clock & barometer repairs
01277 658800   Billericay


dial restoration

Brass dials in longcase clocks and bracket clocks usually have a silvered chapter ring with engraved numerals etc filled with wax. Often they'll also have date rings, seconds dials, nameplates, automata and plaques, too. But the silver gradually fades exposing the brass underneath. Re-silvering transforms the appearance but it must be done sympathetically. One 'before and after' example that I've done recently appears opposite. Existing condition doesn't really matter because I need to remove all the existing silver to prepare the base brass properly for a good finish. Then after a couple of coats of a matt lacquer to protect the new silvering, I leave it somewhere warm to dry and harden.

Often the wax is still in pretty good condition so unless some wax has actually fallen out, I prefer to leave it as it is. But if some touching in is unavoidable, it adds to the cost. It's not possible to re-wax the digits without re-silvering the dial though because I cut the excess wax away using 000 emery cloth and this of course removes the surrounding silver, too.

Corner spandrels seem to survive remarkably well; they are usually gilded with a mercury-based process so I just clean them carefully to avoid any risk of damaging the gilding. As for the brass dial-plate, I try to avoid stripping off all the old lacquer because it retains an aged look and most of the brass is concealed by the adornments anyway. But if it's very poor and stripping is unavoidable, I will clean but probably not polish it and then stain it back to an aged look again with coloured lacquer if it needs it.

Restoration of white dials of the type seen in fusée dial clocks, are photographed and stripped back to bare metal before the application of a primer and two coats of an off-white base colour and finally the black painted numerals.

If you look carefully at the one on the right you will see that the appearance has been gently aged with touches of a slightly darker shade around the edges and the winding hole. You can specify it to be more distressed than this if you wish. A maker's or retailer's name and place can be added or a logo added, such as GWR or RAF, but only if it was there originally. You could even have your own name on the dial if that is your wish (though it probably won't enhance the clock's value as much as your own ego).

Painted dials from longcase clocks are varied; from the very simple to the colourful and elaborate. And this is where the talents of commercial artists shows real benefit. Often the original painting is quite rustic, even naive; they weren't complex works of art taking days to paint. They were mass-produced, but by hand. And unless you say otherwise, the artist will try to replicate that rusticity not just in terms of the image but also in terms of simple brush strokes. So examine it closely first to make sure that's what you require. If it looks as though it took the original painter about fifteen minutes flat, and it probably wouldn't have taken longer, the restorer will spend many hours replicating that feel, starting with tracing and many photographs to capture the detail and using black light to pick up anything that cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Some dials are more complex then other so prices vary. The one opposite involved a great deal of restoration as you can see. Charges are also influenced by added features like a separate moon dial for example so it's best to send me an image and I'll give you a price. Do remember that these are not printed off or computer-generated; every one is hand-painted and thus unique so there may be some slight differences between the original and the restoration. Usually the restorer will copy the original for style, colour and any font styles used in names etc. But if you have a particular alternative in mind, this can easily be accommodated instead.

Enamel dials, such as those found on French mantle clocks and carriage clocks) and German Vienna regulators, are a specialist job; I've experimented with enamel dial repair kits but the outcome isn't what you might hope and it's always difficult to match the colour perfectly so I now use specialists. If yours is just beset with hairline cracks it's probably simpler to use some bleach to remove the dirt in the cracks but be sure to rinse it well afterwards. More serious damage needs a low-bake kiln but remarkable results are possible for a carriage clock or 4in circular dial for a French mantel clock or a barometer or large Vienna clock dial.

Email a photo and the dimensions with your enquiry for a more accurate price.


  • A brass dial before restoration
  • The same brass dial after cleaning, rewaxing the numerals and re-silvering
  • A dial from a fusee dial clock after sensitive restoration
  • A broken arch white dial in poor condition
  • The same paited dial after restoration