Seth Thomas Alarm Clock – big and ugly but I like it

My wife loves those little craft shops that seem to pop up everywhere. While shopping for Christmas presents in Truro, Nova Scotia, she spotted an attractive Seth Thomas balloon alarm clock. It is not working, said the vendor but my wife knew that her clock loving husband would likely get it running in no time.

Art Nouveau styled Seth Thomas alarm clock

These clocks are not uncommon on online auction sites

Made around 1900, the clock features a metal case with openwork, scrolling details, a rectangular base with a central shell design. The dial is marked “Seth Thomas” to the center and “Manufactured in the United States of America” underneath the six. An alarm bell is housed in the base and yes, it is very loud. The clock measures 7.25″ W x 9.0″ H x 3.5″ D.

Made in US America

Not rare but interesting

These clocks are not uncommon on online auction sites. Though some describe the alarm clock case as cast iron or copper, it appears to be either plated cast brass or more likely spelter. Some would describe the style as Art Nouveau. Art Nouveau is an international style of art, especially the more decorative arts that were most popular between 1890 and 1910.

The dial features Roman numerals, a working inset sixty-second dial at the twelve, a twelve-hour alarm dial at the six and a cast metal bezel with a beaded pattern. The clock features two winding keys on the reverse (though one key is missing as well as one set screw) and is marked “Made in U.S. America.”

Back cover, with keys taken off

I took off the back cover, put it aside and cleaned it. The 30-hour movement with alarm was quite dirty, as expected. A thorough dismantling and cleaning is in order but for now, let’s see if it works.

Back cover removed

Let’s see if it runs

Using Keystone clock oil I applied oil to the pivots and those I could reach in the front without taking the movement out of the case. New oil introduced to old oil will eventually mix and cause an abrasive sludge that will hasten wear but I wanted to determine if the movement was capable of running. After the oiling, I gave the escapement a gentle push and the clock came to life and continued to run its 1-day cycle. The alarm feature works but I am missing the windup key and the time key does not fit properly. I am also missing the hands’ adjustment set key, so, a pair of pliers was used to set the time.

The clock looks great

I cleaned the case with a mild soap avoiding hard rubbing for fear of taking off the plating. The clock looks great and has a pleasant patina.

My wife paid $15 for the clock. Online auction and for-sale sites reveal realized prices all over the map, from $30 to $410. I am pleased that it is a working clock at a very reasonable price and a nice addition it to my modest alarm clock collection.