A lady brought me a small reproduction bracket clock late yesterday afternoon. It was a gift from her father three years ago but unfortunately it had never worked. Now living in Germany, she tried repeatedly to get it repaired locally. The last repairer had it for six months but still couldn’t fix it. Their expert, Claus, was emphatic: “Nein, zis eez unt Ingleesh clokken, und ve carnot get ze parts” he exclaimed!
She was due to return to Germany next day so while she was here, I opened it up to find a small but clean balance wheel movement inside. I could tell that it had been dismantled before by the marks on the screw heads and I said I thought it curious that the platform, supporting the jewelled lever escapement, was the wrong way round so that the regulator arm was impossible to access through the regulator slot in the back. I explained that I’d need to look at it more closely so I agreed to have it ready before her next visit to the UK in March.
After dinner, I released the tension in the mainspring and looked at it again. By applying a little pressure on the wheels, I got the clock running but there was a serious flaw- it ran backwards! It didn’t need any parts; Claus had simply rebuilt the movement back to front.
In a clock movement, the escapement controls the speed with which the escape wheel turns and in this clock that was a contrate wheel, which is a special gear on which the teeth are cut sideways into it, rather than vertically. It’s common on carriage clocks that have a balance wheel lever escapement mounted on a platform on top and reminds me of the crown wheel in early verge movements on which it might be derived.
I saw that the pinion was in the centre of the arbor, which is a little unusual so I rebuilt the movement, reversing the contrate wheel so that it was now facing the back instead of the front, and that enabled me to fit the platform the correct way round. A few adjustments later and the clock was running again.
It just goes to show that sometimes you can’t see the problem even though it’s staring you in the face. The delighted owner collected it this morning on her way back to Germany. Job completed in under a day.
England 1, Germany Nil.