Fleet Time Clock – servicing the movement and then disaster

Fleet Time clock
Fleet Time Co. mantel clock

This Fleet Time, time and strike mantel clock is essentially a plain, garden variety clock with a walnut finish, flat front, a slightly domed top, and step-side features on corner feet. The dial is heavily tarnished and the glass bezel that should be soldered to the chapter ring is detached. These bezels often go missing and at least this one came with the clock.

The clock has some issues, none of which are insurmountable. The plan is to refinish the case, attach the bezel, clean-up the dial or replace it, install new glass, and service the movement.

In this post servicing the movement is the focus.

The movement looked reasonably good when I received it and it may have had some bushing work done in the past but once apart it was clear to me that it might never have been worked on beyond a cleaning. It ran when I got it and one is tempted to leave it as is but it was dirty, had some wear and long overdue for a good cleaning.

Servicing the movement

Fleet time movement
Fleet time movement

Disassembly and testing for wear

I discovered two troubling issues when I had it apart. I put the wheels together to check for wear and I noticed the escape wheel was a fair distance along the arbour from its correct position adjacent to the leaf pinion (no photos, sorry). The pallets were contacting the very edge of the wheel. My staking set comes in handy from time to time and it was needed to close the gap between the wheel and the pinion.

staking set
staking set

Using light taps from a hammer and an appropriately sized punch I drove the wheel closer to the pinion. The pallets now contact the middle of the wheel as they should. Odd!

Fleet time movement
Fleet time movement, dirty and in need of a good cleaning

The second was an erratic beat during the testing phase of the time side. With a beat amplifier connected, I could hear the movement go ever so slightly in and out of beat, yet the movement continued to run. There are a number of possibilities but one is a bent escape wheel arbour which, in this case, was the culprit. Bent arbours are not difficult to straighten but care must be taken to bent them carefully so as to prevent a break. A broken arbour can be a very frustrating clock problem.

Once the 2 issues were out of the way it is on to cleaning the parts, inspecting and polishing the pivots, pegging the pivot holes, followed by bushing work. Most of the bushings that were installed were on the strike side. In fact, 4 of six, 3 on the backplate and one on the front plate, strike side, and the two on the time side were on the second wheel. Two were 2.5 OD bushings. I work on a lot of American and European clocks and cannot recall using bushings that small.


After cleaning and bushing work is completed the rack, snail, levers, and strike hammers/levers are attached.

Since the star wheel is on the outside of the plate I thought attaching the strike hammers would be simple. Not so much!

Fleet Time movement
Fleet Time movement, star wheel paddles

Again as in all movements with star wheels, the strike paddles must sit between the star points. One was fine, the other hung on the tip of a point. Rather than attempt to force the star into position, the strike side was partially disassembled and the star wheel was re-positioned. Yes, it meant removing wheels on the strike side to change the orientation of the star wheel but it is best to do it correctly rather than risk damage to the gear.

On this movement, the mainsprings can be removed without disassembling the movement. Handy for such things as replacing a broken mainspring and making the above adjustment.

Fleet time movement
Fleet time movement

The movement was on the test stand for two eight-day cycles and now it is time to return it to its case.

Just when everything seemed to go well – disaster 

I polished the 3-rod gong and mounted it and the movement within the case. I wound the strike side fully and then wound the time side. Just as I was feeling resistance, CLUNK, and then the arbour turned freely. Did the mainspring slip off the winding arbour or, did the mainspring break?

Sourcing a mainspring is not a problem but when I removed the barrel I discovered two broken and one bent tooth on the mainspring barrel plus a broken mainspring. Make that three broken teeth since a bent tooth cannot be straightened.

Broken and bent teeth

I do not have the specialized equipment to make and install new teeth and sourcing a 60 tooth barrel that is the exact height and depth would be a challenge. Worse, the catastrophic shock of the broken mainspring took out one leaf of the second wheel pinion. 

When the mainspring breaks on the arbour end, which occurred in this case, the power is released uncontrolled, and causes damage to the barrel, the second wheel or both. When the mainspring breaks at the other end it tries to unwind and the loose end provides sufficient resistance, that is, a much slower release of the energy, and is less likely to cause major damage. In the latter case the mainspring is the only thing that is damaged and it can be easily replaced. In the former, both the barrel and second wheel need to be repaired or replaced.

This is an unusual situation, but it happens.

Fleet second time wheel
Fleet second time wheel with bent pinion leaf which cannot be straightened

The movement was aside to consider next steps. In the meantime, the plan is to locate a donor movement. The power was let down on the strike side, and everything was placed in a sealed plastic bag and marked for storage.

I’ll be honest, this situation bummed me out and it took a week to return to servicing another movement.

The clock case

The plan, after servicing the movement, was to devote a separate post on the case but since the movement is non-functional there is not much point. While the movement was on the test stand, I spent hours on the case, stripping, finishing, and polishing including swapping out the dial and broken glass with one from a Blackforest clock from the same period (both companies used the same suppliers). The case came out better than expected but now there is no movement to put in it.

Fleet Time case
Fleet Time refinished case and replacement bezel and dial

The most disappointing part? I was at the very end of the project. The movement and rod gong were installed in the beautifully reconditioned case and I was preparing it for its first run after having tested it for two weeks. I did not expect it to go out with such a destructive bang.

Broken time-side mainspring

I asked a clock friend for some advice. He says that although the barrel teeth and leaf pinion can be fixed it is usually not worth it because the process is so time consuming. “What do you do?”, I said. “I collect movements that are used as donors for times such as this”, he replied.

A sad end to an otherwise satisfying servicing.

One thought on “Fleet Time Clock – servicing the movement and then disaster

  1. Arggh! Sorry you lost the patient on the table. My morgue has more than I’d like, (>1). Call me Ron. I know of a clockmaker who been at it since 1960’s. He may have a donor mvmt/parts. Offer another solution. Paul.

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