WRITER | CANDIE CONAT
PHOTO| BOWER CLOCK COMPANY
As a kid, Nathan Bower always loved to take things apart, figure out how they worked, and put them back together. When he was 11, someone gave him a broken clock. He took it apart, fixed it, and gave it to his parents as a Christmas gift. Repairing that one clock lit a fire. After Bower graduated from high school, he was presented with an opportunity for a three-year apprenticeship at Martinek’s Jewelers, a longstanding and highly respected jeweler in Traverse City at the time. During his apprenticeship, Bower took every opportunity to learn from the experts around him, developing a deep respect and admiration for true craftsmanship and traditional techniques. By the time his apprenticeship was over, Bower had developed a real love for working on clocks of all shapes and sizes, so he decided to start his own business.
Repairing very old clocks can present some special challenges. “You can’t just run down to the hardware store to purchase gears for a 300-year-old clock,” he said. Bower was forced to teach himself how to fabricate replacement parts, and, happily, he found great satisfaction in this work. He soon realized that he could engineer all of the parts needed to build a clock from scratch — every tiny screw, gear, dial, and bolt — each integral piece created by his hand.
The style of clocks that Bower builds are called Skeleton clocks. As a horologist (clockmaker), he devotes his time to the tradition of old-style clockmaking, using traditional methods that have been around for hundreds of years.
The series of gears that drive the pendulum of a clock is called the gear train. Bower uses a manual lathe to cut gear blanks to the proper sizes and then carves out the teeth with a form cutter. To create the stunning and intricate detail on the dials, he uses a jeweler’s saw. He even creates most of the wooden cases and stands for his clocks. On average, it takes from six months to a year for him to bring his anticipated work of art from a drawing to a final compilation of moving elegance.
Bower’s first clock was a special gift for his wife, Jenny Lynn. It took over a year to build and is aptly named The Jendolyn. The clock is nearly 8 feet tall and weighs 270 pounds.
In 2010, Bower decided to begin work on an extraordinary clock that he would later enter in ArtPrize in Grand Rapids. From conception to completion, the project took over a year. “A Clockmaker’s Art” stands 5 feet tall; the clock is enclosed in a glass dome and sits atop a skillfully crafted wooden base. Perched on top of the clock is a shiny brass bell that dings on the hour. The hands are a beautiful shade of azure, creating a stunning contrast to the elegant brass dial.
As a member of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, Bower has taken the opportunity to build and submit clocks for the organization’s annual competition for the past four years. During that time, he has entered six different clocks and taken home six awards, including first and second place in multiple categories.
It is Bower’s goal to inspire all people, especially the younger generation, by showing them the traditional methods of clockmaking and the glorious timepieces that result from hard work. Soon, he plans to offer workshops and live demonstrations on gear cutting and other aspects of clockmaking, from beginning to end.
Bower has many clocks on display in his shop for all to admire and purchase. Call for hours or visit the website to find exact hours.
Bower Clock Company
9931 N. Long Lake Rd.
Traverse City MI 49685