About Ken of Ken’s Clock Clinic. Ken began clock repair at the age of 6 years old and has continued through today, nearly 58 years later. He has studied the works of Laurie Penman, Donald DeCarle, HG Harris, Steven Conover, J. Malcolm Wild, and JM Huckabee to name a few. His commitment to early electric clocks is a natural marriage of his life long passion for horology and his 38+ year career in electrical engineering focused on precision electrical measurement instrumentation, power management, and most recently precision photonics. He became fascinated with self winding clocks in 1994 and immediately realized how little documentation and product existed for their care, in contrast to the works that have been published on horology in general.
Self winding clocks enjoy a remarkable place in our history. They were the standard time keepers for railroads, industry, schools, government facilities, and municipalities across the world. Examples have been found to this day still intact and operational in the London Underground. We have found several examples within the MTA (Metro Transit Authority) of New York which is considered by some to be the original cerebral center of SWCC! Accurate timekeeping to a singular time standard across the USA, leveraging the existence of a Western Union telegraph communications system was critical to the success of the emerging transportation industry and industrial revolution of the late 1800’s, the momentum from which many will argue took us all the way to the moon and beyond. (See below for more detail on the history of self winding clocks.)
Many of these clocks were never for sale but instead were leased with a team of trained clockmakers traveling the country to service and maintain order. When the clocks fell from favor as the gold standard for timekeeping, they began to find themselves in the hands of appreciative collectors. There were few records on how to set, maintain, or repair the clocks. Many good mechanical clock makers have spent hours attempting to understand the electrical aspects and cannot find suitable replacement parts to restore them. Due to lack of electrical knowledge, many clocks have suffered early failure through what might be called unintentional abuse. Many clocks are out there powered by inappropriate or dangerous power supplies because the correct equipment was not available, was difficult to find, or was misunderstood.
Ken has spent over two decades establishing procedures on how to comprehend, maintain and repair self-winding electric clocks. He has developed an extensive line of electronic products which reproduce exactly the power sources and signals used originally to power or drive these clocks. He has lectured in Chapter 15, Chapter 133, and Chapter 21 meetings, published in the NAWCC Bulletin, and is Ken of “Kens Korner” for NAWCC’s HBACC. He will soon be offering booklets on how to repair self winding clocks, along with many specialized parts required for proper servicing, as can be found elsewhere on this website. Our goal is to help others appreciate and enjoy these (and, in fact, all) fine clocks, brought to us through the innovative efforts of our forefathers. These clocks are to be cherished as a critical part of our rich technical history. They are indeed a key predecessor to our 21st century technology which we count on, and enjoy today.
About the Model 1900 Series Battery Product Line. Our Model 1900 Series battery product line is a celebration of the birth of the No. 6 Columbia battery in 1896. The No. 6 Columbia battery, originally designed by National Carbon Company of Cleveland, Ohio, for the first time put reliable, portable electrical power into the hands of innovators (including self winding clock inventor Chester Henry Pond) until alternative commercial forms of electricity were largely available. Unfortunately, the descendent of National Carbon (Energizer) recently discontinued their EN6 battery, ending an era that lasted for more than a century. That’s where we step in with our specialty line of first-rate, high quality No. 6 replacements. These products are heads-and-shoulders ahead of the originals in quality and performance. For this reason we confidently offer a 5-year warranty on our battery products, even our latest rechargeable No. 6, the Model 1900R3.
Don’t be fooled by numerous hobby-grade knockoffs found on Ebay and elsewhere. None are protected from short circuits and other accidents. Some have shoddy labels and no bottoms. And none offer the precision, efficient regulation found in our Model 1900G.
But, it doesn’t end there. We have also developed, market and sell a fascinating line of power line frequency converters for folks who are trying to operate clocks (and other equipment) outside their original country of origin. These can be found at our sister site located here: https://www.kccscientific.com/
We welcome your feedback on offerings you would like to see.
About Self Winding Clocks and their History. From the late 1800’s until well into the mid 1900’s, self-winding clocks earned a most important role in horological history. They provided robust and reliable time synchronization across the country. They serviced railroads and other transportation industries, factories, schools, retail stores, and other businesses. Most were leased to these customers (for a monthly fee of $1.25 to $2.00 per clock initially), with service contracts to maintain them on a regular basis.
In the 1890’s, Chester Henry Pond (considered the inventor of the self-winding clock) had two ingenious ideas: First, he designed a clock movement that could be wound by an electric motor powered by batteries, thus eliminating the concern that the clock would stop due to lack of manual winding. Second, he envisioned linking timekeeping with the expanding Western Union telegraph communications network. By discontinuing all telegraph transmissions a few minutes before noon every day, this national WU telegraph network could be used to send synchronization signals to master clocks all over the United States! Receiving clocks along the network were equipped with electromagnetic coils and a linkage to the hands to “force reset” the hands to the hour in response to the noontime WU signal.
This was truly revolutionary at the time, because it created a nationwide time synchronization standard, which allowed transportation industries and businesses to coordinate events across distances to a degree previously unavailable. Locally, “secondary” clocks could be similarly linked to these master clocks, which brought the advantages of this synchronized time network to a local level. Now, factories, schools, retail stores, town centers, etc. could all provide accurate timekeeping for people. This relationship with Western Union was extended to include battery and clock maintenance by Western Union.
Power for many self-winding clocks originated with Georges Leclanche’s 1866 invention of the carbon-manganese-dioxide and zinc battery. They generally used a pair of these 1.5 volt cells to provide the necessary 3 volts for the clocks. By the late 1890’s, a pair of 1.5 volt No. 6 Dry Cells became the premier power source for these clocks.
The master signal for this noontime synchronization originated from the Naval Observatory Laboratories in Washington DC, where astronomical instruments had been used to determine exact time for decades prior. Since the mid-1840’s, a time ball at the top of the Naval Observatory building was dropped at exactly 12:00pm, allowing ships at the ports near Washington to set their onboard timepieces. Local residents took advantage of this as well. Further, noontime telegraph signal services were being sold locally for many years for manual resetting of timepieces. Master clocks on site were soon commissioned to provide the time references, which were sent out via the Western Union network. This system continued to evolve in terms of automation and accuracy well into the 1960’s, until newer and even more accurate methods of precision time synchronization emerged, such as cesium atomic standards and NIST WWVB transmissions. Slowly the self-winding clock with Western Union synchronization drifted towards becoming the obsolete technology.
After WWII, Western Union’s fleet of service engineers started to become a burdensome cost. Into the late 1950’s, service periods were extended, clocks were neglected, and customer complaints mounted. Self Winding Clock Co. eventually sued WU for breach of contract. To settle the suit, SWCC assets were purchased by WU and, in time, liquidated. As stories from ex-WU employees recount, the clocks were collected up and many destroyed, along with most of the records associated with the history of how the company was run. But some clocks survived. Many of these surviving clocks decommissioned by the late 1960’s have been slowly finding their way into the caring hands of horological collectors.
These fortunate collectors find great pride of ownership with self-winding clocks. Many competitive companies emerged along with Self Winding Clock Company of New York. In particular, those manufactured by Standard Electric Time Company, ITR and Stromberg to name a few, were all built to last. Cases are built of high-quality select grades of lumber with intricate carvings, appointed with heavy-duty hardware throughout, and beveled glass. Movements are well-built, with thick plates and rugged construction. Unfortunately after nearly 100 years, the clock movements (and sometimes cases) require some attention to assure continued reliable operation.
About our Restorations. Ken’s Clock Clinic offers professional restoration of self-winding clocks. Our clients expect authentic restorations. We provide Style F movement restoration covering all electrical, mechanical components. The movement will be disassembled and individual components cleaned to remove all grease and oxides. Worn pivots and holes will be restored. Bushings are neat and undetectable. Worn pinions are likewise addressed. Style A/B/C movement restorations include precision replication of missing or damaged motor parts. Restoration processes for other self winding clocks are similar to those mentioned. We keep a library of original manufacturers’ specifications and data for many of the clocks serviced, much of which has been created from studying original parts over the years.
Authentic restoration includes electrical components. Either due to wear, abuse, or incorrect voltages, contacts and resistors may be damaged. Original spool-wound resistors will be restored exactly like the originals. Coil bobbins and end caps are fabricated to replicate originals as needed. All contacts are cleaned and inspected. When necessary, these will be replaced. We provide contact replacement using only pure platinum, palladium, gold or silver wire and foil as was used previously. If necessary, electromagnets can be rewound with original silk-covered magnet wire.
Despite the many requests we receive, parts for self winding clocks are generally unavailable. Those very few which are available from commercial suppliers are often inadequate. In general, so many horological replacement parts are manufactured in China and India and while they are available at a low price, quality is lost. We fabricate replacement mainsprings, contacts, precision escape wheels and verges, suspension components, winding ratchet wheels, and even many pendulum parts to name a few. This assures that original quality is returned to your fine timepiece. We are the only self winding clock service to offer this level of painstaking detail, anywhere in the world. Some of these parts we make available through our e-store, but many are fabricated as needed during the restoration process.
We will provide our clients with details of all work done–even during the process, if requested.
We warranty our movement restorations for 2 years if the clock is subsequently powered with our Vintage Dry Cell Battery Replacements, either alkaline or rechargeable. Using these products we can be assured that the proper voltage is being used to power your restored clock.
Periodically, customers purchase our battery products, install them in the clock, and the clock still does not wind and run. This is a clear sign that the clock probably stopped due to wear out. Our Most Frequently Asked Question explores this issue in depth.
We have repaired many clocks which were unfortunately run with 6 volt lantern batteries or other DIY power sources not appropriate for 3 volt clocks. This can cause cumulative damage to both the electrical and mechanical components. For this reason, Ken’s Clock Clinic provides the 1900 series Vintage Dry Cell Battery Replacements to assure that the historic value of these clocks will be conserved for generations to come.
Note to customers who wish to power the clock from homebrew supplies after our restoration services are performed:
Keep in mind that the power source and the clock are a system and must be designed to work with each other. Our policy with customers wishing to power their own clocks is that we cannot provide our 2 year warranty. We cannot possibly warrant a movement when we don’t know what is powering it. There is a big difference between putting together a one-off voltage source versus a time-tested design that has been thought through with decades of experience and understanding in powering vintage clocks. The clock as a load is not resistive. The platinum can be burned up in less than a year and other components over-stressed resulting in a damaged winding mechanism due to improper power sources. At the very least, multiple trips back to our shop for contact cleaning and maintenance would easily cost more than the proper battery system from us.
Our experience with both restoring and powering early self-winding electrics includes clocks manufactured by the Self Winding Clock Company, Standard Electric Time, New York Standard Watch Company, American Clock Company, Stromberg, Poole, Sempire, Gregory, Bulle, numerous ATO styles, and many others.
For more information on our restoration services, please contact us.
Shipping: Please see our Shipping Instructions found here. Important: Standard policy is to bill at time of shipping. Therefore RESTORATION ESTIMATES DO NOT INCLUDE SHIPPING, PACKING OR INSURANCE COSTS.