Bob Frishman has repaired, restored and sold antique clocks for more than thirty-eight years. In 1992, he founded Bell-Time Clocks, named after a Harper's Weekly engraving by Winslow Homer depicting New England mill buildings and workers. Having scaled back his repair and selling activities, he now devotes most of his time to research, writing, lecturing, and conference organizing.
BELL-TIME by Winslow Homer, Harper's Weekly, July 25, 1868
Bob Frishman, a Fellow of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, is chairman of the NAWCC Time Symposium Committee. He organized the very successful 2016 "Clocks at Winterthur" conference and the October 2017 "Horology in Art" symposium at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He is a past-president of NAWCC New England Chapter 8 and was in charge of producing all of the chapter's many meetings, workshops, lectures and educational programs. As a scholar of horology, he has published more than 80 articles and he has given more than 90 presentations to historical societies, service organizations and academic groups. In 2016, he was admitted as a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, the professional guild in London, England, chartered in 1631. In 2017, he became a Proprietor of the historic Boston Athenaeum, receiving share 28 formerly owned by the family of famed New England scientist Nathaniel Bowditch (1773-1838).
After graduating from George Washington University in 1973, he worked ten years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C., as a speechwriter, legislative assistant and press secretary. The next ten years he was Vice President and then President of AKKO, Inc., his family-owned acrylic furniture manufacturing company. He served as a member, and then chairman, of the Lawrence (Massachusetts) Planning Board. From 1993 to 2003, he was one of three trustees of The White Fund, Inc., a Lawrence-based charitable foundation, and a trustee of the Lawrence Public Library. Age 66, he is married to art and antiques writer Jeanne Schinto and lives in Andover, Massachusetts, his home town.
It must have been fate. Through a series of unlikely coincidences, Jeanne and I ended up at the Virginia home of Jack & Phyllis on Thanksgiving in 1980. That evening, when we got a tour of their basement full of clocks, movements, tools, and parts, I was hooked.
I already liked tinkering and had a pretty serious sports car hobby, and we had started furnishing our D.C. townhouse with vintage oak furniture. But antique timekeepers took me to a new level of passion. Right away, I loved the combination of ART - the wide spectrum of clock case designs, materials and styles, SCIENCE - the centuries of intellectual and mechanical work to achieve higher and higher degrees of timekeeping accuracy and durability, and HISTORY - the industrial and cultural impact of clocks in our societies.
So for some years I collected and repaired old clocks while I worked in the U.S. Congress and then for my family furniture business in Massachusetts. I took a couple of bench courses at the American Watchmakers Institute, and nearly every day in my spare time I did something clock-related. By the Fall of 1992 I was ready to make it my life's work.
I still love bringing old tickers back to life, but I have an equal love these days for the educating and entertaining I can do with this rich subject. Every customer gets the background of the clock they buy or bring for restoration. My articles allow me to research and share some new part of this story. Audiences at my presentations gain a new appreciation for the clocks in their world.