Do you have a FrankenClock?

This article is about a curious term that you might have heard concerning clocks and clock collecting. The term is FrankenClock. Let me explain.

Have you ever bought a clock and as much as you hoped that every mechanical part, finial and piece of trim is original and you later found out through experience, research or knowledge that it is not, how then do you feel about your purchase? Obviously you might feel disappointed, even cheated. So if a clock has parts that are not original what would it be called? Some would call it a FrankenClock.

RS GB April 8
Gustav Becker 2 weight Vienna Regulator

Let me explain further. Here is my Vienna regulator clock as it is today. It shows well, keeps excellent time after a replaced movement, a thorough cleaning, oiling and case repairs. It is original? Well, mostly. As I said in a previous post this clock was sold as a “project” clock and the seller made no pretense that everything was absolutely original and that is fair game. Here is a summary of what I have discovered so far.

Clock glass panels

Let’s begin with the side and front glass panels which I believed were original when I recieved the clock. The glass was broken during shipment and had to be replaced. In fact, the case was broken is several parts, but that is another story. Although I thought I was replacing the original glass I found out that the broken glass was likely not original to the case. When I brought the case into a glass installer I was asked two simple questions. Why is the side glass thicker than the front glass and why are finishing nails used to anchor the glass? Good points. So, just how many times was the glass replaced on this clock?

GB weights
GB weights

Weights

The weights at first glance looked identical but closer inspection reveals that one weight has a slightly different hook design than the other. I doubt the factory would have provided dissimilar weights.

The movement

The movement appears to be a match for the case and it is appropriate to the period but is it original? The movement had parts missing which the seller kindly disclosed when the clock was advertised for sale. Parts missing were the star wheel/snail and the strike hammer and rod. The gathering pallet for the rack was bent and therefore could not advance the rack. In any event the strike side did not function at all. Thus began my search for a donor movement.

I was specifically searching for a Gustav Becker “Braunau” factory movement to provide the correct parts for my clock. The donor movement came from Poland. From the serial number on the donor movement I was able to determine that it was made 16 years after the movement that came with the clock. Minor differences were expected. The plates were thinner, the lever springs were a different design, the minute arbour shaft was slightly thicker and the star wheel/snail, gathering pallet and hammer/rod and were not a good fit for my old movement. A disappointment, the parts were not interchangeable. Out went the old movement and in went the new movement.

NOTE: I kept the old movement and if I sell the clock in the future I will disclose that change and others.

On to other issues

The spun brass dial bezel is a replacement though correct for the period.

trim piece
Upper left side trim piece

There are a couple of trim pieces that I suspect were probably added later on though when, I do not know.

Bottom finial
Bottom centre finial

The bottom centre finial appears to be a replacement though probably correct for the period. The bottom finial has wormwood holes but the clock case itself does not have one bit of worm damage.

Sowing hour hand on clock dial
showing hour hand on dial
Minute hand
Minute hand missing it’s centre bushing

The clock did not have Vienna regulator hands. They are Ogee clock hands. I searched the supply houses in Canada, the US and Britain and was surprised at the limited selection of Vienna regulator hands. The photo below shows replacement hands with the correct measurements. The hands are also from Poland. There must be quite a successful business in Poland parting out clocks and selling the pieces. The hands have not arrived yet.

Clock hands Vienna Regulator
Vienna clock hands

i later discovered that they are not the correct hands but they look good and they will do for now.

Are there other parts of the clock that are not original? Yes, but it does not change how I feel about this clock. It has provided me with an excellent learning experience and it allows me to view future purchases with a much more critical eye.

Caveat Emptor

There are many examples of FrankenClocks and you may even have one or two in your collection. There is a popular expression that I always find appropriate in these cases. It is Caveat Emptor (let the buyer beware), the principle that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made. Reputable auction houses will disclose repairs and replacement or questionable parts on a clock but do not depend on what the seller says on most popular online auction sites. It’s a jungle out there!


6 thoughts on “Do you have a FrankenClock?

  1. The existing hands are newer Seth Thomas ogee clock hands. They were occasionally used by other companies on ogee clocks, but in 95% of cases, they’re Seth Thomas.

    The new hands are absolutely beautiful, and they are very high quality. They aren’t Gustav Becker, however. These are far too fancy for GB. GB mainly had more mass produced hands as far as I can remember. These very delicate hands would be more for an 1860s Vienna with a tiny handmade movement. No harm in using them, however, since they will look a lot better than cheaper hands.

    The glass is not usually an important factor in a clock, as long as it’s not modern float glass. Old original glass is always preferable, but in a lot of cases (like some of the restorations I’ve done) it’s IMPOSSIBLE to tell if the glass is original or replaced, because I used old wavy salvaged glass from antique windows. Where it really makes a difference is on reverse-painted glasses for clocks like Banjo clocks and American shelf clocks, or on clocks that are exceptionally old (like 1700s) where the antique glass would have a different look.

    The one weight hook (right) is probably a repair. You could make (or find) a matching one.

    I suspect that the small block just over the finial might have had a small decorative moulding over it. It’s far too pale, and it’s too square, so something is likely missing. Have a quick look at this Vienna in my collection, which has a similar trapezoidal base: http://www.angelfire.com/me5/clockman/mbvienna.html
    Note the projecting moulding (which are attached around a blank rectangle of wood).

    Lastly, I don’t think your clock is a Frankenstein just yet. If the movement is still original to the case, and more than 80% of it is original, it’s still a perfectly fine clock. When entire movements, dials, and large parts start to get swapped around, then that’s a different story. In the clock world we call these a “marriage”. I have only ONE such clock, and it is this one: http://www.angelfire.com/me5/clockman/charleswilbur.html

    The clock is a very rare Charles Wilbur ogee. So rare that I know of only one other clock, and that one was also incomplete. The movement in this clock came with it, but it’s not original. No modifications were made to fit the movement, so I’ve left it with the clock (it works fine, and I have no idea what the correct ogee movement would look like since I have nothing to compare it with). The gong is an exact match to the existing holes, the dial is an old spare, the tablet came out of another clock, and the dial glass was replaced. The hands are new, and the pendulum bob is an antique of the period (1845). The clock looks fine, works fine, and it’s all composed of genuine antique parts, but it’s not original. If anything it’s simply a collection of parts kept together in an effort to preserve the case and the label. The dial is only temporarily attached, so if I do ever find the info for the correct movement, I can swap out all the parts for more correct ones.

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    1. I suspected as much about the hands. The replacement hands, though not accurate, suit the clock much better. I am not going to worry about the weight hook and you are probably correct, just the hook was replaced as the weight shells look like a match. One has to look very closely to see the difference.

      The block above the bottom centre finial does appear to be a replacement now that I look at it more carefully. If it was replaced it was done a very long time ago. The one or two parts that I have replaced on the movement are not enough to say that it is changed in any significant way. I like your Matthias Bäuerle clock as it shares many of the design features of my clock. Curious, what piece of trim had to be made? I can’t tell. I do like your definition of a “marriage” and very appropriate in your description of the Charles Wilbur clock.

      Thanks for your insights.

      Ron

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      1. I’m not sure if the block over the finial is original or not (you could tell from the back of the clock). It’s possible that it’s original and only the 3 applied mouldings around it are gone.

        The “MB” clock has one replaced “block” just over the right finial (completely new – pine with walnut veneer over it), and the entire top crest is new (the colour is just slightly off, but it was copied from another similar clock).

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