Brittany Nicole Cox

Angelsey Abbey's Pagoda Clock

My name is Brittany Nicole Cox; some people call me Nico. I am an Antiquarian Horologist,  which is a fancy way of say “specialized mechanic”. More specifically, I am watch and clock maker that specializes in new making and the conservation and restoration of automata and mechanical musical objects.

Automata can include flowers, figures, animals, birds and more – made movable through gear combinations. Mechanical musical objects can include music boxes, barrel organs, and larger objects such as clock tower carillons with massive bells. I also work with complicated clocks and watches including musical mechanisms or automata.

I find it difficult to give an answer when someone asks me how I found my calling, but I always come to the following conclusion: I had no choice in the matter! I feel like a magician or doctor bringing inanimate objects to life: birds that sing! Monkeys that dance! Tigers that roar!   Just to name a few.

I feel extremely privileged to have the opportunity to bring a little magic into everyday life, and be part of this extraordinary world where so many wonderful things happen in every moment. Thank you for visiting my blog – I hope you’ll find some magic in these pages too.

93 responses

  1. Happy to have stumbled upon you. Perhaps you would be interested in a music box made by a king as a gift for honored friends. When operational, it played three district melodies in sequence. I’ve been told that in a restored condition it would be of historical value. To me, it’s the single remaining memento of my mother.
    Thank you for reading this.

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  2. I immediately forwarded the wonderful little video about you to my friend, Rob Ketcherside, with a note that said, “Seems like someone you would bump into in your circles.”
    He lives on Capital Hill and writes up articles (and a book) about the history of Seattle, including its clocks, which is what got him started
    http://www.zombiezodiac.com/rob/ped/clock/map.htm

    He used to lead folks on the Seattle Clock Walk to visit all the street clocks in the downtown core, but I don’t think he has done it in a while.

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    • Hi Scott, I’m surprised I have not met your friend Rob. Sounds like a wonderful endeavour. I’m so glad there is someone in Seattle with such an interest offering such a tour! I’ll check out his book.

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  3. Good morning Nico, if I may call you that. I hust ran across the short video detailing your work. How fascinating!!! Earlier in my career I worked as a mechanic, albeit with larger pieces of aluminum and cast iron, and have always had an interest in how things work. You must have acute eyesight, manual dexterity and great skill, not to mention a real appreciation for intricate assemblies and how they interact. And machinist skill as well… wow!! And I am daunted considering resurrecting a pair of Gustave Becker 400 day clocks. Years ago I saw a tremendously intricate automaton on the internet, I don’t recall all the details, but I seem to recall it was birds. What is the most intricate automaton you have ever worked on or seen?

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    • Hi Ian – thanks so much! It’s been a lifelong interest and pursuit of mine. The most intricate automaton I have worked on, in depth, was a pagoda clock with multiple tiers of blooming flowers that grew and spun.

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  4. Hi! I saw your video- your work looks wonderful. I’m a paper conservator and I’m actually wondering where did you get your fantastic magnified lenses from? I’d love to trade up- mine are so ugly!

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  5. Your skills are absolutely extraordinary. Do you sell any pieces that you build or fix? My daughters 19th birthday is coming up and she loves steam punk and intricate/ aged pieces of jewellery and art, and I would love to get her something unique. Do you have anything like this for sale?

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    • Thanks so much Sallie! I do have pieces for sale, but no automata. Mostly small novelty guilloché items, such as spinning tops that draw.

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  6. I came across your video and love it! I have a little bird in a cage that my grandmother handed down that looked and sounds like the one in your video. With that cardinal song ( well at least I think it’s a cardinal) it is a Hummel? It gets so dusty and the leave are just velvet fabric and the birds feathers are faded. Every once in Swahili I take a small paint dry brush to dust them off. But I don’t dare do anything else in fear I break anything. Is that to much? Do you have a shop? Do you make any creations of your own?

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    • Hi Noel, Thanks so much! I would keep the cage under a glass dome to keep it free of dust. Unfortunately, as feathers age they loose the natural lubricant that was present when they were on a living bird. I do have a workshop, but it is not open to the public. I’d be happy to make an appointment for you to bring the bird in if you’d like. I do make all kinds of things, and am currently working on a series of automata.

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  7. I have a 102 year old Regina pocket watch, my grandfathers.
    It’s value is sentimental. It runs but only a couple hours. My guess is the main spring is weak.
    Brittany, are you able to take a look at the watch?
    Dennis

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  8. I have a cuckoo clock that is from the 1800’s, given to my grandfather then to me. I took it to a clock shop and they said they fixed it but $300 later it still does not work. I would love to have it work again. I have never seen it work correctly, can you help? Thank you, Teai

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  9. I just wanted to say you are amazing!!!!! Such a fasinating field!!!!! Soooo interesting. The sheer beauty of these devices from the past blows me away!!! I hope you have an amazing day! I know you have made my day!!! 😀😀😀😀😀😀😀

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  10. Hi Brittany,

    Just amazing, perfect combination of knowledge, talent, art, patience and good observation. It is like witnessing a miracle. I am speechless.

    Kind regards,
    Serkan Aran

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  11. You are amazing! I have seen a singing bird box at an antique sale venue. It was breathtaking. Also saw an automaton in the back room of M. S. Rau, in New Orleans. Feel very lucky to have seen them both. Love the Kenneth Snowman book on Gold Boxes. You mentioned novelty spinning tops that draw. Do you still make them? Would love to hear you speak! If you ever do a talk in the Los Angeles area I would love to attend!

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    • Hi Faye, thank you so much for the kind words! Automaton are really some of the most amazing objects. M. S. Rau also has a number of bird boxes – so if you’re ever out that way again you should pop back in. I do still make the tops and am working on getting them up in the shop for sale. I do make it down to LA every now and again. I may give a talk at some point at the MJT. If you haven’t been there – you should certainly check it out! It’s my favorite museum.

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  12. Amazing !!! Fascinating things you do. I would really like to meet you for coffe or something. I really like what you do and would be great to meet you one day and have a chat.
    Kind regard
    Victor Victone

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  13. I blundered onto a YouTube about you and your work and loved it. As a camera repairman of over 45 years I understand your calling and the satisfaction you receive puzzling out a machine and the amazing minds that created these fantastic Horological masterpieces. George Daniels was one of my inspirations many many years ago.
    Post more videos about your work. The world needs inspiration from masters like you.

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    • Thanks so much Frank! I’m glad you found the blog and have a shared interest. I’ve been remiss in posts lately, but I will try to do some videos when I have time. George Daniels was an incredible horologist.

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  14. Hi Brittany,
    I really enjoyed watching that video of you. I did not know this was actually a course you could take to do this. I am extremely fascinated by automata. Was hoping we could get in contact and chat a bit. Would love to hear from you.

    Kind regards,
    Justin Michaud

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    • Thanks Justin. Yes, it is though not a very straightforward one. Feel free to get in touch via my contact page and I hope I can point you in the right direction.

      Best wishes,
      Brittany

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  15. Hi Nicole,
    You are one of a kind. Your attention to detail is amazing. Keep up the great work. What is your message to anyone who wants to get into serious work as yours.
    Thanks
    Best Regards
    Kamaldeep Marwaha

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    • Hi Kamaldeep, Thank you so much for getting in touch; I really appreciate your kind words. I have put together some info on my FAQ page about schools/publications to look into if you’re serious about getting into this work. I hope that proves useful for you and if not, please send me an email through my contact page and I hope I can point you in the right direction.

      Best wishes,
      Nicole

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  16. It’s not often I see something on the internet that inspires me to write a response. This did because I’ve been involved in all things mechanical since I could turn a screwdriver. My life is surrounded by things to tinker with. Pinball machines and aircraft are my latest thing. Your craft fits right in with Adam savages kind of content. It would be amazing to see a video tour of your shop. Have you ever done work for the movie and television industry. Watchmaking always reminds me of the old time practical effects methods.

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    • Hi Daryl, I’m a huge fan of pinball! So it sounds like we have a bit in common! No, I’ve never done anything with the television industry, but who knows what the future holds!

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  17. Hi just wanted to know if you could help me out, I have a coo coo clock from Belgium that was made in like the 60/70s that stopped working some time ago. I’ve been trying to get it fixed but every clock machanic I call or get into contact with won’t touch the thing just wanted to know if you could help make it functional again it holds a lot of value to me and my family. Thank you Stephen Frauman

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  18. Like many others, I found my way here from your “Great Big Story” feature. Just wanted to stop in and say how inspiring your work is- the story really got me pumped up and gave me some much needed motivation. Keep rocking!

    -Jesse

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    • Hi Jesse, Thanks so much! I’m so glad you stopped by to say hello. I really appreciate the kind words.

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  19. I LOVE what you do. Hire me!
    Seriously, I restore classic and antique BMWs for a living. Not quite your level of tiny, but equal in the demand for perfection. I so understand what drives you. I admire your work that I have seen. What a thrill it is to take dysfunction and return it to operation, yes?
    And were I not 63y/o, I would seriously beg to be your apprentice.

    Like

    • Hi Jenn, thanks so much for getting in touch and for the kind words! What a wonderful vocation you have too. I love classic cars! It’s never too late to start. I know plenty of people who have started to study horology much later in life.

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  20. Your amazing.. im starting to collect ..in my home town the museum is lovely building.. but empty .. im puting few things together to donate to the children of Puerto Rico.. there about to close 187 school on island . Sad times.. for the children of Puerto Rico. I felt if i at least could give something back .inspired by past to look to the future. I have a question..are there any books that teach skills to repair. ? I like to learn ..i have few Victoria and other items . That need T.L.C.

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    • Thanks so much Arieo. How wonderful that you are donating to your local museums there. I believe the preservation of cultural heritage is absolutely paramount. Regarding books for repair, almost any publication by Britten or Donald de Carle are very helpful. I have recommended two books on making and one on history on my FAQ page.

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  21. Hi Nico,
    I am writing from the Horological Society of New York. ( hs-ny.org ) We are the oldest watchmakers guild in the US. We would like to invite you to attend one of our lectures or to come and speak. Please have a look at our website.
    Best regards, Ed Hydeman

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    • Hi Ed, Thank you so much for your consideration. I am familiar with your organization and am honoured to be considered for a lecture. It would be wonderful to attend a meeting if I find myself in New York. Please get in touch via email: bcox@mechanicalcurios.com to discuss this further. I look forward to hearing from you. Best regards, Brittany N Cox

      Like

  22. Love your work! I have always loved old clockwork pieces and have a collection of old clocks and pocket watches, even one from the 1700’s that still times. Wish I had the talent for working on these things, they are marvels of human engineering!

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    • Thanks so much David, I really appreciate the kind words. I couldn’t agree more. I feel lucky to work with such treasure every day.

      Like

  23. Hi Nico,

    I just saw a video of you on Facebook. My father worked on antique clocks as a hobby for himself and for hire. When I was a kid my house rang so loud every hour and if a clock was a minute off, he was there to correct it. Unfortunately my father passed away before he could share any of his knowledge with me. I would like to pick this craft up as a hobby. Can you direct me to an apprenticeship program or other means of learning?

    Thank you,

    Ashley

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    • Hi Ashley, Thanks for getting in touch. I am so sorry to hear your father passed away before sharing his vocation with you. I have answered a lot questions along these lines on my FAQ page. If you feel you’d like more direction after you’ve looked there, go ahead and get in touch with me via the contact page and I hope I can point you the right direction. Very best, Brittany

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  24. I just saw your post on face book. I wish I had visited you last timebi was on Seattle. I’m a tool and die maker and seeing what you do gives me the utmost respect for your vocation. Perhaps at some time in the future I can visit your shop.

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  25. Dear Nico
    Love your work. As a dentist just retired I know that such work can be very tiring. May I suggest you use loupes and a light attachment so you will not suffer eye strain. It is a lifesaver for dentists. Check this out or contact me for more info.

    Like

    • Thank you so much! I’d be glad for any recommendations on eyewear you have. I do use loops, but am always interested in what others use.

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  26. Your work and of course your self are facinating, if they leftme to repair like this I would never leave the shop, always one more to be saved, always one more to be tepaired to endure the ages. Your level there is traped in a construct, often the pinicale representation of a person’s life time erned skills, a mechanical creation ment be repared and maintined for lifetimes, a thing created with a conservation of materials though its permanace. These historical items tell so many stories and give and preserve so much instruction and knowlage as to almost bring about a desperation in myself to repair them in an unalterd correct form of repair as dictated by the signature of creation. That being said,it makes me smile that you are here to carry that on as my eyesight falters along with my hearing. I try to teach these things to my students, but few see it, and fewer would even dare to walk that path, but I still try.
    Steven M Anderson
    Aka Nik Gandt of SL

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    • Thank you so much for the kind words Steven. I consider it a privilege to work on such beautiful and intricate objects.

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  27. Hi Brittany!
    I have a musical box that belonged to my parents and it’s broken. I’m sure you can fix it but I’m not sure if the price will be too high for me.
    Let me know what to do next. I’m in Miami.
    Thank you!
    Lana

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  28. It is important in every generation to have individuals who will keep these crafts alive, just as it is important to perform live classical music. I like Rolaag Minnesota where individuals are keeping 19th century farm equipment and steam engines running. The best exhibit is the steam driven carousel with complete calliope band .

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  29. How does one study for antiquarian horogy?
    What you do is actually the basics for what we now call mechatronics.

    I’d like to learn more (don’t need another technical degree, though) about antiquarian horology.

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    • Unfortunately there is not one place you can go to learn antiquarian horology. I am a specialist, but started off with watchmaking and then studied clockmaking. A list of resources can be found on the sidebar of the blog. That’s a good place to start.

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  30. Hi Brittany ,
    I came across a video of buoy via facebook . I have always been fascinated with automaton and clock mechanisms . I see you are in Washington as well. Is it possible to see your work or a a tour ? I would find it more exciting then diving. Also reading a previous reply to another post where might we be able to see your pieces to purchase? Thank you for choosing your profession and keeping “Real” craftsmanship alive.

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    • Thank you so much Roy! I am working on an e-commerce section of my page that I hope to incorporate soon. Diving sounds very fascinating. I have always admired cave divers – as I enjoy a bit of spelunking myself. I don’t currently offer tours, but do teach classes.

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      • I hold classes in my workshop here in Seattle, Washington. If you sign up for the newsletter on the class page you’ll receive an announcement there first.

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  31. Hi Brittany. I saw what you do in a short video. If I won the lottery, I would love to learn what you do. It would help satisfy the mechanical and creative urges that lie undeveloped and tug within me. It is awesome that you preserve the art and mechanical wonders of a time that has moved on. I hope your craft allows you to continue what you do and also allow you to enjoy it at the same time for many years to come.

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    • Hi Dustin, It’s never too late to learn! I am still learning every day. I can’t imagine my life without these things – so I’m sure I will continue the work as long as I am able. Thanks so much!

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  32. Your work makes me want to visit you and listen to your restoration work over coffee and see some of these magical wonders. I found a video by accident and it is inspiring. Thank you for bringing back old mechanics and keeping them alive.

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    • I do have things that I have made for sale – such as novelty spinning tops that draw, mineral stands, and other guilloche items. I do not have any antiquities for sale.

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  33. I AM HONORED TO HAVE READ ABOUT YOU . YOU ARE A GREATNESS FROM THE PAST . THAT LIGHTENS THE FUTURE OF OUR PAST . THANK YOU !

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  34. I watched your video through a Facebook link, and visited your web site. The world is a better place because you exist in it to help us remember what it was.

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  35. Nico, I just viewed the video about you and your work. I am curious. Where did you get your training and schooling? My husband and have collected clocks for more than 30 years and we’d like to get more training in fixing our antique clocks.

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    • Hi Caroljeanne, I went through 9 years of training as a jeweler, watchmaker, clockmaker, and conservator. All of my education can be seen on my CV – a link to which is at the bottom of the about page. Thank you for your interest!

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  36. Aloha Nico,
    What a great piece about you and your work. It’s great to see this work being done outside of Switzerland; especially in the USA. I’ve spent many hours at the IMH museum in La Chaux de Fonds staring at their collection- I agree: it’s the original AI. I created the worlds smallest atomic clock but I’m isolated here on Kauai. I really wish I had someone like you to collaborate with and get help with the difficulties of building such tiny machines by hand. I’d love to speak with you further if you have a chance. All the best and please keep these treasures alive!

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    • Hi John, Thank you! It’s been a long journey, but I feel extremely privileged to work with the objects I do. They have the most wonderful objects that collection! I’d love to see your atomic clock! Feel free to write me an email at bcox@mechanicalcurios.com to talk about your projects!

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  37. Thank you for what you do! I recently became fascinated with automatons (and have always had an interest in antique clocks). They are indeed magical transformations of inanimate objects made to mimick living things so beautiful. I also love the old ways of how things were made, old tools and traditional techniques. What you do is truly unique and inspiring. What a great way to reconnect with the past. If I were to be a mechanic, I would want to be a 17th century mechanic like you!

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    • Thank you so much for the very kind words! I really appreciate it. I’m so glad we share these interests – please stay engaged and curious with horology! The world is a beautiful place.

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  38. My dad started working on clocks as a hobby while he was in Germany. Some years later he got me interested, and I learned how to repair/fix mantle and wall clocks. I saw the recent video posted. You are really AWESOME.

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    • Thank you so much Michael! I’m so glad you grew up knowing these things. They are precious and the world needs stewards!

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  39. Brittany,

    I saw your story on CNN. Fantastic! My son is going to college to become a mechanical engineer and I plan to share with him.

    PLEASE keep up the great work.

    All the best,

    Ron

    Like

  40. My grandfather taught me to work with my hands in his shop and now I work on helicopters. I admire the work you do and would love to see you work I. Your shop for a month. Your work is too cool .

    Like

    • Thanks so much for the kind words! I love stories like this – how wonderful that you went on to work on helicopters!

      Like

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