Essentially Key Biscayne: John White

This clock collector knows what makes an antique tick.

John White

For Key Biscayne resident John White, hurricane season has a few additional complications. Because while storms threaten all our island’s homes, White’s also happens to be filled with an antique clock collection he’s been building for over 40 years. So each summer, before the tropical seas even think about stirring, White packs up his timepieces — some weighing as much as 150 pounds — and places them into secure locations throughout South Florida.

“I became interested in clocks because they’re mechanical and they’re attractive,” he says. “They do more than tell time. Each one is actually a piece of artwork.”

White, 67, can’t say exactly how many clocks he owns — estimating they number over 100 — but has by now amassed an antique army that occupies its own room in his Mashta Drive residence. Bronze figures line sturdy wooden shelves, sit in thick glass cases and stand tall from their carefully appointed positions on the floor. White refuses to pick a favorite but he’s particularly proud of several, including a French piece build in 1820 that has a sweep second hand (that means the hand motions continuously around the dial every minute,) a full calendar marking the month and day, and boasts the mean time used by the Royal Observatory in Greenwich England (for the uninitiated, that’s actually the time we see on our own clocks and cell phones every day) and also the solar time displayed on a sundial.

A French Industrial clock
“Now I’m keen on French industrial clocks that came out after the industrial revolution in the mid to late 1800s,” he says. “They depict all the machines of that time, such as a train or a lighthouse. And each one is a piece of history,”

White’s interest in antique clocks started over 45 years ago when he was a college student enrolled at the University of Miami spending a summer in New Hampshire. There, he worked at a race track that owned by an antique dealer.

“He would walk down old roads and knock on doors to see if people had anything to sell,” remembers White. “I’d just tag along for the ride.”

Eventually, the clocks caught his eye and he started his own collection with Americana pieces, later turning his interest on those crafted in Europe. He moved to Key Biscayne in 1966 and now lives here with his wife, Nancie Serpico White, their two young sons, and the family’s pets – which include two dogs and six cats (one, according to Serpico White, has seemingly upgraded to a waterfront home but is welcome back at any time.) And of course, the clock collection from all over the world.

“It’s magnificent,” says, Serpico White. “People come from all over to look at it but he won’t tell you that. He’s very knowledgeable but he’s also very humble.”

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