PARKERSBURG – In Roger Mackey’s shop the sound of ticking and chimes of working clocks is a constant.
In his shop, clocks line the walls, many from his collection sit side by side with those that have been fixed, those under repair and those waiting their turn.
When a clock is finally working, Mackey said, it’s not time for it to go back to the owner.
“Usually they need to sit for a week for me to make sure they have been fixed and that there are no other problems,” he said.
Mackey got started collecting clocks about 46 years ago and then a few years later he learned to repair them out of necessity.
“I’d buy several clocks at a time and some did not work,” he said. “Many of them could not be fixed. One time I bought a collection of clocks and the room was so crowded I had to buy them without looking them over.”
Mackey said it was a bad purchase on his part since many of the clocks were in such bad condition they had no value for repair or spare parts.
For many years, Mackey, a Parkersburg native, collected clocks and the clock repair business was a part-time sideline while his full-time job was a garbage-hauling business he owned.
“I sold it out about 1992,” he said. “I went into this full time.”
Mackey estimated the total size of his collection at around 400 time pieces.
Mackey’s repair shop, Mackey’s Antiques & Clock Repair on Gihon Road, is lined with clocks of many different shapes and sizes and several labeled containers of parts he needs in repairing clocks.
Mackey said the most common cause for repairs to clocks is not oiling them.
“When the clock stops running, it’s too late to oil it,” he said. “It’s not ruined, but the bushings inside the clock have to be replaced.”
Quality clocks are almost impossible to find, he said, and they will not last as long as clocks made years ago. In his collection Mackey has clocks dating back to the 1830s and 1840s that are still accurate.
“The stuff they make today is junk,” he said. “That stuff from China and Korea and India is just junk. They shouldn’t be allowed to bring that junk over here.”
Mackey said there is no such thing as a clock made entirely in the United States; like many products the production has shifted oversees where the workers are paid much less than workers here would be paid.
Those claiming to be U.S.-made do not tell the entire story, he said.
“Some people say they make them here, but what they do is they make the case and import the movement, which is from China or India,” he said.
Clocks made in countries once known for fine clockworks, such as Germany or Switzerland, are not as good as they once were, he said.
“German-made clocks are a little better,” he said. “Nothing made today that is mass produced is a good quality product; everything they make today is just not good quality.”
Mackey said his clocks from the 1800s will work for many more years.
“Try that on a Chinese clock or a German clock,” he said.
Mackey said the best clocks are from the 1840s to the 1860s. His collection includes calendar clocks dating back to 1875 that automatically adjust for 30- or 31-day months and for a 29-day February every four years.
“Each calendar clock has an eight-year cam in them and every four years it’s got an extra space for the extra day, and if it’s set right, it will work,” he said. “If it’s not set right, it will trip a leap year when it’s not a leap year.”
Many newer clocks appear to be good quality, but Mackey said the truth can be seen inside with works that are not as solid as the older clocks.
“Some of the works look just like they do in any older clock but they are weaker and they will not last,” he said. “Just wind one and after a period of time it pops gears and they go everywhere.”
Mackey said he has bought new clock movements that did not last long.
“I’ve bought three once and the longest one lasted was three months,” he said. “One lasted 10 days.”
He said many times he tells customers the clocks they brought in are not worth fixing.
“Many times I’ve told them the cost of repairing it is more than it’s worth but I’ll do it,” he said. “If it’s got sentimental value to them it might be worth it to have it repaired, but many of them are not.”