Boston’s Clock Master

For most people, Daylight Savings means having to change a couple clocks. A microwave, the inside of a car.

For David Hochstrasser, owner of The Clock Shop in Hanover, it’s a much bigger undertaking. “I always wonder when I’m up in a big public clock and I’m setting the hands back or forward, if someone is walking by and wondering why time is moving backwards,” he said.

Hochstrasser is the horologist tasked with maintaining many of the public clocks in Boston, including the Custom House Tower, the Old State House, and the Old South Meeting House, one of the oldest clocks in the country.

“The Old State House and Old South Meeting House have little inspection doors, and sometimes when I’m up there I’ll poke my head out and see that nobody is looking up,” he said, quick to acknowledge that interest in clocks is dwindling.

“The value of antique clocks has been dropping for the past 20 years. It’s a bit of a dying industry at the moment.”

Part of the blame falls on the shift from mechanical clocks to digital, but even newer mechanical clocks use a quartz movement (basically the “engine” that powers a clock) rather than the gears and springs that make up a traditional timepieces.

Even more troubling to Hochstrasser is the mindset that clocks are obsolete or worthless. “One of the saddest aspects of my business is fielding calls from people who have inherited an old clock and they don’t want it,” he said. “I had a couple call me wanting to store their grandfather clock in the shop because a realtor told them it made their house look antiquated.”

There isn’t much room in The Clock Shop to store anything. Every wall and available piece of floor is occupied by a clock, many of them ticking, chiming and gonging intermittently. Hochstrasser has owned the shop since 1981, when he bought it from his boss and mentor F. Scott “Scotty” Seitz.

“I’m now older than Scotty was when he retired and sold me the shop,” he said. “I often think – when I’m retired in 10 to 15 years, what am I going to do and who’s going to take over?” He is open to taking an apprentice, possibly from a new school teaching clock repair in Florida.

For now, Hochstrasser will still be the one turning the hands of Boston’s public clocks. When it comes to finding himself a replacement, he still has time.