Ansonia Syria parlour clock – a favour for a friend – Part 1

Over the summer I was asked to service a friend’s clock. It is an attractive machine-carved oak Ansonia Syria parlour clock in the popular Arts and Crafts style of the late 19th century.

”my poor clock needs a good servicing and cleaning. It runs slow, eg. I set it and would it on Sunday and by Friday it’s about 14 minutes slow, about 2-3 minutes per day, and it needs new hands”

It has great sentimental value to my friend but she recognized that it was in need of adjustment or repair. It had been in her late husband’s family for a number of years and she wanted it to preserve it as a reminder of his life.

Ansonia Syria mantel clock

It was in a well-packed box and in it was a note. The note said, ”my poor clock needs a good servicing and cleaning. It runs slow, eg. I set it and would it on Sunday and by Friday it’s about 14 minutes slow, about 2-3 minutes per day, and it needs new hands”.

Packaged with care

I opened the box, attached the pendulum, gave both arbours several turns, and started the clock. The fact that it is in running order and striking correctly is certainly a positive sign and testament to the fact that it was serviced in the past. Does it need a simple cleaning and regulating or is something else going on?

Apart from a couple of nicks and scratches, the case looks good. I asked the owner if she would like the case reconditioned and she said she prefers it the way it is. Fair enough.

The Ansonia Syria is an attractive mantel clock and according to the label affixed to the inside of the back access door, it is an 1878 Paris Exposition winner. This is helpful because it allows the clock to be dated. On the movement, there is a patent date of June 18, 1882. It is probably safe to say that it was made within a few years of the 1882 date which puts it in the late -1880s to 1890s. Tran Duy Ly in his book on Ansonia clocks (page 245) lists the year of manufacture as 1894.

The Ansonia Clock Company competed with many popular clock companies of the time; Waterbury, Gilbert, Seth Thomas, E. N. Welch, and New Haven to name a few.

Let’s look into this clock a little further. A few interesting anomalies struck me as I examined the clock case and the movement.

  • Just above the 12, there is a brass insert that looks like the head of a large pin. It is there to conceal a hole. Although difficult to see in the photo, the letters “S” and “F” appear at either side of the pin. The pin hides the hole for the regulator. Clocks with this type of regulator come with two-sided keys and the smaller end is used to insert into the hole and regulate the clock to slow it down or speed it up. The dial pan is also held in place by common nails.
  • This movement in this case does not have a regulator mechanism and the mechanism was not removed from the movement. This is a period-correct Ansonia replacement movement that originally came out of a kitchen clock with an alarm. The alarm would have been attached to an activating lever which has been cut off on this movement (see the centre of below shot).
The base of the alarm actuator
Standoffs on the back of the movement
  • In the above photo, you can see standoffs on the rear plate and clearly standoffs on the front plate. The front standoffs are fashioned from a brass ribbon, bent, drilled out, and cut to fit. The clock is, what we term in the clock business, a marriage. It is always nice to see that it has a movement from the same manufacturer and from the same period as the clock case but a marriage certainly reduces its desirability and makes it difficult to classify it as an antique.
  • Next, the suspension spring post has been re-soldered, loose perhaps.
  • And lastly, the hour hand is a replacement. The original hour hand would have been a trident style.

That having been said, the clock has great sentimental value for the owner, and the fact that it is a marriage and has undergone changes over the years may not be a factor.

The movement has been worked on in the past. There are 16 replacement bushings. The bushing work looks professional and after a first look perhaps 2 or 3 require replacement though none on the strike side. Otherwise, the movement was dirty and had thick black-greenish oil residue on several pivots. Not surprising in an antique clock but indicative of some level of wear. The mainsprings were dripping with brown oil, but I have seen a lot worse.

The next step is to service the movement. Part 2, in four days’ time will detail disassembly, bushing work, and general cleaning.