Visitor Blogger Phil Harris – Clock Curator at The Black Nation Dwelling Museum. 400 day anniversary clocks..

Phil Harris is the clock curator on the Black Nation Dwelling Museum in Dudley (, which in clock phrases, is fairly excessive kudos. Ive been chatting to Phil through electronic mail for possibly a yr or extra and we regularly change feedback on articles and suchlike. Hes actually good, and like me, appreciates the antiquity of clocks as a lot because the engineering.

Ive at all times mentioned if you wish to get into historical past and also you want a thread to comply with, clocks make a wonderful job of pulling the whole lot collectively as a result of they’re each engineering and inside and exterior design based mostly objects. If you realize what a sixteenth century clock seems like you’re fairly near with the ability to determine a whole lot of sixteenth century furnishings or different vintage objects as a result of design vogue runs in layers via the manufacturing of all family items, relatively just like the strata you see in geology; completely different colors and textures in every sequential layer. 

Though phil doesnt restore clocks commercially like me and my associates, he does a museum high quality rebuild on the clocks given to his care. That’s the prime of the sport. When you can produce museum high quality work you’re among the many greatest.

With out folks like Phil the world wouldn’t be the splendidly fascinating place that it’s, and Phil is a testomony to what might be achieved in the event you take time and care over a tasks over years and years. A uncommon breed.

As a result of he repairs the clocks at a museum the element is extremely vital, something lower than excellent could be a misrepresentation of our historical past.

I believe Phil completely deserves to be Braintree Clock Repairs first Visitor blogger and I can fully endorse him, his work and the folks he offers his time to. Sensible. Anyway, over the Phil…

Hello, I’m Phil Harris and I’ve been following Justin’s fascinating blogs for a while. I’m not an expert clock repairer like Justin; I’m a retired Chartered Engineer however merely a self-taught novice horologist, and I take care of the clocks at an area Museum as a volunteer. In correspondence with Justin, I discussed my curiosity in 400-day clocks, and Justin very kindly agreed [I begged him – hes brilliant – Justin] that I may write a weblog about these intriguing clocks.

The 400-day or “Anniversary Clock” is an ornamental mechanical clock, usually coated by a transparent glass or acrylic dome, which employs a really slow-turning torsion pendulum. Along with a strong mainspring and additional arbors within the gear practice, which give an total gear ratio of round 30,000-to-1, these clocks are designed to run for an entire yr between windings, therefore the identify… you wind it up simply every year, on an vital anniversary. In distinction, typical mechanical clocks are often designed to run for 8 or 14 days.


Nonetheless, such lengthy operating – roughly fifty occasions longer than a standard 8-day clock – doesn’t come straightforward. The complete motion is a precision mechanism which must be in completely pristine situation. The pendulum ‘ticks’ simply as soon as each few seconds. Any dust, previous sticky oil or maladjustment is more likely to cease the clock. Probably the most delicate half is the skinny vertical suspension spring which carries the rotating pendulum bob, and being a mere couple of thousandths of an inch thick, suspensions simply get damaged. Luckily replacements can be found, however considerably awkward to suit except you’ve the best instruments, dexterity and persistence. However, by all means, order a brand new suspension spring and change the damaged one.


Sadly, issues aren’t at all times fairly that easy. There are about 25 completely different thicknesses of suspension spring; which one does your clock want? how lengthy ought to or not it’s? Fortunately this info is once more available, however you’ll want to purchase a ebook – the superb ‘Horolovar 400-day Clock Restore Information’ – or ask somebody who has a duplicate, with a view to discover what you want. And when you’ve fitted the brand new suspension spring, the chances are the clock gained’t run for greater than quarter-hour. When you’re fortunate, this might be as a result of the suspension merely must be put ‘in beat’ which might maybe take a number of hours of creating tiny changes to the higher help block. When you’re unfortunate – as appears to occur with 4 out of each 5 clocks that I encounter – another fault is current, and the clock must be dismantled and repaired.

Anniversary clocks are available three sizes, commonplace, miniature and midget, in lowering order of measurement and rising stage of issue. Many standard-sized clocks are older and extra worthwhile, whereas the miniatures and midgets grew to become more and more common from the Nineteen Fifties onwards and usually tend to seem on the second-hand market. Made primarily in Germany as much as the late Nineteen Seventies, few spare components can be found these days aside from suspension springs, blocks and forks, foremost springs and glass or plastic domes. So, what are the seemingly issues you can encounter?


I’ve repaired clocks the place a breaking foremost spring or ratchet wheel has launched sufficient vitality to bend a stable metal arbor or gear shaft, and bend or break gearwheel tooth clear off. My most up-to-date clock had been dismantled and reassembled incorrectly by a earlier proprietor, who had bent one of many tiny pin pallets within the course of. This had to get replaced, utilizing a 0.3mm diameter piece of hardened and tempered metal wire.

I’ve additionally encountered clocks with bent centre shafts – the tiniest quantity of inaccuracy right here will add sufficient friction to the movement work that drives the palms to forestall the clock from operating – so each part have to be cleaned, ideally utilizing clock cleansing fluid in an ultrasonic tub, then fastidiously inspected beneath magnification.

The small pivots on the finish of every arbor, along with their matching pivot holes within the plates, have to be extremely polished with a view to scale back friction to absolutely the minimal. The nearer you have a look at these small components, the extra you discover the floor roughness of substances and pinion tooth, which regularly must be polished away. And the mainspring at all times must be eliminated, cleaned and lubricated and refitted, or sometimes changed, a job that undoubtedly requires the best instruments. As soon as all that is achieved, the gear practice might be assembled between the plates and examined without cost motion.


The escapement – the important thing a part of the motion which drives and regulates the swing of the pendulum – is available in two varieties, Graham dead-beat and pin-pallet, and each have their very own nuances and quirks. Sadly it is not uncommon to seek out that some earlier proprietor or ‘repairer’ has twiddled one or the entire doable changes in a failed try and get the clock to run, when all it actually wanted was a superb clear and repair. Many then find yourself on the market on eBay… Adjusting a 400-day clock escapement can take many hours of additional work making tiny modifications, then reassembling and testing, and at last adjusted for good timekeeping earlier than the clock might be thought of dependable.

Personally, I wouldn’t advise anybody to sort out a 400-day as their first clock to restore. I had restored round 60 ‘typical’ clocks earlier than I took on my first 400-day clock, and I quickly realised how a lot I nonetheless needed to be taught! 400DayClockBlog5

Quite a lot of 400-day clocks got as presents or marriage ceremony presents and sometimes have a sentimental worth far in extra of their financial price, however these clocks are usually well-made and when correctly cared-for and serviced, can keep on working actually for generations. As a result of a lot work is concerned, nevertheless, {many professional} clock repairers these days merely refuse to simply accept 400-day clocks for servicing or restore. Luckily, although, Justin at Braintree Clock Repairs nonetheless takes these lovely clocks on, at very cheap costs, and offers a assure on all his work. Why not give him a name?
Phil Harris CEng FCIBSE MIEE

[Thanks for you kind words Phil, but more importantly thanks for sharing your excellent experience and knowledge. I have deep respect for any man who knows the overall gear ratio of a 400 day clock to be 30,000 to 1. I did not know this but it is now burnt into my memory by the shame of being “out-knowledged”.  Thanks again old chap – Justin]