Charlotte clockmaker Jim VanOrsdel was visiting the UNC Chapel Hill campus in 1986 when he noticed each of its four clock faces was showing a different time.
He pointed out the problem to university administrators and was hired to restore it.
“It remained one of my favorite projects over the years,” said VanOrsdel, owner of The Clock Shop.
UNC dedicated the 172-foot Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower in 1931 as the bells serenaded guests with “The Old North State” and other songs.
Four years ago, VanOrsdel's affection for the university icon triggered an idea: a desk top replica that would rekindle memories for UNC alumni.
Tar Heels can understand where he's coming from.
They gather on football game days to climb the tower – 2,000 went up last year.
And during my days at Carolina, university clubs used it as a backdrop for yearbook photos. On football weekends it was an ideal meeting place. Seniors assembled there on graduation day to walk into Kenan Stadium.
VanOrsdel notes that about 95 percent of campuses have clock towers, hopes to someday expand the concept and go national.
The UNC bell tower sales campaign is scheduled to begin with an ad in the November-December issue of the Carolina Alumni Review.
Souvenir companies market everything from T-shirts to captain's chairs to Carolina students and alumni.
UNC Chapel Hill was No. 6 in collegiate merchandise sales on the Collegiate Licensing Co.'s most recent list of institutions.
VanOrsdel began pursuing his idea in earnest just over a year ago, conducting market research, exploring licensing and finding a manufacturer.
The prototype didn't please him, and he spent about four months fine tuning the design to create a 15-inch high replica that sits on a two-inch wood base. It has four working clocks around the top.
VanOrsdel formed a subsidiary named Campus Clocks (firstname.lastname@example.org) to market the mini tower and recently finalized a licensing agreement that gives UNC a share of the proceeds.
He plans to sell numbered replicas in a 500-piece limited edition for $149 each, including batteries, shipping, handling and insurance.
VanOrsdel began restoring clocks as a hobby more than 30 years ago.
His business, The Clock Shop at 4219-4 Providence Road in the Strawberry Hill shopping center, specializes in antique timepieces and tower clocks.