It has inhabited downtown Washington for 89 years, 24 hours a day, a familiar sight to downtown shoppers. It grew old with the city. And now it is moving to the suburbs.
The elegant outdoor clock that stands on the sidewalk on the F Street Mall, in front of the Chas. Schwartz & Son jewelry store, stopped running several months ago. Its Roman numeral face and inside works were removed, and now it greets shoppers with a doughnut hole view of the rest of the street instead of the time.
"It's been a landmark here in the city for a long time," said Robert M. King, vice president and general manager of the jewelry store. "The clock has been a symbol of this store ever since it has been in business - since 1888."
The clock, which runs on electricity, is being repaired, but it won't return to F Street. The jewelry store is moving to the posh Mazza Gallarie at Wisconsin and Western Avenues in the Chevy Chase area, and the clock will be installed there once it is fixed.
"Age catches up with everybody and everything, inccluding clocks," King said. "There has been an ongoing series of problems for the last eight to 10 months. The repairmen used chewing gum and baling wire and all the expertise they had to keep it running. Finally, it just quit."
While the jewelers searched for someone who could handle the repair job, the works were removed. Finally the face was removed a few weeks ago, "so it wouldn't be inconveniencing anyone by having the wrong time on it," King said.
The repairs will cost several thousand dollars, King estimated. It was difficult to get someone to handle the job. But Jack Stone Electrical Contractors eventually accepted, and it will be a complex job to build a new motor.
"Electrical clock movements are very simple normally - on a small table or mantle clock. But when you get into something like this and have to have gears that move the hands and rods the proper lengths, it becomes quite more involved," King said.
The clock has a long history in Washington. The grandfather of the current owner bought it, and has followed the jewelry store in several moves downtown. Now, for the first time, it will be leaving downtown.
The jewelers, like many merchants, are leaving downtown reluctantly.
"The street has changed F Street isn't what it used to be as a fine shopping street. We're not pleased over the situation that has bought the move about," King said.
When erected at Mazza Gallarie, the clock will be completely redone. In addition to the new works, it will have a new - but old-style - face and new gold leaf on the upper portion of its pedestal.
King said the clock has served as the symbol for the store, giving customers something to remember it by even if it did not actually attract business off the street.
It adorns the firm's letterheads and is printed on its business cards and advertisements. Chas Schwartz & Co. has proudly portrayed itself as "the store with the clock" since 1888. That image will continue when the clock moves with the store to Chevy Chase.
So the clock, as a valued symbol, will continue its usefulness for the store even after it has left downtown. But its 89-year-old charm will be gone from F Street.