Chelsea Clock collector Joe Neil moved from Oregon to Hawaii at age 24 and by no means appeared again. From the Island of Kauai he works with its native woods (primarily koa) handcrafting an intensive line of present gadgets reminiscent of image frames, jewellery bins — even clocks. Over time he’s gathered greater than 120 Chelseas, a lot of which he’s restored himself via unimaginable analysis and persistence. We caught up with him one Friday afternoon to search out out what makes this avid clock collector tick.
What first obtained you interested by Chelsea clocks?
I obtained as an grownup just by making clock instances as a interest, and I began placing some good, high-end actions in them fairly than run of the mill ones. Chelsea popped up on my radar as a result of I used to be actually thinking about high quality. The extra I obtained to studying and checking the historical past, one factor led to a different, and it simply turned increasingly fascinating for me.
How lengthy have you ever been amassing?
About 4 or 5 years. Not too lengthy compared to a number of the folks I do know who’ve been amassing for the previous 40 years. However Hawaii shouldn’t be precisely the clock-collector’s paradise. There’s no custom of time — or time items — right here as a result of we spend most of our time exterior. When it’s mild out we go exterior and when it’s darkish we go in. It’s manner completely different than most [of the country] is used to.
Do you acquire different timepieces or simply Chelseas?
And precisely what number of do you personal?
I can’t actually inform you. I counted as much as 120 after which type of give up.
The place do you retain all of them?
In every single place. We’re slowly transforming. Some are on a show wall however a lot of them are on wire racks in storage. Sometime they’ll be out and correctly displayed, however the way in which that I transfer it could be some time. A lot of the horizontal floor house in the home is occupied with Chelsea clocks. My spouse mainly thinks I’m nuts, however after 40 years of marriage, she simply ignores it.
Lots of our collectors are veterans. Do you might have a historical past with the army?
None in any way. However lots of the items I’ve have come from ex-Navy veterans, they usually have very fascinating tales. One of many issues I take pleasure in most about these clocks is the backstory of the clock itself — who owned it or how the vendor got here to get it or who died and left it behind. It’s type of just like the “George Washington slept right here” factor.
Are you able to inform us a narrative that got here with certainly one of your clocks?
I purchased a 6-inch yacht-wheel clock with base (what is usually generally known as a Chelsea Mariner) and I requested the man I purchased it from, “The place did you get it? Have you ever owned it awhile?” He mentioned he picked it up 20 years in the past from a lady in Virginia who inherited it from her uncle. He went on to inform the story of an uncle who had a mistress in New York Metropolis. Apparently she was one of many Radio Metropolis Music Corridor Rockettes. He gave this clock to her, and when she died, he obtained the clock again and saved it till his demise as a remembrance of his lover, the Rockette. That story brings again [memories of] all kinds of dime-novel tales.
Do you might have a favourite piece?
I do. It’s one of many nicest little clocks. I’ve it out the place I can see it day-after-day. It’s just a little, 4-inch library clock out of the Twenties. It’s such a cute little elegantly detailed clock. In truth, I despatched it again to the manufacturing unit and had all of it restored so it’s like model new out right here.
Do you might have any barometers or tides as a part of your assortment?
I do. I even have certainly one of every thing I believe.
Any wish-list gadgets?
My bucket listing is to gather all of the clocks in a specific collection. I’ve obtained the previous Commander collection that began again within the 1900s catalog, and throughout the collection I’ve obtained all of the clocks up via the 10-inch clock. For me, the Holy Grail can be a 10-inch Commander. The chances of discovering one are slim to none, and the chances of with the ability to afford it if I do discover it are even much less.
The place do you look?
Over time I’ve developed a community that features Chelsea collectors and others who’re thinking about clocks, so one of the best ways to place it could be via the grapevine.
As somebody who clearly loves our model as a lot as we do, what’s Chelsea’s utmost significance in your thoughts?
The primary phrase that pops into thoughts is high quality. My newest little [restoration] challenge right here is an previous thermostat. They made this factor from 1900 to 1910. It has a small Chelsea clock on the backside of it! It got here out of the basement of a Bedford, Massachusetts, dwelling. Someone discovered this factor and dusted it off, and I purchased it as a result of it had just a little Chelsea on it. I believe its serial dates it to 1905. It has by no means been serviced — it simply sat there for 110 years. However while you wind it up, it really works completely. It retains excellent time! Only a few issues would do this.
One different factor I’ll say, is you’re speaking to a man who was a poor scholar, who slept via each historical past class, who had zero curiosity in it. And these little Chelseas have gotten me extra thinking about historical past than any formal training recognized to man. The wealthy heritage of the model makes the previous come to life.