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.
Thomas Given of Ipswich
I came across this elegant 1.5m drumhead regulator clock hanging on the wall of a local business. It features a deadbeat escapement and a mercury compensated pendulum. The name Thomas Given Ipswich inscribed on the dial dates it back to the late 19th Century.
Given's Jewellery shop in Ipswich. Picture from 1880's.
Mercury compensated pendulums were designed to compensate for temperature variations. This invention dates back to George Graham in 1721. The way it works is basically simple. When temperature rises, the metal pendulum rod gets longer but the mercury in the two glass vials expands upwards so keeping the period of swing constant.
Thomas, a migrant from Ireland arrived in Australia in 1855 where he settled in Ipswich establishing a business in Brisbane Street as a jeweller and watchmaker. He passed away in 1890.
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.
John Heron 1772 – 1837 from Greenock in Scotland.
A club member can trace his genealogy back to this renown silverware, clock and watchmaker of Greenock - a small town 32km from Glasgow on the mouth of the Clyde river. By chance two years ago, a John Heron clock was listed for sale in Sydney. This clock is now reunited back in the hands of family as a treasured heirloom.
An 8day mahogany cased Grandfather clock c1810 with a recoil escapement, elegant Roman numeral dial with seconds and date sub dials and a bell to strike the hours.
John Heron also made chronometers submitting examples to the Greenwich Observatory for testing. This letter written in 1801 accompanying one of his clocks stated he was “well-known as a chronometer maker to most of the reputable makers in London”.
John also had Greenock’s Observatory purpose-built for him in 1819. The accuracy of his chronometers could now be checked. Free of the customary feu-duty, he only paid a small rent. The octagonal building had two apartments – the Western part was a library and sitting room. The Eastern part was the observatory room containing the telescopes and a sidereal regulator which had the new detent or detached escapement providing the accuracy needed for astronomic study.
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.
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 Workshops Rail Museum Ipswich
Covering 24 hectares this site has been operating as a rail con-struction and maintenance facility since the early 1800’s. The home for blacksmiths, metal workers, painters and carpenters, the Workshops have played a vital role in Queensland Rail. Over 200 steam locos have been built here. In 2002 the Workshops opened as a museum experience with 15 interactive exhibitions, a childs playground featuring Thomas the Tank Engine, model railways, restored locomotives, carriages and other related memorabilia.
The club visited here in 2017. For many, memories of our steam days were reignited and the kids were also totally entertained. Railways have always relied on the accuracy of time-tables. It was not therefore unexpected to see many examples of early time-pieces.
On display there were several synchronome slave clocks, a master clock and a conductor’s pocket watch. A memorable day for all.
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.
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.
A Night Watchman’s Clock made by Gent & Co. of Leicester.
Recently I came across a Gents Watchman’s clock with a plaque reading Barton White & Co. Brisbane. Located in Edison Lane they were the first to supply electricity to Brisbane in 1888 specifically to the GPO and the Government Printing Office. Such clocks would be located in the main office enabling the manager to track the night watchman. The clock has an 8-day fusee movement with 6 stations that can be plotted on to a chart. I suspect a drawer has been added to the base.
Established in 1872, Gents was a well-known manufacturer of electrical equipment especially electric clocks used in railway stations and public buildings. A Night Watchman’s clock, or Tell-Tale clock, could record from 3 to 100 stations. Doors, gates or rooms would be checked each night by a watchman to ensure they were locked. During his rounds he would insert a key into a contact box which was wired back to the main clock. Turning the key would activate a marker to leave an ink dot on the revolving paper chart. This paper record would then be used to verify the number of places the watchman had visited or missed on his rounds.
Nelson's Public Clock Tower.
This clock tower is claimed to be NZ’s worst looking public clock. 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 - a modern marvel or modern mistake?
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 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.
The Redlands Museum at Cleveland displays an exciting array of yesteryear memorabilia. Of interest is the George Clauson regulator clock used in The Old Observatory in Brisbane from 1897 and a fretwork clock. This museum, with hundreds of items is well worth a visit.
The Telstra Museum
This museum has on show 150 years of Brisbane telegraphic and telephone history. One can see switchboards, photographs, telephones, teleprinters, morse senders, receivers and Post Office memorabilia. Also there is a small theater with a 20 minute review of the history of this industry.
Of interest to the club is a collection of horological items. Several Brisbane Synchronous Electric clocks are displayed - a Gents of Leicester, a Magneta Ltd of Leatherhead in Surrey plus time clocks for trunk calls. It is truly an unforgettable hands-on experience with guides happy to explain all. The display can be viewed at 3 Oriel Road Clayfield Brisbane. A donation to view is appreciated - open only on Wednesdays.
Brisbane Maritime Museum
The HMAS Diamantina in the Dry Dock and in its engine room below a Smiths Astral amongst Begg and Grieg engine room controls.
This museum is alongside the South Brisbane heritage listed Dry Dock and the HMAS Diamantina – a River Class Frigate. The Dry Dock closed in 1972 after 90 years of maintaining and repairing over 50 submarines and 100 warships. From 1900 – 1925, the dry dock was also Brisbane’s championship swimming venue where a world record for the 100yards was set in 1903 by R. Cavill.
The museum, opened in 1971, has many displays including model ships, nautical equipment, lighthouses, exhibitions and artefacts, including some interesting clocks relating to maritime history.
International Time Recorder, London Bundy Clock for up to 150 employees.
Rolf Gerdes 8 Bell Clock
located in the Main Office
Thomas Mercer chronometer in the main museum
Smiths bakelite electric also on the Diamantina
Brisbane Tramway Museum
Brisbane trams commenced operation in 1895 and were retired in April 1969. Fortunately, a few enthusiasts had the foresight to lease 4 hectares of land from the City Council at Ferny Grove to collect, house and display tram memorabilia. Our club visited the museum in September 2019 and had a thoroughly interesting day. The museum is open only on a Sunday from 12.30 to 4pm.
Of special interest was the tramway clock system, installed in 1927 by Synchronome Electric Brisbane. There were two systems, costing in total £88 – one at Fortitude Valley, the other at Woolloongabba, each with a master clock linked to several slave clocks at signal stations throughout Brisbane city. Each of these tiny stations had to fitted out with a toilet! The master clock shown came from the Woolloongabba station. The Museum was also in the throes of restoring two Bundy clocks – one an English oak Time Recorder, the other a green metal Cincinnati Time Recorder.
The Skyring Clock Collection at Pine Rivers Heritage Museum, Petrie, Brisbane.
The Museum here has over 60 mechanical clocks, 48 of these the work of Roy Skyring. Donated to the Museum by Roy’s widow, Olive in 2007, there are some rare and interesting examples. Roy learned his trade as an aircraft instrument maker and fitter in 12 Squadron of the RAF from 1941–47.
These pictures give some idea of the high quality of his clocks - a rare lighthouse, Congreve, skeleton, grandfather, scissors and one of only three copies in the world of a 1776 Merlin Band clock. A must visit.
A physics and chemistry teacher at Bundaberg State High from 1958-1980, his hobby of repairing clocks and watches for friends and making unobtainable parts in his workshop earned him an unmatched reputation. Retiring in the early 1980’s Roy started to build his own clocks and model steam trains. He won several prizes for his skeleton clocks at the Brisbane Exhibition, and also built grandfather clocks – the wooden cases as well as the movements. Our club was involved in moving and setting up the Museum display in 2007.