Desirability Guide

After much careful consideration, it has been decided not to publish values on this site. “If you try to please everyone, you will end up pleasing no one.” Sellers, of course, like to see high prices, while buyers prefer lower ones. But the main reason for not giving specific figures has to do with Internet auctions. While these auctions have no doubt pushed average values higher, prices seem unsettled at this time, with variations of one thousand per cent or more having been observed in certain instances of recent sales involving identical-appearing pieces. And with we being months behind in restoration work, there just isn't enough time available to adequately research current sales and come up with figures that are fair to sellers and buyers alike, as well as those seeking appraisals for insurance purposes. Nevertheless, we can make an important contribution by showing the novice collector what to look for as far as relative desirability is concerned. For dollar values of specific examples, we recommend:


Original version of Secondary Clock No. 3
Original version of “Secondary Clock No. 3” as shown in first catalog issued by The Standard Electric Time Co., dated 1887. So far, no known examples of this clock have turned up.


Generally speaking, there are 3 distinct features that add greatly to the desirability of a master clock from the collector's point of view. These are:

Special or fancy case with eye appeal,

Mercurial pendulum-- 3-tube the most desirable,

Pilot clocks-- the more the better, in combination with battery gauge or milliammeter.

A master clock containing a 2, 4, or 6-circuit program as original equipment is only slightly more desirable than an otherwise identical clock that never had one. But the desirability of a clock containing too many pilot clocks to permit the installation of a program in its case is greatly enhanced if it includes a program machine in a separate matching cabinet as originally supplied with the clock.

The ability of a master clock to reset compatible secondaries is not a particularly desirable feature in and of itself; indeed, most of the more sought-after clocks were made before automatic reset systems were introduced. However, some of the automatically resetting systems were operated by motor-wound weight-driven master clocks capable of running through power outages of 12 hours or more. Master clocks of this type are uncommon and fairly desirable.

Of the clocks shown here, numbers 1 thru 6 each have 1 or more of the desirable features indicated above. Picture 7 shows an "entry level" pendulum-type master clock of the commonest variety. The same clock with a 2-ribbon 4-circuit program is equally common. As a rule, collectors will pay high prices only for something more elaborate. Picture 8 shows a flush-mounted master clock. Clocks such as this are thought to be worth only what the parts are worth. Their depth exceeds that of most walls, and their width is greater than the standard distance between studs. In spite of this, a few have been prized enough for collector residence installation!

1928 master clock featuring mercurial pendulum
1928 master clock featuring mercurial pendulum, 10 pilot clocks, seconds ticker and 2-movement-12-circuit program in separate cabinet with matching finish.
1919 master clock featuring 4 pilot clocks
1919 master clock featuring 4 pilot clocks, tower pilot and battery gauge, in case made of ash-- a wood often mistaken for oak and commonly used for the woodwork of schools of the period (although many oak-cased clocks were installed in buildings with woodwork of ash).
Standing type master clock in one of several pediment-style cases built during the early 20th century
Standing type master clock in one of several pediment-style cases built during the early 20th century, and featuring the most desirable Waltham-style 3-tube mercurial pendulum.
Grandfather-type master clock with 2-tube mercurial pendulum
Grandfather-type master clock with 2-tube mercurial pendulum. This is the very clock pictured on page 3 of The Standard Electric Time Co. Catalog #42, and was produced in 1924 for the Shriners’ Hospital for Children in Springfield, Massachusetts. Case and dial made by the New Haven Clock Co., and with the New Haven weight-driven time & strike movement was known as one of their "Wilmington" models.
Circa 1900 #30 master clock
Circa 1900 #30 master clock. Most desirable of the regular production cases offered by Standard. The mercurial pendulum is by Seth Thomas and original to this clock.
Circa 1895 master clock originally installed at the William L. Gilbert School in Winsted, CT
Circa 1895 master clock originally installed at the William L. Gilbert School in Winsted, CT. Photographed at the American Clock & Watch Museum in Bristol, CT.
Entry-level master clock
Entry-level master clock containing none of the special features sought after by collectors. Very common compared to the other clocks shown in this section. Although this example has a single ribbon 2-circuit program, roughly equal numbers were made with the 2-ribbon 4-circuit program.
1940s flush mount master clock
1940’s flush mount master clock. Depth of case exceeds the thickness of most walls. Generally thought to be worth whatever the component parts are worth.
12-circuit, 24-hour program machine
12-circuit, 24-hour program machine accompanying master clock shown in first photo above. Multiple movement programs are relatively rare.

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Jeffrey R. Wood, creator of the Standard Electric Time Co. (SETCO) pages of, passed away in August of 2018. I will maintain the SETCO web pages in honor of Jeff, but will not be making any additions or changes, or answering any questions. It is hard to express how much I miss Jeff, his friendship, and his wonderful contributions to Standard Electric and Westclox research.

Bill Stoddard

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© 2003 - 2016 Jeffrey R. Wood