French clockmakers such as Vedette, like so many makers of 1930s Europe, made box clocks in several styles. Although I have always wanted a Vedette clock buying one so plain was not what I had in mind but there it was at a silent auction in a clock mart at the NAWCC National Convention in Springfield, Ma. in June 2019 at a take-me please price.
It could easily be mistaken for a typical German box clock of the period save for the attractive oval beveled lower window and lack of side windows. Vedette clocks are typically quite ornate – not this one! However, the sound of the chimes more than make up for its plain jane appearance.
There is nothing quite like the reverberating chime of a Vedette clock
It is a quarter hour Westminster chime. The clock mysteriously stops after a few minutes. I removed the movement from the case and but for one slightly worn pivot hole on the chime side I could not see anything that would cause the clock to stop in such a manner. There are no bent wheels or broken parts. I attached my TimeTrax beat amplifier and immediately heard a slight scraping sound along with the normal tick-tock. The pendulum rod was hitting the chime rod retainer which locks the chimes when transporting the clock. Why? The stand-offs, located inside the case and near the bottom, were causing the case to tilt forward. Adjusting the stand-offs fixed the problem.
However, the chime medley is off. The first 8 notes of the Westminster chime are at the end of the hour strike sequence (16 notes on the hour). The chime drum will require adjusting. But what a sound! There is nothing quite like the reverberating chime of a Vedette clock.
The clock appears complete with original dial face, pendulum rod and large brass bob, plus key. The movement is original to the case. The quality movement is large and heavy sitting atop a wood seat board that slides into rabbeted slots on vertical support boards and are retained with 2 thumb screws. There are eight rod gongs, 4 on each side, the longest of which extends to the beat scale just below and behind the pendulum. A “Vedette” plate is attached to the lower right front of the movement. Inside the bottom of the front door is a paper label with directions in French. The clock face, with large clear numbers, is painted metal with very little wear. The Vedette company name is just below the 12 o’clock position.
The case is a little rough, dull and faded overall. There are plenty of nicks and scratches from top to bottom showing the ravages of frequent moves. It is a candidate for mild refinishing. A good cleaning, a light sanding, and one or two clear top coat of shellac should improve the look of the case dramatically.
The clock is heavy but it was also designed to be moved; the chime rods can be locked for transport and a rope with spring attached is used to pull each of the hammer groups to a resting cradle. The key also has its own caddy. To protect the suspension spring from bending or breaking the pendulum leader can also be locked in place by means of a lever. I have never seen such attention to detail.
Since the longest chiming rod extends all the way to the beat scale a rod broken in transit would not be easy to fix.
American clocks will tolerate wear surprisingly well. French clocks, on the other hand, are made to closer tolerances and one or two slightly worn bushings will cause the clock to stop. I am pleased that it runs but it will certainly require a good cleaning.
Once the case is refinished the movement will be overhauled. I will report on how that goes in a future article.