Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Time & the New Year--An Antique Clock Repairman in Florence

Tempus fugit--a Latin motto meaning in Italian
il tempo volo or time flies.
Your faithful Beautiful Florence blogger is at home at the beginning of a
New Year.   Above left is a Morbier clock from France, which has been keeping count of the flight of time and the New Year since 1830.

Like its faceless companion, it strikes every 15 minutes.  Upon my request, antique clock repairman Franco Lisi placed the missing face on the clock to reveal another
Morbier, this one from 1860.
I and photographer Bree Chun were in Lisi's workshop on via Romana, in Florence's Oltrarno neighborhood.  Lisi revealed that during the 1970s he had studied at Porta Romana's Art Institute and wanted to become a goldsmith.  Through word of mouth, however, he heard that a master of antique clock repair, Gino Mori, was seeking an apprentice.  Mori's former space is now
Lisi's shop.  It still bears Mori's name, and Lisi continues to answer the phone by saying
"Gino Mori."

Tradition knows not time, it would seem.
Here we are back at Vittorio Lombardini's antique shop, subject of the Beautful Florence 2012 Christmas blog, found directly across from my office on Borgo degli Albizi.
It was here that my quest for an antique clock began.  I had caught the bug from my
cousin's husband Antonio Gerardi.  His passion is reflected in a house in Policoro filled with antique clocks.  As a guest, I became fascinated with their sound.

Visiting Vittorio's, I felt an attraction to a 1930s reproduction of a 19th century clock (below).
One day I noticed, however, that the pendulum was moving too fast--it almost made me dizzy.
A metaphor for my fast-moving lifestyle, I would discover.
Did I move to Florence only to live like an American?
2011 faithful Beautiful Florence photographer Carly Vickers came to the rescue.  At the back of
Vittorio's shop, she discovered a mute 1910 German clock from the Black Forest.
It was love at first sight.  Vittorio was dubious.  "It will never tell time again," he said.

Here is my clock, at Gino Mori's.  I had discovered where the clock could be fixed by walking down via Romana one day on my way home by foot during a bus strike.

I asked Lisi whether it was an impossible task to make an antique clock tell time again.
He answered, "it is impossible not to fix a timepiece."
He immediately classified my clock as one with a trappola mechanism, made of wood and not of metal like his French clocks.  After all, it was created by a craftsman in the deep of the Black Forest.
And unbeknowst to me, in the course of a century, it had attracted hungry termites.

No problem.  Next door to Lisi at Gino Mori's is the workshop of carpenter
Nello Fancelli.   He possesses a gas chamber to kill temites, a trick of the trade.
Here he is with his hand-lettered sign advertising his services--tarli means woodworms or
termites, preventivi gratuiti means free estimates.  After getting rid of termites, Fancelli brings antique wooden furniture back to the original time period by careful restoration.  In the case of my Black Forest clock, it was returned to Lisi, who made it keep track of hours once again.
He reminds me of a surgeon--in fact, Lisi wears a white smock, while most Florentine craftsmen wear
either green or blue smocks.
Like a surgeon, his is fine, precision work.

Ogni orologio รจ particolare e ha la sua bellezza ("Every clock
is distinctive and has its own beauty,")  he explains.
"Each has its own movement, and sound."
Over time, Lisi has restored life to 17th, 18th and 19th century
French, Italian, English and German clocks, even a Breguet pocket watch from 1700.
He taught me to pull the chain of my Black Forest clock once a day in order to rewind the mechanism.
How ecological is that?  Antique clocks run on their own renewable energy.
Another thought for the New Year...
"Clock makers of the past had capabilities that today would be
unthinkable," says Lisi.  "Every clock piece was constructed carefully by hand, and the result was precise to the second.  It is my job to restore that as it was."

"Are you ever in a hurry?,"  I asked the craftsman.
"Sometimes," he replied, "but the job of repairing antique clocks
doesn't allow me to hurry much."
Mio lavoro non mi concede di avere tanta fretta.

When I was on my way to via Romana, I saw
Guido Giannini, master bookbinder craftsman, just outside
his shop in Piazza Pitti, founded by his ancestors in 1856.
This too, is Beautiful Florence.  Guido inquired where I was going.
Of course, he knew fellow craftsman "Mori,"
"So you are going to interview the man who works with time," said Guido.
As you can see, I did just that.
As timepieces can be repaired, so can our concept of time.
I learned that time stops, and moves, and above all...
has its own pace.

No small lesson.

Happy New Year from Beautiful Florence.
Buon Anno!


  1. Happy New Year to you, too, Rosanna!!

  2. Love your blog! I love anything to do with antique clocks so thank you for posting!

  3. The Latin motto “tempus fugit” caught me. It's true that time never stays but memories do. And I think this is what makes something, especially aged ones, more valuable. That's one of the reasons why antique clocks are very expensive as well. The mechanism does not easily wear down and it would just keep on ticking constantly, especially if the device is well-maintained.

    Lorita @Manchester Coin & Jewelry

  4. I am truly pleased to read this website posts which carries lots of helpful data, thanks for providing these kinds of statistics.

    Antiquarian Book Sellers

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