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