Winship Wishes to Turn Back Hands of Time

Clock restoration was supposed to be a hobby for Keith Winship, but since it's actually his career, he hopes to restore Hatboro's tower clock.

Clocks ticking, chiming and cuckooing consumes the space of store, but owner Keith Winship doesn't hear them anymore.

Winship and his mother started the business about 20 years ago, and he and his brother, Brian, work on roughly 150 to 200 clocks at once, so it's not surprising that he can ignore the sound.

"We don't even hear it anymore," Winship says with a chuckle. "In fact, we have egg timers placed around the shop [for] when we're testing a clock."

They set an egg timer to let them know when a clock they are working on is about to chime, so they can go stand in front of the clock to see if it goes off.

The clock business wasn't always on the to do list for Winship or his brother. They grew up working on clocks with their grandfather, who did it as a hobby, and thought they would just make clocks for themselves for fun.

"It definitely wasn't the plan to do this," Winship explained. "I figured it would be a hobby, but my goal when I was younger was to build and manufacture entire clocks for ourselves."

In order to that, they needed tools and knowledge to make the parts. So they started repairing clocks in order to be able to build them.

"But now we are so involved in repairing clocks, making clocks is going to have to wait until my retirement ... if ever," he said.

The Winships used to also repair watches at their shop, but they have so many clocks to work on that they've had to discontinue that service.

"Although clocks and watches are similar, watches require a cleaner work space and we can't have the machinery with the metal shavings anywhere near a good watch repair bench," Winship said. "So, at this point we aren't doing any watch repair work. Otherwise the clocks would be here for two or three years."

As for the average time it takes to repair a clock, Winship said it really depends on what needs to be done. It can take as little as two weeks if it is something really simple, or a year or more if it's practically being rebuilt.

The Winships will work on anything old or new. Keith is finishing up a clock from the 1750s that's had about 250 years of "brutal repair work done to it," which required a full restoration. Brian works more on modern clocks.

The Tower Clock

Having come to Hatboro 12 years ago, the Winships couldn't miss the clock in the tower of , which wasn't working then and isn't working now. Winship said that he would love to repair the clock and get it up and running.

"We noticed the clock and approached the borough about [it], and we were told by the borough that it is not in operational value," he said. At that time, representatives from the borough didn't seem very interested in having the clock repaired, he said.

Then came along Hatboro businessman —who can see the non-functioning clock from his office window.

"He wanted to get it going," Winship said. "So between the two of us, we've tried to motivate the borough. We've made some presentations, so the possibility of restoring the clock is moving along but is still very much in the borough's hands."

that would cover the cost of devising a restoration plan for the 200-year-old clock. The grant requires a 50 percent match and officials are fundraising.

The clock is not only an important historical fixture in Hatboro, but in the state, Winship explained, since the maker also created the clock in Philadelphia's Independence Hall.

"Isaiah Lukens is an important historical clock maker especially in the Philadelphia area," Winship said.

The Horsham native installed the clock in 1812 before making the clock for Independence Hall, and it's been in the tower its entire life.

Winship has been inside the tower to take a look at the clock. He estimates that it will take a year to a year and a half to get it up and running.

"We inspected it thoroughly and photographed it and we have a very good idea of what exactly needs to be done to restore the clock," Winship said.

He said that it would take a year or longer to complete because the project would need to fit in to his and his brother's regular business schedule. He was reluctant to disclose an estimate on what the restoration would cost because Hatboro will need to take bids if they decide to follow through with restoration. And the cost of the project will be based on the level of restoration that the borough wants to be done.

Winship said he thinks many people will be interested in fixing the clock. Though he thinks there will be stiff competition, Winship said he really hopes that he will be able to work on it and that it would be an honor.

"We've had some very valuable and old clocks in our shop, but I don't know if there's really a more important clock than this one," he said. "I really can't think of a more important clock in this area than this clock. As far as the size of the project, this one would be hard to beat."

wendy nelson April 04, 2012 at 02:01 PM
I love the clock shop, Bryan and Keith fix so many clocks and contribute to the community. I'm glad to see they are working on this important project.


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