Tag Archives: clocks

Tick … Tick … Tick

April 30, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article originally appeared in the 2015 April/May edition of Omaha Home.

It has been said that time waits for no man, and we, being of precious little patience, couldn’t wait to introduce you to some of our favorite timepieces. Check out this decidedly eclectic mix available from
area merchants.

Mid-Century Classic
George Nelson’s industrial designs put him at the vanguard of American Modernism. His famous Ball Clock, a timeless starburst pattern available in multiple colors, is just one of the reasons we’ll forgive Nelson for also being behind another groundbreaking design—the Dilbert-esque office cubicle.
Gadgeteer • $335

Prairie Power
Gustave Stickley was the preeminent proponent of the American Craftsman movement. Barbara Streisand once paid $363,000 for a Stickley sideboard (and that was in 1988 dollars), but you can appreciate the clean lines of this solid oak Prairie Style gem without breaking the bank.
Allens Home • $280

Kitsch Klassic
The Kit-Cat Clock was introduced at the height of the Great Depression in 1932, a time when people had little to smile about. With its trademark wagging tail, oscillating eyes, and Cheshire grin, this kitsch klassic offered some much-needed levity…and still delivers an infectious smile over 80 years later.
hayneedle.com • $49.99

The Art of Time
Salvador Dali’s trippy The Persistence of Memory presented a mind-bending landscape dotted with a trio of melting clocks. Inspired by the surrealist’s take on the illusory nature of time, this artsy clock is formed in a way that allows it to wilt away on it’s perch along any shelf edge.
The Afternoon • $19.95

Gee Wally, That’s Swell!
Isn’t this the same clock that hung in June Cleaver’s kitchen back when TV offered a robust selection of three (Three!) channels in glorious black-and-white during the “I Like Ike” era of Leave It to Beaver? This fun piece from Kikkerland will add oomph to any playful kitchen, retro or otherwise.
City Limits • $13.99

Minimal Magic
Created by Gideon Dagan for the Museum of Modern Art Collection, this minimalist design features a gravity-defying mechanism. A red ball effortlessly orbits the clock’s circumference, seemingly under its own power, in this mesmerizing example of magnetic magic.
The Afternoon • $65

Pretty in Pink
She may be known mostly for her vibrant, oh-so-chic handbags and other accessories, but take a look at this smart little bauble from Kate Spade. Perfect for a night table or dresser, an enamel surround in Spade’s signature pink accents the nickel-plated housing of this Lenox clock.
Borsheims • $50

Bavarian Beauty
A cottage industry army of pieceworkers scattered across Bohemia contribute the intricately hand-carved individual elements that come together in this amazing example of German craftsmanship. A kinetically bombastic performance awaits each and
every hour on the hour!
Chimes & Times • $595

Clocks

Right On Time

August 31, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann
Sometimes, Bob Rowlee winds a dozen clocks in his living room. Then, after a long day of tinkering in the basement workshop of his West Omaha home, he finally sits down to watch the 10 o’clock news.


The hour strikes. Sound vanishes under a wall of noise. Bells, chimes, rings, dings, whistling cuckoos, and clanging grandfathers all drown the news anchor’s voice.

“You’d better know how to read lips, because you won’t hear a thing,” he says with a laugh.

Rowlee is a clocksmith. Now on the cusp of his 80th year, he began repairing clocks for fun at age 30. He was a career military man for 22 years in the Air Force. He has collected and repaired clocks across Germany and the U.S. The hobby became a profession after retirement. He opened Ye Olde Clock Shop in 1980.

Clocks of all kinds crowd his home. They fill his living area upstairs. They gather en masse in his basement. His workshop contains every imaginable, wind-able, tick-tocking timepiece: mantle, wall, cuckoo, grandfather, etc. More clocks occupy a renovated basement, and they empty into a private showroom where Rowlee stashes his collection of rare, antique German clocks.

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Ye Olde Clock Shop’s current suburban locale might seem unusual. The shop was previously located in a 2,400-square-foot showroom in Papillion. The way Rowlee explains his shop’s 1997 relocation, it seems more like a pre-ordained coincidence.

The owner of an adjacent building had offered to buy his showroom. “My wife said, ‘Listen, when you get ready to sell this building 15 years down the road, there may not be any buyers,’ and that turned out to be a true thing,” he says. “It was a blessing in disguise.”

In retrospect, the premature building sale guaranteed that he would avoid the real estate bubble, which burst with the Global Financial Crisis in 2008. More importantly, he was able to remain close to his wife, his childhood sweetheart. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a few years after his shop relocation.

Rowlee became her primary caregiver. She had a cane and would often knock on the floor for help. He would rush upstairs and take her to the hospital. She passed away in 2004. Ever since, Rowlee has continued working from home.

“The number of times I would have rushed home from Papillion to take her to the hospital, I would have had to sell the building anyway (if I had held onto it),” he says. “You never know what you believe in until somebody says, well, that’s a coincidence. It’s probably all laid out ahead of time, and this was just when it happened. So, I let it go at that.”

During his Air Force stint in Germany, he crisscrossed the country buying antique clocks. A new generation of Germans had become apathetic to the timepieces of their grandparents and great-grandparents, Rowlee says, so he found bargains from antique dealers and also picked up regular part-time work repairing clocks for export to America.

In recent years, Rowlee has watched U.S. interest dwindle for mechanical clocks. Nebraska Furniture Mart’s selection of wall clocks and grandfather clocks has grown sparse. Digital devices, smartphones, and computers have displaced demand. 

Rowlee expects that declining demand for quality timepieces is part of a cyclical pattern. But he’s not too worried. His workload is already backlogged many weeks out.

“I stay so busy that I don’t know if I’ll have time to do anything else,” he says. “Sometimes I wonder if I’m ever going to catch up.”  

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