Thursday, July 14, 2011

Gustav Becker with a good provenance

Hi Nick,

My name is Troy D. and have been a subscriber to your mailing list for sometime and was wondering if
you would be able to help with the identification of a wall clock that has been in our family for some time now.
It is believed to be a Gustaff Becker made in 1907. It was brought to Australia by The Redemptorists and was for the Monastery in Mayfield,
Newcastle which was founded in 1885. When the monastery closed it was obtained my family.
The history of the clock is a bit vague but it is believed that it was either brought to Australia by the one of the fathers
or it was constructed by one of the craftsman constructing the St Alphonsus monastery in Mayfield.
It is believed that the clock has been maintained quite well and is in perfect working order.
If at all possible from the photos attached to this email could you shed some light as to its make and
approximate value for insurance purposes.
Your expert experience on this subject would be greatly appreciated on this matter by my family
and also any tips in keeping this beautiful timepiece in perfect condition.

Your Sincerely,
Troy J D

Dear Troy,

Thank you for your email.

While you have supplied a number of photos, you have unfortunately made my dating task almost impossible by not providing a crucial one: a photograph of the back plate which will show us the Gustav Becker logo.

In order to do so, you must take the movement with it's sitboard out of the case. The sit board itself is fastened to the case with a couple of wood screws. Remove those screws and pull the sitboard form its slot.

Now be careful not to detach the mechanism from the sit board itself! Otherwise you will alter the position of hammers in relation to its chiming rods!

(I assume you are capable of doing this as per instruction, if not, it is better to leave it to a clockmaker.)

If your clock is indeed manufactured by Gustav Becker then you should be able to find a company stamp / logo on the bottom of the brass back plate.

This is what you are looking for:

As you can see, GB cloaks were manufactured both in Germany and Czecho-Slovakia (Bohmen or Bohemia) .

The clock case itself is clearly dating from the early 1900s as per your suggestion, and so is the dial. However the dial style and shape of hands remained popular until 1960s.

The clock itself is of fairly common construction for the era. It was built to tel the time, not to impress! It is a spring driven 8-day movement with 3 trains: time, hour strike and quarter chime
on 4 gongs. The fifth gong is for the hour strike only. On your photo, you can see the lever behind the dial, above the 2 o'clock position. This lever allows the owner to "turn off" the chime, strike or both.

There are a couple of important factors which must be taken in consideration when determining value for insurance purpose.

First, it is the value of the clock as a timepiece. Secondly, it's sentimental and historical value.

While your clock comes form a good home it would be difficult to convince any insurer that it possesses any significant value purely on it's provenance. Therefore the replacement value must be established based upon historical sales data for a similar clock made by Gustav Becker. The overall condition, especially of the dial and case, repair history, etc. would be considered as well.

In general, Gustav Becker clocks are regarded as mid-range quality German clocks. From the late 1850s to 1935 GB produced hundreds and thousands of clocks - maybe even well over a million! The company was bought by Junghans in 1935. With so many clocks produced - and so many still in good working order - GB clocks have very modest collectors value, even for examples in very good to excellent condition.

The possibility that the clock was made in Australia is extremely unlikely. While the clock cabinet (case) could have been made locally, there is no evidence in your
photos that suggest so. Case construction, ornamentation, veneer and overall finish looks consistent with mass-produced German examples.

Based on the above, a figure of around $1200 - $1500 would be a fair and reasonable insurance valuation amount.

Regarding maintenance: let's leave this for the next newsletter!

NOTE: While I am happy to provide my opinion on any timepiece based on photos and description - if time premits - such opinion is NOT legally binding in any financial or legal matter.
Proper and adequate Insurance Valuation is only possible upon physical examination of a watch / clock in question. Valuation service is available at nominal charge.

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