Waterbury Arion wall clock movement servicing

Let me begin by saying that I am not a big fan of clock movements with steel plates. Many that I have come across have brass bushing inserts that I believe to be a limitation rather than a benefit.

Waterbury short drop wall clock

The movement in this plain drop octagon case is a Waterbury time-only. When I bought the clock in January of 2016 it came without the glass and bezel which I ordered from a supplier. I was informed by the previous owner that it had been serviced so, other than the new glass and bezel plus inpainting some of the numerals I have done nothing else to it, but now it is time to service the movement.

Inpainted numerals

A diminutive size, this clock was made around 1930 just a few short years before the Waterbury Clock Company was placed in receivership.

It is a solid oak case measuring 19 inches long by 12 inches wide, with an 8 inch paper dial marked Waterbury, a black and gold pendulum aperture, and 8-day time-only movement. The bottom of the dial says, ” Made in the USA by Waterbury Clock Company”, Connecticut. These clocks are often refereed to as schoolhouse clocks though I can’t imagine the dial of a clock this small visible from the other end of a classroom.

Issues with steel plated movements

As mentioned, the movement has steel plates. Steel plates are perfectly fine and I understand why manufacturers use them, to save brass (and money), but I have two issues with them.

One, no matter how hard I try, I cannot get them to shine because the steel tends to attract tarnish which is almost impossible to remove. And of course, as they are made of steel they are prone to rusting. The solution is to plate the steel in brass or nickel as some makers did.

Arthur Pequegnat movements, with steel plates, for example, are nickel-plated. Unless the nickel plating is compromised they shine up spectacularly.

The time and strike with signature nickle-plated steel plates
Pequegnat nickel-plated steel plates

A second issue with steel plates is the brass bushing inserts. In my view, there is simply not enough brass to work with. In most cases I use a smaller bushing than I would otherwise employ so as to avoid cutting into the steel plate. I use the Bergeon bushing system. KWM bushings may have a smaller outside diameter, I’m not sure?

Large bushings on a movement that has steel plates means there is a risk in cutting into the steel. The cutters that came with my Bergeon bushing machine are about $35CDN apiece and it would only take a cut or two into steel to render them dull and useless.

Waterbury Arion instructions

Assessing the movement

The movement is in generally good condition. The lantern pinions and gear teeth are in excellent condition. There is minimal wear on the pallets, escape wheel teeth and all parts in general.

The mainspring is definitely a replacement. The loop end looks to have been annealed. It does not look professional but the mainspring is in very good shape and is reusable. I suspect, given the length of the mainspring, that it is oversized for the movement.

The movement is certainly in need of bushing work. New bushings will extend the life of the movement.

Five bushings were installed. Two on the verge, front and back, the third wheel back plate and second and fourth wheels front plate.

Three bushings on the front plate

The pivot on the third wheel is 2.30mm in diameter. Though it would normally require a 4.50mm outside diameter bushing, a 4.50mm bushing makes a very large hole, so large in fact that it would have meant cutting into the steel plate.

I chose a 3.5 mm bushing with a 1.90mm inside diameter. Broaching out to 2.30mm, effectively removes .4 millimeters of brass with a remaining thickness of 1.2mm which should be enough. 3.00mm OD bushings were used for the 4 other pivot holes. Brass-plated movements present present fewer limitations on bushing diameter.

New third wheel bushing

The mainspring was cleaned and oiled. The movement was reassembled and put on the test stand.

Once on the test stand I noticed a wobble in the suspension leader which was rectified by tightening the suspension spring post.

If you are novice and just starting out in clock repair, time-only movements are excellent to begin with as there is only one train to work on but take extra care with movements that have steel plates.

Time-only Waterbury movement on the test stand

My suspicion about the mainspring was confirmed. 15 days later, it was still running.

After 5 years this movement should not have been as worn as it was and the issue is an oversized mainspring which puts an unnecessary load on the gears through the train. I am not about to replace the mainspring, it is just not worth it for a $40 clock, but my advice to anyone interested in clock repair is to source a mainspring that is correctly sized for the movement you are working on.

The cleaning and the installation of new bushings should nonetheless ensure years of reliable running.


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