was handed a box containing the pieces of a clock that was shredded by a tornado and painstakingly rescued from the ruins by its distraught owner.

“When people bring in their clocks, they usually want to tell the story,” Patricia said. “They don’t just want to get it fixed; they want to tell you all about it because they are proud of it.”

The couple says most clients bring them family heirlooms from the first half of the 20th century with brand names like Seth Thomas and E.N. Welsh — just like the American-made mantel clock Dan had sitting on his workbench while he examined the brass network of gears and chains.

“It’s probably costing her three times as much to have it fixed then it would be to buy a brand new one,” he said. “I tell people right up front, if you really want it fixed then I can fix it, but it’s going to cost you more than the clock is worth. And the resale value on it is next to nothing, but this clock has sentimental value because it belonged to her mother.”

Dan started fixing clocks in 1982 when he became one of only 53 state-licensed clockmakers that were left in Indiana. He said the licensing system longer exists and stemmed from an earlier era when railroads counted on mechanical clocks and watches to avoid wrecks.

“In today’s digital world, and with Universal Time, there is no longer a need for it,” he said.

Dan and Patricia started Jackson’s Clockworks 37 years ago in Pendleton, Indiana.

“We got into the business expecting to eventually sell clocks, but we’ve seen too many clock shops in Central Indiana go out of business,” said Patricia, who has a degree in small-business entrepreneurship. “The clock business, as far as selling them, has gone way down. Now they are now mostly hand-me-downs.”

While the plan to sell-clocks didn’t pan out, it seems the last decade has been good for the Jacksons’ business. Patricia said the number of customers quadrupled when they moved to Avon nine years ago.

A familiar customer at Jackson’s is Greg Micheel of Indianapolis. The antique clocks collector said he’s brought in several clocks over the years and one of those belonged to his late parents.

“I got it from them when they passed and I want to keep it in the family and maintain it,” he said. “You go to a lot of people’s homes who have an old clock, maybe from a relative, and it’s not working. Well, I want all of my clocks to work so that’s why I have them worked on. In fact, two of my clocks need to wound twice a day because they are 30-hour clocks. I just like to have them run.”

Dan said the only clocks he’ll work on today are mechanical, and only from his home workshop.

“There are some people who make good money doing this, they sell clocks also, but I was never too much about the money side of it. I have the business and I’m staying busy at it, and I made enough to pay the bills.”

For more information about Jackson’s Clockworks, visit jacksonsclockworks.com, call (317) 222-1198.