This page will feature some informative, unusual and interesting details associated with timepieces.
Tandem Wind Clocks
Came across a Cyma Sonomatic V8 Swiss made 15 jewels lever movement alarm clock. What intrigued me was the winding system. One winding key winds the alarm and also the movement by turning to the right for the alarm and turning to the left for the time. This means you do not have to wind up the clock after the alarm rings - the alarm only runs for 12-15 seconds and will ring 12 hours later.
Zenith a quality Swiss watch company established in 1865 used this tandem system with their later clocks. The 8-day desk clock shown is a great example. Interestingly Zenith has developed 600 movement variations and filed 300 patents for its designs.
This unique tandem design was patented In 1886 by the Boston Clock Company of Chelsea Massachusetts. The firm was a large producer of imitation French carriage and mantel clocks utilizing a quality movement with a platform escapement.
Kent Water Flow Meter and Recorder.
While in Christchurch NZ, I stumbled across this instrument in a collector’s backyard. These Kent Venturi flow meters supported on a heavy cast iron pedestal were used in Council pumping stations round Australia and NZ in the early 1900’s to measure and record city water flow usage.
The glass cabinet contains the clock (usually a quality English movement), a Kent gallons indicator and a recording drum. A pen maps the daily water flow on to the drums graph paper. The clocks role is to govern the rotation of the drum that could be set for either one or seven days. The clock has a one second dead beat escapement with a 1 meter length pendulum and heavy bob requiring a spring over-swing absorbing device.
1920’s TORK Mechanical Timer with the Clock made by Ansonia.
Concealed in this coffin styled lockable metal case is a single pole 250V electric switch made by the TORK Co. New York and a brass clock movement made by Ansonia. Suitable for any on/off electrical equipment, it was used mostly as a timer by a shop owner to turn the lights on in their store window at night.
The case cover with an owl image suggests this timer was to be used at night. It could be set for the same time daily or at scheduled intervals. The clock uses a crank type brass key and requires 80 turns to fully wind (for 10 days) or if wound weekly only 45 turns. To set the time one has to remove the dial.
The TORK brand continues to be sold today.
WESTCLOX Australia Pty Ltd. – acknowledging another Australian Company.
Westclocx is known for clocks produced in Scotland, Canada, and the USA. A less-known fact is that Australia had a factory in Auburn, Melbourne from 1946. Employing 235 workers it was closed in 1953 because of the high labour costs - reportedly at 60% of the finished cost. Here it manufactured four types of alarm clocks –
Bell Bird – the ‘functional’ pattern. Cased in Ivory plastic with plain or luminous dial.
Lark – ‘Popular reliable alarm’ in metal cases - Ivory, Green, Bronze, Oyster Grey & Black. Plain or luminous dial.
Shelby – ‘modern & dependable’ – in Mahogany with plain or luminous dial or an Ivory finish with plain dial.
Kiwi – ‘Made for the modernx’ - square metal case Ivory, Green, Bronze or Oyster Grey. Plain or luminous dial.
Flying Pendulum Novelty Clock (Ignatz).
The first Flying Pendulum clock was patented by Christian Clausen of Minneapolis in 1883. It was manufactured by the New Haven Clock Co. for one year (1884/85) under the name of Jerome & Co. Few were sold - most used by jewellers to attract passing shoppers. In 1935 Dr. Powell a noted clock collector nicknamed this “craziest clock in the world” Ignatz – after the name of the mouse in the American comic strip Krazy Kat which ran from 1913-1944.
From 1959 – 1979, the Horolovar Company revived this clock with the movement made in West Germany and then cased by Horolovar in Bronxville, NY.
The Horolovar manual winding clock shown, operates with a ‘flying pendulum’ escapement. A small metal ball on the end of a string rotates, wrapping round a brass post, then unwinds and repeats this process on the other brass post. It was not a good time keeper but certainly rates highly as a collectors novelty item.
Gravity Clock by the Kee-Less Clock Co. of London.
Made by Watson & Webb in the 1920’s, this unusual 30hour timepiece runs on gravity. First displayed at the Crystal Palace British Industry Fair in 1920 they were marketed as a revolution with no keys no springs, silent and fewer parts all for only 20/-. In 1921 the USA obtained patents and these clocks were made under licence by Ansonia New York to 1930.
Winding the clock is achieved by lifting the circular brass cased body up the two vertical side columns – the clocks weight falling acts as the spring. The right-side column has a rack connecting to the great wheel pinion allowing the clock to slowly descend. The mechanism uses a compound pendulum that has a small brass round bob on each end. At 26cm high the black dial, visible escapement and reverse painted Arabic numbers on the glass makes this clock very collectible.
The Waralarm by Westclox.
Alarm clocks fulfill a vital role in waking up people so they get to work on time. The production of alarm clocks in America had been halted from 1942 by the War Production Board (WPB) as a wartime economy measure. Alarm clock production had strict conditions. The WPB allowed a purchase if you had a real need, not just a want, wish or whim! The cost was set at $1.65 for spring-wind and $4.95 for electric models. Clocks could not be advertised or have their company name on them. The few companies prepared to produce such clocks were Gilbert, Telechron, Hammond and Westclox. The result was only 1.7million alarm clocks were made in 1942 – down from 12million/year.
With materials so restricted and scarce, clocks were limited to no more than 7 pounds of brass for every 1000 clocks (normally 300 pounds of brass to 1000 clocks). The movement plates had to be thin aluminium and cases were generally made of pressed wood fibre. The alarm hammer struck a plate instead of a bell.
Westclox produced three Waralarm styles – the rectangular fibre case, a round metal case (both made from 1943) and the Baby Ben made from 1944. The one featured here is the first type. From La Salle, Illinois this 30hour key wind weighs in at only 300gms. Dimensions – 130mm x 140mm x50mm. Etched on the back is the date 14/4/44. The lack of brass in the movement shows up clearly.
The Clock Hotel - corner of Paradise Blvd. and Elkhorn Ave. Surfers Paradise.
Found here is a rather quaint older hotel with a unique clock. Before it strikes a parade of four Australian figures (kangaroo, emu, swag man and koala) emerge from behind a door on the right above the clock taking just over a minute to glide round as bells play.
Then the clock will strike the hour. The bells are music played through a speaker system. To see this clock in action, watch the video above.
The floor in the foyer to the gaming part of this hotel is decorated by a large terracotta imprint of a clock dial.
War Memorial Clock Towers – remembering ANZAC Day 25 April 2020.
At Goomeri 172km North of Brisbane is this memorial to the 9 locals who died in WW1. The 23m tower was erected in 1940 by the RSL at a cost £700. A plaque was added after WW11 with the names of the 12 locals who lost their lives. The clock with four dials illuminated at night unexpectedly has no numbers. Instead numbers are replaced on each of the four dials by the 12 letters reading ‘LEST WE FORGET”. The ‘L’ is positioned at 10 when most parades start in our capital cities. Read clockwise for 'Lest We' and anticlockwise for 'Forget'. It was put on the Queensland Heritage Register in 1992. "We will remember them".
The Old Ipswich Town Hall and the mystery of its blank Clock Apertures.
This was a question asked recently by a club member. In 1901, Ipswich had two tower clocks side by side. The oldest was the Town Hall, built between 1861 and 1879. The building designed by Francis Stanley had a 4-dial clock made by Gillett and Johnston of Croydon in England and was installed in 1879. It was also one of the first clocks in Australia to be illuminated by a gas flame (which turned out to be a problem as the heat from the burners occasionally stopped the clocks mechanism).
Fast forward to 1901 when the GPO next door decided to erect a new building with an even taller tower to house a clock. For the next 11 years both clocks stood side by side rarely telling the same time – much to the annoyance of city workers. This situation ended in 1913 when the Ipswich Council sold their clock for £60.10s to Herga & Co. of Brisbane. It was put into the Sandgate Library clock tower in 1923 - one of the oldest working clocks in Queensland.
A black & white snap from 1902 - the Town Hall and behind it the Post Office, both with working clocks.
The Town Hall is still standing (it is now an Art Gallery) and in 1992 put on the Queensland Heritage Register. The mystery of the blank apertures has been answered.
NZ’s worst-looking Public Clock Tower.
Located in Nelson this clock tower is claimed to be NZ’s ugliest. Most refer to it as an appalling edifice, brutalist, inappropriate, a monstrosity!
The 1906 original structure had a clock tower built for the Nelson Post Office by John Taylor and Co. of England. The clock had a similar designed mechanism to London’s Big Ben with four dials and five bells and a 5 metre drop for the weights to operate. It was Nelson's signature landmark.
Demolished in 1970 because of earthquake damage and the high cost of renovation, the new building would house Nelson’s Civic Centre and the GPO. The only design requirement was to reinstall the four old clock dials and bells. Objections delayed its construction and it was not until 1981 that the last hurdle - a dispensation from height requirements was granted allowing the “futuristic pipe structure” to be built.
What do you think? Do you have an ‘ugly’ clock tower in your city/country? You are welcome to submit a picture via the ‘contact’ page and I can include it here.
The Arts and Crafts Movement and American Mission Style Architecture.
As a response to the ‘soul-less’ machine-made production of the Industrial Revolution a new movement emerged in the late 1900’s. Starting in Britain it was known as the Arts and Crafts Movement where simple and stylish work was handcrafted out of metal, glass and wood. Clean lines, sturdy structure and natural materials were the characteristics of this architecture. Evolving from this was the American Mission style which emphasised simple vertical and horizontal lines with flat panels to highlight the grain of the wood – usually oak.
A perfect example of this style was brought to me recently. It was an 8-day mechanical time only clock needing a service. Made by Sessions the case was also in poor condition. This time piece showed all the qualities of the Arts and Crafts Mission Movement. It had the clean lines of nailed vertical oak slats and brass Arabic numerals and hands on a wooden dial. The open design uses a wooden box to house the movement and so keep dust out. The craftmanship look of simplicity, utility and elegance.
The Old Windmill in Brisbane and its Time Ball Clock.
The Old Windmill (see Snapshots) used to drop a time ball between the years 1861-1866 and then from 1894 - 1930 at 1pm daily. This was based on observations relayed by telegraph from Sydney to allow captains of ships moored on the Brisbane River to set their chronometers. All stations needed an accurate clock to do this task.
While viewing this historic building once a place to punish the convicts, a video was playing which revealed the very clock used here. The astronomical regulator had the name Victor Kullberg on the dial.
Victor (1824 – 1890) was a Swedish clock maker who moved to London in 1851. He became one of England’s premier chronometer makers winning many awards. The whereabouts of this clock is unfortunately unknown.
The Blumbergville clock at Boonah 68km SW of Brisbane.
This four tonne 5½ metre town clock was installed in 2014 and was given the original name of today’s Boonah. It combines art and horology in a novel way commemorating the town’s recovery from the serious floods of 2011 & 2013.
Creator Chris Trotter used recovered and donated farm equipment for this sculpture and David Bland, a member of our club, built the electrical clock. On the quarter hour it makes farm animal noises - a very unique and quirky clock.