The Hadacol Clock Story
Periodically customers approach us with challenging and unique requests. The GE “HADACOL” clock was one of those.
Hadacol was a mildly alcoholic “medicinal” product marketed as a dietary supplement to cure a multitude of ailments in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. It was heavily advertised, and achieved almost a folklorelike fame. Newsweek in 1951 described it as a “craze” or even a culture.
The clock, utilizing a typical Telechronstyle movement, was in need of substantial repair, including lubrication of the sealed rotor and replacement of a broken time setting shaft. But the real challenge was the dial.
HADACOL GE Dial before restoration
The dial was rusted beyond touchup repair. It was so distressed (the picture actually makes the clock look better than it really was) that there was not much to be lost by repainting it. Value of the clock was not much of an issue since it was substantially deteriorated beyond what would be acceptably considered a “worn” piece. But before the paint could be stripped (or sandblasted in this case, to remove the deeply penetrating
rust), the colors needed to be matched and a color copy made of the original, so that a
stencil could be created and small details of the dial could be preserved for the restoration.
Acrylicbased colors were chosen because of the color selection available. Testor’s Polly Scale Railroad Colors offered the most brilliant tones and were compatible with airbrush equipment, which would be required to paint the details. The background color was matched by mixing several colors. But the blue and white were matched almost exactly right from the Testor’s color chart.
Once the colors were matched and copies were made, it was time to remove the original pattern. To do so, sandblasting was chosen. The bottom logo was masked to preserve it, since it was in an area of the dial that was quite clean. Immediately after sandblasting, several heavy coats of lacquerbased primer were applied and sanded in between coats. This served to fill the surface pits in the freshly blasted metal, and no further filling wa required. The base was ready to paint.
The background mix was applied with a spray gun. The dial was heated slightly with a hot air gun to accelerate drying. Several full wet coats were applied. Once the mask for the bottom logo was removed, it was quite pleasing to see that the background color matched quite closely. The ridge where the masking tape was laid was sanded away carefully with #600 sandpaper and the new background blended quite well with the masked strip.
Next, a stencil of the numbers and minute track was made from Oramask 810. We like to keep this product handy for dial and case touchups. It is a remarkable, low tack product which has much higher resiliency and tack than ordinary Frisket paper. The polyacrylate adhesive has a mild tack and does not leave any residue on the background. This dial measures 16” in diameter, so the large 24 inch wide roll of Oramask came in very handy. To make the stencil, the color copy was tack glued to the Oramask. The numbers were carefully cut out. A special tool was made to “punch” the dots and dashes onto the minute track stencil.
A separate stencil was made for the white HADACOL logo.
The last challenge was to apply the General Electric trade logo. To do so, the logo was reproduced on the computer. It was laid out and then reversed so that inkjet transfer paper could be used. The actual pattern is shown below:
In order to use an Inkjet printer to produce the logo, it was necessary to seal before and after application of the transfer with gloss lacquer. This “encases” the waterborne ink and prevents it from bleeding out into the waterbased acrylic finish. It also flattens the logo so that it has the appearance of being painted onto the dial. The finished logo was quite impressive. The overall dial, with movement and hands installed, is shown below:
Figure 2: Completed HADACOL dial ready for shipment
Ken’s Clock Clinic specializes in authentic restoration of fine clocks. We offer full movement restoration with the finest craftsmanship available. We provide horological plating services. Dial replicating and repainting is also available upon request. Case refinishing of wood clocks, using period methods and materials of the original craftsmen, is also available upon request.