clock & barometer repairs
01277 658800   Billericay


ships clock repairs

Ships' bulkhead clocks aren't the most attractive (unless you love brass). They are usually plain and easy to read, and they all look pretty much the same on the surface - mainly because they're built for functional, not decorative, use. They are a little more expensive than pendulum clocks because of the platform escapement but do not confuse these with ship's chronometers.

Some have two mainsprings to drive the movement so that it is unaffected by daily/weekly winding. And some have a fusée movement to ensure better accuracy right through the week, the fusée being a design that balances out the tendency for a clock to run more slowly as the mainspring gradually unwinds. More accurate still, is the ships' chronometer. Both are expensive as any collector will know. They are also more expensive to service.

Some bulkhead clocks are thirty hour movements so need winding every day. Many are eight-day movements so need winding once a week (with a bit of latitude in case you leave it late in the evening). They all have a balance wheel escapement (like an old watch or a carriage clock) because they have to work in ever-changing positions. A pendulum movement would not be much good on a vessel pitching and heaving in all directions at sea! That said, they can look remarkably at home in a study (or gentleman's den), especially if the walls are decorated with marine prints, or a barometer perhaps. Some even have an extra hand to show the tides.

But what really attracts me to these marine clocks is their system of strike, which follows the "watches" at sea. After midnight, any ordinary clock in the house will strike once for the next three times over the coming ninety minutes. So when you're lying awake, you don't really know if it's half past midnight, one in the morning, or one thirty.

The marine clock is completely different. First, it always strikes in pairs on the hour. So if you hear a single strike (or three strikes, or five, or seven), you always know it's half past something.

Now the tricky bit. At sea, a "watch" (or lookout period) comprises four hours, making up eight bells - one bell for each half hour. The 24 hour day is divided into six "watches", beginning at noon, 4pm, 8pm, midnight, 4am and 8am. Half an hour into a watch, the clock strikes once; then, after an hour, it will strike twice (making a pair). An hour and a half into the watch it will strike three times but not in equal intervals - first, a pair and then a loose one. And after two hours, you'll hear two pairs. So it goes on, two and a half pairs, three pairs, three and a half pairs and finally, at the end of the watch, it strikes four pairs. An example of the sound of the strike at five bells (signifying 2.30, 6.30 or 10.30 - day or night) may make it clearer.

So now back to our insomniac. He heard four pairs (eight bells) at midnight. Half an hour later, he hears one strike at 12.30am. Then at 1am, he hears a pair of strikes. And at 1.30am, he hears a pair and a half strikes. It sounds complicated but you quickly get used to it and appreciate the benefit.

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