Are clocks temperamental? Is my one-weight Vienna Regulator moody?

Every now and then a clock is temperamental. I am not talking about the signs of wear that will certainly stop a clock but occasionally it is serviced, everything looks good but it is downright cantankerous. Anyone who has 400-day anniversary clocks knows exactly what I mean. Are clocks moody?

I relocated my unmarked Vienna Regulator one-weight (time-only) wall clock from one room to another and it decided to stop, just like that! A push of the pendulum and 10 minutes or two hours later, it stops. Normally when a clock is moved and level is confirmed (and the movement in beat) it happily ticks along but not this time. Is my Vienna Regulator moody?

It is one of my favourite clocks and I wanted it to run.

one-weight Vienna wall clock
Miniature one-weight Vienna wall clock

Some might call it a mini Vienna Regulator others might call it just small. It is 34 inches long 4.75 inches deep and 11 inches at the widest point and 8.5 inches at the waist. Time-only Vienna Regulators are my absolute favourite. They are simple and usually very reliable.

Vienna Regulator dial
Vienna Regulator, 2-part porcelain dial
Crown with two finials

There are no markings on the movement. Very few Austrian clocks have markings on the backplates or markings anywhere for that matter.

The style suggests Austro-Hungary from about 1870.

A small movement that fits in the palm of my hand

Indeed, the nicely proportioned 8-day duration weight-driven clock with rosewood inlay looks to be from a transitional period that forms the link between the simplicity of the earlier styles and the extravagance of the latter. Where the earlier pieces rarely have columns on the side of the door, the transitional clocks have either broken columns (tops and bottoms of columns with hanging finials) or slender, elegant columns. In comparison, the hallmarks of the Alt-Deutsch clocks were full, and typically fluted columns with Corinthian pediments and rectangular panels at the base.

Four-posted keyhole mounts for the movement were common throughout the transitional period. Most dials are two-piece Roman numeral porcelain with spun-brass bezels. Both are features of this clock.

The glazed front and sides are either remounted (wood rails replaced with clips) or replacements with new-old glass. In any event, the front glass has that wavy look that is desirable in old clocks. Other than two pieces of veneer missing on the top right side that must be pointed out to be visible, the case is in very good condition and has excellent colour and patination.

So, what is keeping this clock from running?

The Movement

Let’s look at the movement. The time-only movement is pretty simple.

Simple design, front plate removed

There are only 4 finely machined wheels between the plates starting with the main wheel (T1) at the bottom and ending with the escape wheel (T4). The weight driven movement has a deadbeat escapement with maintaining power, so it should and does keep good time. Outside the top plate is the motion works. Again, very simple with 3 wheels. The wheels are well-crafted and the pivots are very dainty in comparison to a typical American movement.

The front plate showing the motion works and nylon cable

The well-worn screws tell me that the clock has been worked on but there is no evidence of repairs both inside and outside the plates. No new bushings, no punch marks or wheel repairs. Perhaps the movement was opened up from time to time to replace the weight cable. The weight cable is stiff nylon, certainly not original and obviously the incorrect cable for this clock. The stiff cable appeared to have rotated on itself (birdsnesting is a term we use in clock circles) robbing the movement of power and might account for the stoppage. We shall see.

I installed a new braided cable. The white braided cable was immersed in black tea for a couple of hours to give it an aged look, then the knotted ends were singed with a torch.

Cleaned, oiled and installed in the case with new braided cable

Cleaning is long overdue. I checked my records and they tell me that I have done nothing other than oil the movement since I got it in November of 2016.

The disassembled movement was placed in my ultrasonic cleaner and once cleaned and rinsed I carefully dried the parts, again inspecting for bent pivots, bent arbours, damaged teeth and so on. Everything looked good, even the pivot holes. These movements are well designed, there is very little torque on the wheels and rare that a Vienna Regulator, like this one, requires bushings.

Finding nothing amiss I reassembled the movement but left the dial face and hands removed for testing.

In the case during the testing phase

I do not have a testing stand for weight driven movements (which is on my list) and ran it for about a month.

Dial and hands are back on the clock and seems to be running well

I returned the dial to its case, observed it running for a week or so and now have a running clock.

Perhaps replacing the weight cable is the answer to a stopped clock but a thorough cleaning certainly helped.


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