At this writing, I don't know any of the people who are paying such astronomical prices for this stuff, or what they intend to do with it. I do know that lately the "barn-yard cobblers" have been busier than ever. It's understandable that a lot of clock systems, in the course of normal maintenance while still in service at their original locations, had failing parts or components replaced with newer ones, often quite unlike what came before. That's all part of the system's history and provenance. But now we're seeing people go the other way, making up clocks that are more to their liking but lacking in authenticity. What follows hopefully will be helpful to those not satisfied with their master clocks the way they are. The information provided here is intended to discourage the altering of clocks to their detriment by revealing just how difficult it is to do it in an historically correct manner. Indeed, a number of such projects have been started but never successfully completed because once the true complexity of the operation becomes evident, the work is either abandoned or brought to a hasty conclusion.
Jeffrey R. Wood
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Many owners of master clocks with wood rod pendulums have expressed a desire to "upgrade" their clocks by replacing the commoner wood rod pendulum with the mercurial type. However, this can never be successfully accomplished simply by switching pendulums. Following is a list of differences in master clocks originally equipped with a mercurial pendulum:
The 2-tube mercurial pendulum contains 2/3 the amount of mercury as the 3-tube, and does not fully compensate.
Beginning in the mid-1920's, a shorter suspension post was used to allow adequate clearance when a 24-hour program was installed in the master clock case. Prior to that, the 24-hour program was normally installed only in a separate cabinet with matching finish when supplied with a master clock.
Beginning about 1929, drop type contacts were introduced for advancing the secondaries. Later on, the rotary and oscillating contacts were eliminated altogether. One or two terminals originally placed on the inside surface of the case top indicate the use of one or two sets of the R&O contacts.
Research is being conducted concerning the feasibility of manufacturing a small number of replacement metal rod pendulums, which would most likely be reproductions of the rare and desirable "Standard" 4-cylinder Invar type. Some could be made up with the appropriate part of the metal rod ground flat with a slot added and the hanger modified so as to replace a wood rod pendulum without any changes needed in the clock itself. The Invar bob does not seem to require a full-length case. Please contact us if you are interested in this project.
Brass-capped pendulum bobs of the correct size and weight for "Standard" 60-beat master clocks are again being manufactured, as are the wood rods and hardware necessary for making up a complete pendulum. Woodworking skills are required for modifying the rod.
A surprising number of collectors seek to add pilot clocks to a master clock that never had them, or contains fewer than the desired number. Unfortunately a great many master clocks which once had pilot clocks have been converted to "straight" timepieces by the removal of pilot clocks, program, relays and controls. Even more unfortunately, there are not enough pilot clocks surviving to permit the restoration of all master clocks that once had them, excluding the cases which have ended up as gun cabinets! Thus, the ethical issue of adding pilot clocks to masters which originally did not have them is at least an important consideration.
Normally, pilot clocks were installed in conjunction with a battery gauge or milliammeter along with "TEST KEYS" and special wiring. Although pilot clocks alone were originally installed in a few instances, the quantity was always equal to the number of secondary clock circuits, indicated by how many switches are located at the bottom center of the case; no exceptions have been noted so far except in the instance of Blodgett clocks. Spacing and positioning of pilot clocks is dependent on the number installed and whether or not the master clock had a program movement installed in its case. Adding pilots may require relocation of those already there in order to "look right". The following movement types have been seen in pilot clocks and should be in agreement with the master clock's voltage and wiring:
Obtaining identical pilot clocks from various sources is quite a challenge. Aside from evolutionary changes in movement construction, there are 2 basic types of case: the nickel-plated ones which resemble those of ships' clocks, and the plainer enclosures of brushed brass finished with a thin coating of honey-colored lacquer. The change was made around the end of 1925.
Earlier pilot clocks in the nickel-plated cases normally have external terminals, of which at least half a dozen variations have been observed, but which were omitted from the clocks made for mounting on a slate panel. The earliest of the earlier pilot clocks were made with lacquered brass matting (the metal ring between the dial and glass); then nickel-plated brass was used. All have Roman dials made of paper, including those used in master clocks having Arabic numerals on the main dial.
Later pilot clocks in the plain brass cases may have any of the following dials:
Towards the end of production, a very few pilot clock cases were made of aluminum.
The "Warner's Patent Electric Gauge" was available installed in master clock cases until 1925. Cases, matting and terminals matched the earlier style pilot clocks. Dials originally had "NEW HAVEN, CONN." printed at the bottom and below that was a serial number. With the move to Waterbury, a different style of dial with "WATERBURY, CONN." on it was used for a brief period. Then, use of the early dial was resumed, but with the city name deleted. Serial numbers were discontinued about the time the company moved to Springfield.
With the introduction of pilot clocks in plain lacquered brass cases, a Splitdorf milliammeter briefly replaced the long-obsolete Warner gauge. By 1927, the Weston milliammeter was being used exclusively.
Early master clock dials were made by Seth Thomas, and like many other Seth thomas dials, were of zinc and prone to flaking of the paint as it aged. A number of these were replaced in the 1930's and later with then-current dials. More recently, some of the black-rimmed aluminum dials originally installed on master clocks built in the thirties and forties have been replaced with older wood-rimmed dials having a white or ivory background, in an effort to make the clock look older. Needless to say, the ethics of doing this are questionable. Following is a fairly complete list of master clock dials. Dates may be approximate, subject to variation by several years:
Pre-1940 Comparable to above with some variations
*Apparently ALL calendar Arabic dials have commas
The Standard Electric Time Company started out in Ansonia, CT, but there are no known "Ansonia" dials by this firm. The earliest secondary dials are imprinted: ELECTRIC TIME "Warner System", with no city name given. Here is what's believed to be a complete list of city names appearing on Standard Electric dials:
Many dials, especially in the less common sizes, were used beyond the dates given here-- that is, until the supply ran out. The company was in Springfield until 1981, but did not print the city name on dials during the later years. Before the move to Springfield, manufacturing was done briefly in Foxboro, MA, with office in Boston. The Boston/New York/San Francisco dials originated at this time, but it is virtually certain that they were not made in more than a very few sizes. The painted Waterbury dials were done on zinc by Seth Thomas and like many other Seth Thomas dials, were extremely prone to flaking and often replaced with Springfield dials later on. The New Haven Clock Co. made some paper secondary clock dials for Standard, which were glued to zinc dial pans. These would absorb moisture, causing the adhesive to react with the zinc and creating a lumpy surface. Many slave clocks made circa 1900-1917 still have these paper dials, while others have replacements, possibly being of much later vintage than the clock. Most of the paper dial clocks have labels inside, indicating when and where they were made.
The familiar "eyebrow" style case was discontinued in 1946. Flat-top wood cases were available from the early days thru the end of pendulum master clock production in 1957.
The following situations require an extra-depth case:
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Jeffrey R. Wood, creator of the Standard Electric Time Co. (SETCO) pages of clockhistory.com, 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.
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