Understanding the Function and Importance of Beat Scales in Clocks

If you’ve ever examined a pendulum-driven wall clock, you might have noticed a small plaque affixed to the back panel just below the pendulum. This plaque is commonly known as a beat plaque or beat scale indicator. Although the presence of a beat scale on a clock does not always indicate its value, it does perform a significant role.

Seth Thomas #2
Seth Thomas #2 beat scale below pendulum bob

Most beat scales have I and II markers on either side and when the pendulum swings, it should swing beyond the indicator I marker and close to the II.

The amplitude of the pendulum swing can reveal the health of the clock’s movement.

If there is very little amplitude in the pendulum’s swing, it could indicate wear or issues with the movement. In such cases, it may be necessary to investigate the movement, make pallet adjustments, or mitigate any wear issues.

Mauthe wall clock

When the pendulum swing is too large or excessive, it may indicate an issue with the clock’s movement. Swinging too far beyond the II marker on the beat scale could suggest that the clock’s mechanism has a problem, which could include a loose pallet or an escapement that has worn out. In this case, it may be necessary to make adjustments or repairs to the clock’s mechanism to address this issue.

Mauthe wall clock circa 1895

Ideally, the pendulum of the clock should align with the center of the beat scale when the pendulum is stopped. It may not align correctly because of several reasons, such as wear and tear in the clock’s movement, changes in the environment that affect the clock’s components, improper installation, or adjustments made to the clock’s pendulum or beat scale.

If the beat scale appears off-center when the clock is stopped, it may also indicate that the clock is not squared correctly on the wall.

Arthur Pequegnat Moncton 15 day wall clock

The presence of a beat scale does not necessarily imply that a clock is of high quality. Certain high-quality clocks were produced without a beat scale, while others were designed with a beat scale as a guide or an ornamental feature. In some cases, beat scales may have been added to clocks after their manufacture for decorative purposes.

If a clock has a beat scale, it assumes several conditions.

These include;

  • the assumption that the beat scale is original to the clock and was applied dead center,
  • that the scale has never been removed,
  • that the clock’s case has not undergone any environmental changes such as warping or high humidity,
  • that the pendulum rod and bob have not experienced similar environmental changes.
  • and that the clock’s movement, pendulum, and bob have not required any repairs or maintenance that could adversely affect the dead center between the beat scale and the pendulum.
Vienna regulator beat scale

The beat scale was originally designed and manufactured as a high-tech object and while they do serve a practical purpose in some clocks in many cases beat scales are purely decorative.

However, as noted above, the presence of a beat scale alone is not necessarily indicative of a clock’s value or quality.


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