DO YOU KNOW? Ann Buckner McDuffie

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DO YOU KNOW? Ann Buckner McDuffie
The word “time” has several meanings. Kairos is a Greek word for time meaning “a propitious moment for decision or action.” It is a moment in time as in, “I had the time of my life!“ or “Once upon a time…” Chronos time relates to the passage of time as in minutes, hours, days, months, and years. We march to the demands of this measured time every day. “Time” can also have an emotional component, as when cherishing a timepiece handed down by a loved one, whether it be a watch, mantel clock, or the quintessential grandfather clock which majestically stood watch over a family’s daily life and leisure. When such a treasured heirloom breaks down, it is time to find an expert to repair it. Enter Ann Buckner McDuffie, owner of Buckner’s Jewelry in Huntsville, Texas.

Buckner’s Jewelry is part of the fabric of Huntsville. When did you open for business?

My late husband Thomas and I opened the doors on June 28, 1971, and Buckner’s has enjoyed 50 years of serving the wonderful people of Huntsville and surrounding areas. Mr. Buckner received a degree in Horology in 1963 from Houston Technical College. He did watch repair and taught me the clock repair business. He passed away in 1991. My brother Darrell Herzog joined the firm in 1976, and son Todd Buckner came onboard in 1983, both having earned degrees as jewelers from Kilgore Junior College. Darrell, Todd, and I represent over 132 years of continuous service to our faithful customers.

There are many reasons to walk through the front doors of Buckner’s on any given day. One reason is to enjoy the warm and friendly greeting one receives. Another reason is to shop. What treasures can I find within those brightly lit cases?

I always meet with our salesmen and make selections from their jewelry lines so we can maintain a good inventory of rings, bracelets, necklaces, chains, and earrings to celebrate any occasion. We carry the PiYaRo line of jewelry, along with Black Diamond necklaces, bracelets, rings, and other pieces. We also feature the sought-after Tahitian pearls from the Black-lip oyster. These have a naturally occurring dark body and shimmer with an array of iridescent colors. Along with this, we offer a nice selection of gift items. And of course, Buckner’s carries a fine display of men’s and women’s watches from quality name brands. In addition to merchandise, we do watch and jewelry repair and are highly skilled and creative in jewelry design.

And now to the crux of this article, namely clock repair. You have built a reputation in this field and are in great demand for this skill. Please share some information regarding this craft.

Yes, I have repaired thousands of clocks over the years–mantel clocks, wall clocks, and grandfather clocks. Grandfather clocks were first introduced in 1670 and were also known by the name longcase, tall-case, or floor clocks. Usually 6-8 feet in height, they are freestanding and contain a pendulum inside. They are very accurate timekeepers, but over the years have slowly been replaced by analog and digital clocks. And since they are declining in popularity, so is the need for those who repair them. This skill is slowly fading away. I do keep a full schedule, repairing all types of clocks, and am always thrilled to work on any clock to give it a new life.

As a horologist, one who repairs timekeeping devices, what type of repairs are generally needed?

Repairs run the gamut. As far as watches are concerned, Darrell, Todd, and I have a hand in doing minimal watch repair. Batteries are replaced while you wait. And, although not on site here, I have two watch repairmen who have helped me for over twenty years, one who works on Rolex watches, and the other who repairs pocket watches, automatics, quartz, and antique windups. Working on clocks is my passion, and I love the challenge each clock brings, some being quite simple to repair while others take the meaning of “challenge” to new heights. There are three companies I look to for parts, but sometimes the needed part does not exist. I have had to fabricate parts from scratch, and at times have had to design a part that will solve a particular clock’s problem. You can’t buy a wheel for an antique clock, so when one is missing teeth, I have to make new teeth for it. I use gold rather than silver solder because it is stronger and blends in to give a better finished look. I’ve always had an aptitude for operating almost any type of equipment, so the ability to think analytically has served me well for this role. And I am driven. Making that cherished timepiece work keeps me on task as long as it takes. I do limit my repair work to the clock’s timekeeping ability, and not to cosmetic finishes such as refinishing cases. And, for the last 30 years I have been the service technician for Howard Miller, a company based in Zeeland, Michigan.

Toting a 6-foot-tall grandfather clock into your store is not practical. What is your process to repair a grandfather clock?

Mantel and wall clocks do need to be brought in, but I make house calls for grandfather clocks. To make a house call, there need to be three or four repair jobs in the same area and I will schedule them all on one day. If the clock cannot be repaired on site, I bring the movement, weights, and pendulum back to the shop. After assessing repairs, the customer is given an estimate. Once they approve the work, the clock is repaired, cleaned, and then I time it out. To time it out, making sure it is keeping time accurately, I adjust it every morning. Sometimes it takes only a day to time it out while other clocks may take up to three weeks. Changing the suspension throws everything off so this can be a slow process. A one-year warranty is included on all clock repairs.

Where does your clock repair customer base extend, and do you have repeat customers?

My business is driven by word of mouth, and I will travel in about a 75-mile radius around Huntsville for repair jobs, but will not go to Houston. Some of those customers can be referred to resources in their areas. Once I have finished a repair, I place a Buckner sticker, dated at the time of repair, inside the clock. One clock was brought in that I had worked on 27 years before. I remembered the clock. You might say that I have bonded with each and every clock that has been left in my care. Another repeat customer lives in Cody, Wyoming. Of course, I didn’t travel there, but these are Huntsville friends who moved to Cody and then brought a clock in during a visit to Texas. We see some unusual clocks at the store. At the present time, there is a Western-themed clock on the wall that is being timed out. At each hour, a horse head pops out and whinnies, and then the sound of clippetty-clopping hooves is heard riding through the airways. I’ll remember this one for sure! All of us at Buckner’s will remember this one!

At present, there is a 100-year-old Ogee clock on my work desk. The movement is driven by two big weights, and I’m working on an assessment now. I am always so pleased when family members choose to keep an heirloom clock. One couple questioned me on the value of keeping the “hand-me-down” they had received. Taking my advice, they have since thanked me many times over for the enjoyment it has given them. Of course, it is not unusual to see antique clocks at garage sales with $5.00 price tags on them. Such a shame that they were not valued. And there are times that people bring clocks into the store they don’t want. I repair these and donate them to the Catholic Church Bazaar in Anderson, Texas, each year.

Do you offer advice on how to pack a clock for shipment and on what regular maintenance a clock may need?

I will do a house call to pack a clock for shipment, then show them how it should be unpacked. And maintaining a clock is easy. Don’t do anything. The clock will tell you when it is “sick” and needs attention such as when it quits running or is not chiming. A grandfather clock should last 12-15 years before needing any maintenance or repair. And don’t oil a clock. It doesn’t want to be bothered!

Keeping with the “clock” terminology, how do you unwind when not at work?

I love yard work and being outdoors. It is my way to unwind. I also love to hunt and fish and was always the one child out of six of us who would go fishing with our daddy. In our later years, he and I would go hunting in the hill country and I’m happy to add that this love for the outdoors is being passed down to our family’s next generation. And our family has loved this area and the many friends and loyal customers who have become a part of our lives.

Ann Buckner McDuffie is the owner of Buckner’s Jewelry, Inc. located at 1329 University Avenue, Suite C, in the Midway Plaza Shopping Center. For more information on her clock repair skills, call 936-295-0942, or walk into their friendly hometown business. And shop local!
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