A marriage of two makers, Waterbury and Seth Thomas

This clock is an antique store find not too far from where I live. It was high on a shelf and the price was not visible. I asked the shopkeeper to take it down so that I could check the price ($40) and verify that it had a mechanical movement.

Seth Thomas cabinet clock?

I opened the back panel, quickly glanced at the movement and the trademark stamp appeared to be Ansonia. I had worked on an Ansonia Syria shelf clock in the past year and it looked quite similar but it was an odd looking movement for an Ansonia. Ansonia movements generally have an arched plate, this one had a hump. No matter, I bought it.

Ansonia Syria cabinet clock

While at home I was able to examine the clock more closely.

What did I buy?

I discovered that the movement is made by the Seth Thomas Clock Co. not by Ansonia. The movement was made for about 12 years and was available from 1890 to 1902. The style of the case is also from the same period.

An exhaustive search of Seth Thomas clocks on the internet using keywords such as, shelf, parlour (parlor), cabinet, carved oak and mantel produced nothing. I then navigated to a well-known Seth Thomas database site, poured through hundreds of listings and again, zilch.

I began to realize that the case might not have been made by Seth Thomas, after all.

However, I was determined to find the maker. I searched for clocks made by other companies, starting with E.N Welch, Ansonia (because it is similar in style to the Syria), Gilbert, Sessions and finally Waterbury. When I used the term “Waterbury cabinet clock” I found it on an auction site. So, now I have a case made by a different maker than the movement.

What is a marriage?

Among clock circles it is generally accepted that if a clock has significant parts from another source, particularly the movement and put into a period correct case from a different maker, it is considered a marriage. If it has parts sourced from a number of other clocks it is a Frankenstein or Frankenclock. While this clock is not quite a Frankenclock it is certainly a marriage.

Waterbury Wren case

I am actually disappointed that this clock is a marriage

The case is a Waterbury model called the “Wren”. I found three Wren models, two with paper dials and one with the identical dial pan as my clock. It may well be that this dial pan is original to the case.

The concave brass bezel and glass are certainly more recent. When I first looked at the clock I knew that the brass bezel and glass were incorrect but that did not stop me from buying the clock. The original bezel would have been a piecrust design with flat glass. This glass bezel is from a 1930s vintage clock.

The back access door is made of plywood, a recent addition and, of course, there is no label. The original panel would have been made of solid wood and screwed to the sides of the case with a circular tin access port. The label would have been located on the outside under the port door or underneath the base,

Does the movement run?

The movement is complete with pendulum bob and ST key. It was sold as a non-running clock, but will the clock run?

While the movement was still in its case I applied mainspring oil to the tight mainspring, allowing a few minutes for penetration. I then removed the verge so that the time train would run freely, using my finger as a brake on the escape wheel. It was sluggish at first but eventually the sticky time side mainspring made several soft clunking sounds as it ran down.

You can see the very tight time-side mainspring in the next photo. Grime and built-up dirty oil over the years will seize a mainspring.

Once the mainspring was partially let down I reattached the verge and the clock would stop after a minute or so. There was definitely power going to the escape wheel but something else was amiss. It would skip a tooth or two with every rotation which told me that the pallets were too far from the escape wheel. There is an adjustment screw on an arm which allows the pallets to be moved closer (or further) to the escape wheel. I eventually found the correct distance and the clock began to run normally. At the same time I opened the crutch loop wider to allow more impulse.

This is certainly no substitute for an overhaul but a good diagnostic tool.

Meanwhile, the strike side ran perfectly.

The movement is running and keeping good time but it needs a cleaning and several wear issues addressed.

Seth Thomas 8-day time and strike movement

Next steps?

I am actually disappointed it is a marriage. Buying a clock is always a risk and if I had paid many times more for this clock I would have asked for my money back.

I am not sure what I am going to do with it but I am inclined to service it and perhaps put it on the market. If I sold it I would certainly disclose the fact that it has a period correct replacement movement from another maker.

Nevertheless, it would make an attractive clock once the case is cleaned, the movement is properly serviced and has the correct glass and bezel.

And, if I like it enough I might keep it.


4 thoughts on “A marriage of two makers, Waterbury and Seth Thomas

  1. Good detective work figuring out this anomaly. Worse than finding peened pivot holes, a cobbed together a frankenclock, (Ok. Worst sin, undoubtedly the quartz movement transplant). Although this forced marriage was no fault of the clock. It is handsome. Perhaps too, a new owner, will not be overly concerned of its pedigree. It is vintage and does its job. Perhaps you might come to live with it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did some work on the dial and it came out quite well. The other option is to source a Waterbury movement but it would not change the fact that is is a marriage. Still, I might keep it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It is unfortunate that both movement and case did not start life out together. For the price you did ok. Seth is a good company. You could most likely find a Waterbury movement for it. Nice clock overall.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It would be closer to the original but still a marriage. I have done some work on the case and if I can find a piecrust dial I might keep it.

      Liked by 1 person

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