Tran Duy Ly At the last Philadelphia Clock meeting, a friend came by and had a long chat.  When he left, I asked myself "Who was that?"

Now Mrs. Cresson emailed and said to clock collecting she is new.  She sees my name everywhere and asks "Who are you?"

So I ask you what should I do to give Mrs. Cresson an answer of reason?
In a message dated 1/3/01 11:14:23 PM, luke1313@juno.com writes:

<< Dear Mr. Ly -

Forgive my impulsive query - as a "new" enthusiast to horology I find your name everywhere and have a number of your books on my "wish list" for future gifts.

But..... I would like to know "who are you". Sorry for the stupid

question. I apologize - - I am sure you're probably up there with the

likes of "Harrison" or "Terry".

If its not to much trouble, could you get back to me?

Thanking you in advance,

A neophyte clock lover..........

Mrs. John Cresson



From Bill Mittlestadt, Sheboygan, WI


Dear Mrs. John Cresson:

First of all that was not a stupid question and secondly welcome to the world of horology. You will find this to be a very rewarding hobby and will meet some of the nicest people around. If you are not yet a member of the NAWCC (National

Association of Watch & Clock Collectors) you should seriously consider joining as this will open up many avenues of collecting which will enrich your knowledge of the hobby. Tran Duy Ly's books are considered the bible of clock collecting and for good reason as they have been meticulously written by Tran Duy Ly with the help of some of the most gifted people in the profession. Tran has been writing books on pricing clocks for almost 20 years and has amassed more knowledge on the subject that any one I know of. The person or persons that pointed you toward Tran Duy Ly have done you a favor as it was very sound advice. I hope this short note helps introduce you to Tran Duy Ly, a good friend of mine and fellow collector. William Mittelstadt who has been honored many times to contribute to his fine books.



From Bill Gregory, Johnson City, TN 

Dear Mrs. John Cresson,

The question "Who is Tran Ly" can be easily be answered by anyone affiliated with the NAWCC or familiar with the world of Horology.  For the past thirty years Tran Ly has compiled thorough, detailed, accurate information on clocks and transferred it into clear, precise, top quality masterpieces.  It only
takes a few moments of his time to easily see the wealth of knowledge he possesses.  I have only had the pleasure of knowing Tran Ly for almost one year now, and hope that I will continue to learn from him for years to come.


From John Tanner, Upland, CA  Clockfan@eee.org

"Tran Duy Ly:  successful immigrant, generous and patient father and husband, successful publisher of horological books and price guides.  Advanced collector of French, American and English clocks and novelties of importance.........



From Ron Price, Natick, MA  rprice@pricelessads.com

Wow, one of the most well known and respected persons in the antique clock business is Tran Duy Ly.  (You can quote me)  Don't you have a biography of your background?




From Rick Merritt, Douglassville, PA rickm914@msn.com

Dear Tran,

You are a husband, a father, Christian, author, researcher, clock collector, business owner, salesman, and friend.  This is my general answer.  But you are more than that.

You are ambitious, dedicated, loving, trustworthy, and you have a strong work ethic.  Your character and moral values are the highest.  Your generosity to your family is without question.  I admire your perseverance in pursuit of your objectives.  Too many people today have no perseverance.  If a task
appears too difficult, they give up.  You have made a very successful life in what used to be a foreign country to you with a different culture than you were accustomed.  You have achieved thus far in life far more than most American born people with more resources and a familiar culture.  That alone speaks to your character. 


I'm proud to know you Tran and will always be honored to call you my friend.  I realize with our busy schedules we don't take enough time to interact on a personal basis, but please know that if there is ever anything I can do for you or help you in any personal way, please call on me.

Best regards from your friend,



In a message dated 1/15/01 10:27:07 AM, theclockguy@clockguy.com writes:

My Dear Mrs. Cresson:

Inscribed on the East and West Pavillions of the US Post Office in Washington DC you will find the following:

"Carrier of news and knowledge, instrument of trade and commerce, promoter of mutual acquaintance among men and nations and hence of good will."

Such a statement is representative of the contribution Tran Duy Ly has made to the world of horology.  He is a wise and respected man. We should all be so fortunate to have others speak of us with such esteem!

Richard W. Oliver, Jr.
The Clock Guy - America's Antique Brokerage
Vista, CA



In a message dated 1/15/01 11:07:16 PM, Bbnawcc writes:

Who is Tran Duy Ly?

He is a very caring person who enjoys helping others. You have found a new avenue in your life, and met a great guy on your way.

Betty Brown
National Director-One of ten



In a message dated 1/29/01 4:55:07 PM, ky-clarky@webtv.net writes:

Dear Mrs. John Cresson,

I trust you will not mind this intrusion into your personal life but after reading your letter to Mr. Tran Duy Ly I knew I just had to express my feelings in a response to your question.

It is my private belief that in our wide spread horological world Tran must be considered a true "National Treasure".  His personal efforts and untiring energy has given us a fabulous library of horological literature which has taken our knowledge to ever increasing heights.  The scope and detail in his books is indeed awesome.

As far as our personal world is concerned, he is without a doubt an honored colleague whose tremendous generosity, perpetual cordiality, and supreme dedication to the association are truly unequalled.  I consider it a sincere distinction to be considered as being one of his friends.


From Tom & Sonya Spittler, New Carlisle, Ohio

Please tell Mrs. Cresson
that there is a reason
why your books are best
and not like the rest.

You give us the books
with the very best looks
packed with info inside
and a current price guide.

Dear Tran,

You are the most productive writer of American clock books ever.  Your undertaking of producing a book on each of the major Connecticut manufacturers is without equal and your books will stand the test of time for at least 100 years.

You are a man with unlimited dreams and ambition.  The fact that you have written 18 major books and reprinted countless old catalogs speaks to that ambition.  The fact that you have drafts of books on 400-day clocks, early longcase clocks, european clocks, international hanging clocks, cuckoo clocks, chronometers and early American clocks speaks of your dreams.

You are also blessed with a wonderful wife, Vicky, who manages all the day-to-day business and gives you time to pursue your dreams.


In a message dated 7/17/01 1:09:50 PM, Klockedout@aol.com writes:

    Tran Duy Ly should be the benchmark by which all of publications, no, all work efforts should be held; in no other single endeavor have I known of such comprehensive and exhaustive investigation.  I said single endeavor,... look at "His" list of his publications.  In his lifetime only after immigration did he compile THE MOST COMPREHENSIVE collection of published reference material in the world related to his field and interests!  His unsurpassed standards of excellence, accuracy, comprehension, and thoroughness, are only and all outweighed by the fact that he maintains the ability to continue a cohesive and friendly relationship with so many different people of so vastly different origins.  People, for the most part pale in their donation to mankind on such a worldly scale by comparison to Tran."

David Warner  FNAWCC -
Manchester, MO



In a message dated 5/18/01 6:14:20 AM, babzdrake@hotmail.com writes:

Dear Tran,

These emails are absolutely priceless.  And every one is true, from what I (who have been collecting clocks for only a few months) already know.  What I can add, from the few times we have met or spoken, is that you are a truly humble, enthusiastic expert, who has been helpful and friendly to me, as I try to learn about the subject to which you have devoted so many years.  It did not take me long at all to know why you are an icon in the clock-collecting community.
Barbara Drake


Dear Mrs. John Cresson,


If you are researching the history and value of a family heirloom clock, as I was, there is no need to waste a lot of time and energy. All roads will eventually lead you to the remarkable works of Tran Duy Ly. His efforts to document the major clock makers’ histories and productions are the gold standard. I am tempted to say he is a national treasure. But, that would shortchange his accomplishments, as well as his wife Vicky’s. They are INTERNATIONAL TREASURES!

David Brawley - Dallas, Texas


Dear Mrs. John Cresson,

After 23 years of collecting American regulators there has been one constant... Tran Duy Ly's reference books.  Without the primary sources which he has brought to the field of collecting and historical scholarship to Horology, I could never have established the collection I now have.  He has been indispensable to preserving our American clock heritage.
Ira Mizrach - Dix Hills, NY


Who is Tran Duy Ly?

Tran Duy Ly will stand tall among the noted horologists for generations to come for his unparalleled service to collectors of fine antique clocks.  Tran is a visionary who has taken action to document, in usable form, the vast body of knowledge that defines the unique characteristics of the many types and manufacturers of clocks.  His publications will be used to educate future horologists and guide them in building and enhancing their collections.  We are all indebted to Tran duy Ly for his service to each of us, individually and collectively.

Jerry Thornsberry - Kansas City, MO




"Kudos to my incredible father! I am so extremely proud of your accomplishments as an author but even more so as being the best father in the world! It still amazes me that someone with a third grade education has been so successful in his profession. I have witnessed you bring so much joy, laughter and appreciation to a vast array of collectors and friends and just the thought of it warms my heart. Thank you for allowing me over the years to learn and share in your endeavors. I still wonder how in the world you know so much about EVERYTHING! Not only clocks, but all of the years of landscaping, interior design, public relations, finance, computer literacy, etc. The list goes on and on. There is only one thing in the world you couldn’t possibly know and that is how very much I love you. Thanks dad!"

Bettina - Piney Plats, TN



"Tran Duy Ly - A successful, wise and respected man who followed his own path.

By Linda Vance Gordon

Some people know at a very young age where they want life to take them. For others, it’s a more random path, a chance meeting or impulsive decision sending them in another direction to an unknown destination.

Tran Duy Ly’s story is much like that. Born in Vietnam, he came to the United States in 1958 to work as an accountant at the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington, D.C. A few years later, problems in his homeland led him to request asylum in the United States and he retired from the embassy.

He needed to find a new way to earn his living. First, he tried his hand at being a bank teller, hoping to continue using his accounting background. That didn’t work out. With a smile on his face and laughter in his voice, he explains that while his employers said he didn’t make mistakes, he just wasn’t fast enough. His next job was as a meter reader but there was another problem. Turns out he wasn’t tall enough to read the meters.

Deciding his future might be in personal grooming, he enrolled in barber school. He had aptitude and was learning the trade when three months into his education, a licensed barber approached him about working in his shop. Surprisingly, the teacher agreed and he went to work even as he finished his training.

By the time the barber shop owner lost the lease on his shop, Ly had his barber license and decided to chart his own destiny. Eventually, he would own three barber shops in the Washington, D.C./Fairfax,Va. area and named his flagship operation, 'Diplomat – Hairstyling for Gentlemen.'

He charged $8.95 for a haircut at a time when other shops’ going rate was $2. His reasoning was that most of his customers were professionals, doctors and lawyers, who could afford the extra charge. And, they were pleased with the results, an

opinion illustrated when a customer told him, "Hairstyling is an art but hair cutting is done by an artist." That may be, but the free drinks he served from the bar he’d assembled from his days at the embassy didn’t hurt either.

When Ly and his first wife divorced, she left the Washington area and returned to Bristol, relocating their three daughters with her. Ly remained in Washington and would eventually remarry. His second wife, Vo Ngoc Ly, who came to the United States in 1975, didn’t want him to continue being a barber and he began selling IBM typewriters.

One day he paid a visit to a customer’s home in Maryland. The man, a lawyer, was an avid clock collector. With little idea that he was making a decision that would have momentous impact on his life, Ly bought three grandfather clocks. His intention was to keep the most expensive and sell the other two. But, two weeks later when an other collector offered him $2,000 for the clock he’d intended to keep, he decided a $1,500 profit was too good to turn down.

And, the next adventure of Tran Duy Ly’s life began. He and his wife, Vo would spend every weekend going to estate sales, auctions and moving sales looking for good buys. Sometimes they’d arrive at 4 a.m. to make sure they were first in line to get an entry number. At the 6 a.m. start, they’d race through and grab items.

Buying and selling clocks, gaining knowledge and experience as they did, he joined a national association and began going to conventions and shows to buy, sell and make contacts. At one such event, Ly made a deal with an author to take some reference books on consignment for which he’d get 50 percent of the sale. Later, he found out the dealer was underselling him and that’s when he decided he would write his own reference book.

"That was the beginning. When my book came out, everyone liked it," says Ly. For the next 30 years, he would compile thorough, detailed, accurate information on clocks and transfer it into 'clear, precise, top quality masterpieces,' praises one of his loyal customers. He became a recognized expert on varied American and imported clocks, delving into the world of horology, and producing valued reference guides for collectors.

About 13 years ago, he and Vo relocated to Johnson City to be near his daughters and their families. He sold most of his personal clock collection in the late ‘90s and he and Vo will only attend a couple of clock shows this year. He recently published the second edition of his work on Welch Clocks, which is his final book.

These days you’ll find him in his yard, directing work on an ambitious landscaping project. Many local people don’t know anything about his history but, in friendly East Tennessee fashion, have asked what kind of 'doctor' he is – curious about the man who wears an old set of hospital scrubs while in the garden. With an engaging grin, he’ll answer he’s a 'lawn doctor' with a specialty in 'landscaping.' "


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