Sunday, July 3, 2011


Some interesting finds this evening.

Older readers may remember the self-winding, centrally-synchronized Western Union clocks, big clocks (face 14" or so in diameter), often with a square wooden case, bearing the company name and proud assurance, "NAVAL OBSERVATORY TIME," often over a red lighting bolt just so you wouldn't miss the point. Radio stations used them, if they could afford the service, (sometimes leading to surprised announcers if the clock was a little off when Western Union sent the synchronizing impulse and the thing skipped ahead during a station break!) and they weren't too uncommon in offices and shops.

They're still around -- they were built to last -- and Ken's Clock Clinic specializes in fixing them. The clocks typically used a couple of big old #6 dry cell "batteries"* and he offers both straight-up replacements for the dry cells and nifty versions that use modern electronics to provide the synchronizing signal, too. (Alas, his repair bench is very busy -- but he does have a waiting list).

Those #6 dry cell replacements are of interest to old-radio folks, too (and even antique telephone hobbyists, since the older types used a local battery to run the carbon microphone; that's what the lower compartment of a wooden wall phone is for). There are other sources, some very authentic with a little effort but the more, the better.

Another old clock you might remember is the Telechron. These wall clocks, in 10" and larger sizes, usually have a small dot about midway between the center and 12 that goes red for 12 hours and white the next, to mark p.m. and a.m. The little 60-cycle synchronous motor uses a sealed rotor and it takes serious skill to open one up and get it running again. And, yes, there's a fellow who does just that, at (I wonder if he would tackle the noisy motor unit from my Numechron Tymeter mechanical digital clock?)
* A misnomer, since they consist of a single, large dry Leclanché cell. A battery would be more than one. The irony is, modern #6 "cells" contain 2 or more F or D cells in parallel: they really are batteries.


  1. I love my Numechron Tymeter! It gives my radio desk that perfect "old time" look. Pretty accurate too.

    P.S. You have a great website, glad I found it.
    Steve W0GSQ

  2. Thank you, Steve!

    For a long time, the Tymeter was the clock to have, unless you had a fancy Heath or Collins console that already had one in it. They definitely have the right look from the late 30s through the '70s.

    Gordon Specialties made a nice 24-hour analog amateur radio clock in the '30s that had Greenwich and all the other time zones marked; scarce as can be but would dress up a '30s ham shack.

    Some really well-off hams used ship's clocks. Hamilton and Chelsea (and others) made them. Those show up on auction sites -- they have their own fans and are quite spendy.

  3. I've got a General Electric wall clock that was in my Mom's kitchen when I was little - it dates back to the early 1950's at least.

    It started making growly noises back in the 1980's, and I drilled a small hole in the sealed case, added a few drops of fine machine oil, and soldered the hole shut. It's still up on my lab wall, running nice and quiet. The red dot power fail indicator is handy to determine when the power failed, if I'm not home when it goes off.

  4. Darn you - now I'm in danger of collecting clocks!
    funny word verif: wwvhibad

  5. ...It's what I do. :) Besides, you need a clock to match the pens and typewriters, don't you?