One of my newest acquisitions is a Seth Thomas Regulator #2 which I found in Bloomfield during my travels through Ontario. Bloomfield is a few minutes from Picton which is a major centre in Prince Edward County, known for it many wineries.
These clocks do not come up very often; the price was right and the clock was in great condition
I had my eye on the clock during a visit to the village antique shop this past summer and thought about it long and hard before taking the plunge later in the fall to buy it. These clocks do not come up very often; the price was right and the clock was in great condition.
It is an iconic American clock and every serious clock collector wants one
Perhaps recognizable as one of the most common regulator clocks in America, the Seth Thomas Regulator #2 was found in many railway stations across America during the last century, a testament to its accuracy and dependability. It is a robust, accurate, well-engineered and dependable timepiece that was made by Seth Thomas from 1860 to 1950, a run of 90 years. Few clocks can claim that kind of longevity. It is an iconic American clock and every serious clock collector wants one.
A classic style, the #2 changed very little over the years. However, certain design characteristics help date the clock. The following identification guide describes dial and case characteristics that will aid in identifying the approximate year the clock was made.
The most distinctive visible characteristic is the design of the base.
Aside from the distinctive base, all but the earliest #2s had the pendulum mounted in the rear with “T” hands.
The chart also lists the limited run reissue in 1976. Most Seth Thomas aficionados would agree that while the reissue is a handsome and well-made clock that is a testament to the original it is not in the same realm as an authentic Regulator #2 and the prices for these versions reflect accordingly. However, those who have the reissue seem to be pleased with their acquisition.
Are there issues with this clock? Of course, it is over 90 years old!
According to the chart, my clock was made between 1922 and 1929 and has a base reminiscent of the earlier 1860 version of the #2. It has Arabic numbers with spade hands. The bow-tie between the wood dial bezel and the drop is one piece (earlier versions had a 3-piece bow-tie). It has a second hand 2 inches above the centre cannon. The second hand is not a true second hand and runs off the escapement taking 80 beats to complete the “minute”. It is 36 ½ inches tall and veneered in mahogany. It has 77A stamped on the bottom right of the movement with the letter “K” underneath but it is otherwise unmarked. Some versions of the 77 have lantern pinions while this has cut pinions.
Are there issues with this clock? Certainly, it is over 90 years old! There is minor loss on the dial, no label, a finish that has lost its luster and paint splatter on the top of the case not visible from the front. Is it really so hard removing a clock when painting a room!
I brought this clock from Ontario to Nova Scotia by car. Removing the pendulum for transport is not a particularly simple process but if you are familiar with the pendulum arrangement on a typical weight driven Vienna Regulator this one is no different. Like Viennas, the pendulum is hung behind the movement.
Both the weight and the pendulum must be removed for transport. There is many a story of broken glass when weight and pendulum are free to move around inside the case. To remove the weight, simply unhook it from the cable wheel.
To remove the pendulum the movement must be taken out. First, the hands are taken off. In this version, the minute hand is held in place with a nut. Older ones have a pin. There are 8 small screws that hold the dial in place. Once the dial is removed, two larger screws on the wooden second-hand rail are removed. Four cylindrical column posts hold the movement in place. Unscrew these beginning with the bottom two and lift the movement out. Once the movement is out, the pendulum can be unhooked from its suspension spring. The entire process takes less than five minutes.
The trapezoid 77A movement with maintaining power in this clock looks clean. There is evidence of having been worked on in the past as there are 4 punch marks around the winding arbour to close the hole; a common practice in the past to close a pivot hole. Otherwise, the movement looks very good.
Getting the clock to run reliably was a challenge and it took a week or so to sort it out. The clock would run for a few minutes and stop.
Following a process of elimination, I removed the movement, inspected it for wear, found very little, oiled the pivots and returned the movement to the case. I installed the dial, then the hands. The clock would run for a few minutes and stop. I removed the hands and dial; left the dial off but reinstalled the hands. Still, it would run only a few minutes. I then took the dial and hands off. I ran the movement for 4 days to eliminate any underlying issues and to convince myself that the problem lay in the positioning of the hands. The problem was definitely with the positioning of the hands.
On day 5, I put the dial back on, then the second hand ensuring that there was sufficient clearance between the second hand and the face. Next, I put the hour hand on the pipe and pressed it in far enough to clear both the second hand and the minute hand. I attached the minute hand, inspected it for sufficient clearance and screwed it in place. I started the clock. Success at last! Regulating the clock is fairly simple and is achieved by turning the rating nut on the bottom of the pendulum. This clock must be level and in beat to function properly.
Otherwise, Murphy’s Soap was used to clean the grease and grime from the case. I left the paint splatter as-is; gives the clock some character. I also polished the brass weight and pendulum bob.
This is a great looking clock with a long and illustrious model history; a very appropriate addition to the front entrance of our home. Unfortunately, where it has been these 90+ years is a mystery.
Whether or not it is a “true regulator” is a question for another day.