Waterbury York parlour clock servicing – a few surprises but ultimately a disappointment

This attractive parlour clock, a Waterbury York, circa 1900, was bought at auction in the spring of 2019. Though inexpensive it is certainly worth servicing which is the subject of this article.

The time side was running but the strike side did not function at all. Usually these sorts of problems amount to simple lever adjustment issues but there were other surprises awaiting me.

The auction tag is still on the clock, the day I bought it

The Waterbury Clock Company was incorporated in the city of Waterbury, Connecticut, on March 5, 1857. Until the Great Depression, Waterbury had been quite prosperous, but like so many companies, most of the profits lined the pockets of its Directors instead of being reinvested in new equipment and updated facilities. In 1932 the company was bought and re-organized under the name Ingersoll-Waterbury.and in later years the company morphed into the Timex Corporation. If you peruse the Timex site today you will see a line of Timex watches called the Waterbury collection.

This is a parlour clock, otherwise known as a kitchen or gingerbread clock. The three categories are distinct in my view but sellers use the terms interchangeably. I will reserve that discussion for another day.

A movement with lots of problems none of which are insurmountable

When I saw the machine cut walnut case my first thought was a marriage of top and bottom. Note the difference in the tone and texture between the crown and the side columns. From the rear everything appears original. A manufacturing anomaly perhaps.

Waterbury movement with steel plates and brass bushing inserts

Every clock has problems, some serious and some minor. The clock case is in generally good condition, though the movement has suffered the ravages of frequent repairs, some professional but others in a back alley somewhere. All five pillar screws were well worn telling me that it has had a hard life.

Waterbury time and strike movement, all 5 screws have similar marks

The strike side second wheel gear teeth damage is the direct result of a broken mainspring (see below). When a mainspring lets go, collateral damage manifests itself as bent and broken parts and in this instance, the second wheel took the brunt of the force when power was released, a direct result of a broken mainspring, so no surprise, the strike side mainspring is a replacement. Usually, clockmakers replace both mainsprings as a precaution if one breaks though not in this case.

A shroud secures the main wheel assembly and when I removed the strike side mainspring the wheel fell apart. Securing the shroud to the arbour by using a punch was a simple fix. A punch is not something I use often in clock repair.

Loose shroud punched in place
The steel plates did not clean up as well as the wheels
The wheel runs despite the crude repair

One section of the gear teeth repair looks good, the other is rough. Though it runs unimpeded it would have been far better to have replaced the wheel. How long it has been running with this repair and how long the repair will last are good questions. I do not have a spare wheel so, it stays.

Main wheel catch repair, both sides are the same and it looks sturdy

When the mainspring broke both catches were replaced. The repair looks good.

Newer brass bushing for escape wheel bridge is punched, a past repair

There is no immediate need for bushing work. The pivots are in good condition and the pivot holes have little wear. After cleaning, I reinstalled the repaired second wheel on the strike side but will be on the lookout for a new one.

Setting up the strike side was a challenge as the stop and warning lever had to be re-positioned. In addition, the lifting lever was not lifting high enough to release the strike and had to be moved. The levers on this movement had been bent so many times during its many visits to the shop (or back alley) and it is difficult to determine their correct position.

Despite a number of lever adjustments it does not strike well at all. I don’t like being defeated by a movement but I think I must set it aside and think about it. For now, let’s just say it is a time-only clock.