Astronomical regulator

gentleman jim

Registered User
Dec 7, 2008
69
2
8
South Carolina
Country
Region
I was fortunately in the right place at the right time and was able to purchase this clock built by Francis Sommer of Charleston SC in roughly 1875. The clock is 7" 7" without the finial. The pendulum weighs 16 pounds, needs extensive restoration and the suspension spring is missing. The movement is in good condition but needs cleaning and bushing of one pivot. The pallets and three trains are jeweled.

If anyone has information or pictures of the suspension for clocks of this type it would be appreciated.
 

Attachments

rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

Registered User
NAWCC Member
Nov 26, 2009
5,431
985
113
Country
I was fortunately in the right place at the right time and was able to purchase this clock built by Francis Sommer of Charleston SC in roughly 1875. The clock is 7" 7" without the finial. The pendulum weighs 16 pounds, needs extensive restoration and the suspension spring is missing. The movement is in good condition but needs cleaning and bushing of one pivot. The pallets and three trains are jeweled.

If anyone has information or pictures of the suspension for clocks of this type it would be appreciated.
That is a wonderful clock!

I actually couldn't find much about Francis Sommer.

Gibbs in his book "Dixie Clockmakers" mentions him twice.

On page 138. He reports there are 3 clocks known with the name Francis Sommer, Charleston. One mentioned was a regulator. It is stated that he was "a genuine maker with inventive ability".

He again refers to him on page 144.

There is a digital copy of this book on-line.

Here's the link: https://books.google.com/books?id=-...3GHAAZ#v=onepage&q=dixie clock makers&f=false

Not much information otherwise.

Couldn't find anything doing a Bulletin search. Also did quick on-line searches of the Charleston Historical Society, the S. Carolina Historical Society and the MESDA craftsman database.

So, it seems you have a very nice clock made by a relatively obscure S. Carolina maker.

If you're interested and have the time, you might consider adding to the body of knowledge. I'm sure there would be folks at the above institutions who would love to know about this clock.

Early Southern objects are generally quite scarce and desirable and this clock should be treated as such.

RM
 

harold bain

Registered User
NAWCC Member
Deceased
Nov 4, 2002
40,851
168
63
72
Whitby, Ontario, Canada
Country
Region
That is a very interesting movement, like nothing I have ever seen before. It appears the hour hand is driven by the wind drum, which would have to make two revolutions over 24 hours. It should clean up quite well.
Does the suspension spring mount to the case back?
 

gentleman jim

Registered User
Dec 7, 2008
69
2
8
South Carolina
Country
Region
Yes,

The suspension spring mounts to a heavy brass plate on the case back francis sommer clock (12).JPG

I believe I can adapt a long case clock spring but any info you have would be appreciated.
 

gentleman jim

Registered User
Dec 7, 2008
69
2
8
South Carolina
Country
Region
Thank you for the information. I have found mention of Mr. Sommer in several old Charleston newspapers. One mentions him as the best clock/watch maker in the south. After looking at this movement I tend to believe it. I will most certainly try to add to the body of knowledge as I complete the repairs.
 

harold bain

Registered User
NAWCC Member
Deceased
Nov 4, 2002
40,851
168
63
72
Whitby, Ontario, Canada
Country
Region
Is there a wear plate on the pendulum you have where the crutch post would fit?
 

gentleman jim

Registered User
Dec 7, 2008
69
2
8
South Carolina
Country
Region
Yes there is a small brass wear plate with a roughly 1" slot. The slot has nice square edges but is heart shaped at the bottom. I have the pendulum disassembled and am beginning the cleaning and rust removal process. I am torn between restoring the case or leaving the finish as is. I will post some pictures of the movement under the repair forum as soon as it is disassembled and cleaned. I know there is one pivot hole which will need bushing and will be seeking advice on the best way to proceed.
 

harold bain

Registered User
NAWCC Member
Deceased
Nov 4, 2002
40,851
168
63
72
Whitby, Ontario, Canada
Country
Region
A suspension will likely have to be custom made for the clock. With the weight of the pendulum, it will need to be fairly thick. You might be able to use something like Timesavers part # 11056, or 12001 and adapt it to the pendulum. It appears the pendulum and suspension will likely be one piece when finished, similar to British tall clocks.
You could clean the case using GOJO waterless hand cleaner (without pumice) and a tooth brush to see what might be under the dirt. Good chance the original finish will be OK after cleaning.
 

brian fisher

Registered User
NAWCC Member
Jan 20, 2017
1,650
406
83
houston, tx
Country
Region

Joeydeluxed

Registered User
NAWCC Member
Mar 3, 2007
186
24
18
Country
I bought this clock from the gentleman that originally started this thread. It is indeed a unique clock. I had the movement restored by David Walter who is considered the world's finest living clockmaker by one of the British Horological Societies. The movement had many botched repairs because the folks working on it in the past didn't realize its a YEAR running movement on one wind. Apparently in the past clock repair folks just tried adding more weight to get it running which ended up cracking several of the jewels used in the train. Its now running perfectly and resides with its new owner in California. We left the case unrestored as it retains its original finish. Its the only year going fully American weight driven regulator that I've ever heard of and I would welcome input on any others that members here may know of. A truly incredible American clock!
 

Jim Andrews

Registered User
NAWCC Member
Oct 11, 2018
155
41
28
Oklahoma panhandle
Country
Region
Nice find of the video and a great find of the clock originally. I watched the video and the discussion about how the clock was possibly used for local time accuracy is plausible, but all the reading I've done on the Astro regulators tells me that they were set to track sidereal time and were primarily used in celestial observatories to precisely track star movements. Someday I'd like to find one just to say I'd experienced it.
 

brian fisher

Registered User
NAWCC Member
Jan 20, 2017
1,650
406
83
houston, tx
Country
Region
I'll never afford a E. Howard, but I came across this in searching for English Astros. I guess I have my crosshairs on one of those now too.....
 

Grains

Registered User
Mar 11, 2019
35
1
8
25
Country
I was just linked to this thread by another member here and I'm really interested about some particulars of the clock. Maybe someone here can help me.

Is this clock indeed a 'perpetual' clock as opposed to an annual clock? Is its run time a full year? The longest I've seen reference to other than this one is 90 days, I think. I've recently become really interested in designing/building a clock similar to this and thought it hadn't practically been done until I saw this one.
 

Uhralt

Registered User
NAWCC Member
Sep 4, 2008
4,994
610
113
Country
Region
"Perpetual" means that the indications, like the date, are correct over many years taking leap years into account. It doesn't matter how often the clock is wound to achieve this. An eight day clock can have a perpetual calendar.

Uhralt

Edit: If you are not talking about a calendar but about the clock itself, a perpetually running clock would have to have an energy source that doesn't need intervention to be replenished. I think a solar powered clock would come close or, in fact a sundial.

Uhralt
 

Joeydeluxed

Registered User
NAWCC Member
Mar 3, 2007
186
24
18
Country
I most respectively disagree. Virtually 1000’s of clocks with an Astro dial were made, far more than all the observatory’s in the world. Most were made for customers who wanted precision time keeping such as jewelers, railroads, factories, public places, etc. I personally have owned at least 50 over the past 40 years including Howard’s, George Jones and by many British makers and also quite a few one of’s like the subject of this thread. The British refer to these as “Regulator dials”. The British ones have come down in price recently and are readily available. Occasionally one is found with both regular time and sidereal time but the normal Astro’s had nothing to do with sidereal time which was not useful in daily life.


QUOTE="gleber, post: 1264791, member: 72351"]This is kind of cool watching the provenance of this clock unfold in real time. What a great resource this mb is!

Tom[/QUOTE]
Nice find of the video and a great find of the clock originally. I watched the video and the discussion about how the clock was possibly used for local time accuracy is plausible, but all the reading I've done on the Astro regulators tells me that they were set to track sidereal time and were primarily used in celestial observatories to precisely track star movements. Someday I'd like to find one just to say I'd experienced it.
 

Grains

Registered User
Mar 11, 2019
35
1
8
25
Country
"Perpetual" means that the indications, like the date, are correct over many years taking leap years into account. It doesn't matter how often the clock is wound to achieve this. An eight day clock can have a perpetual calendar.

Uhralt

Edit: If you are not talking about a calendar but about the clock itself, a perpetually running clock would have to have an energy source that doesn't need intervention to be replenished. I think a solar powered clock would come close or, in fact a sundial.

Uhralt
Yessir, I understand the difference between a perpetual and annual calendar. My particular interest is in whether a perpetual calendar clock has the ability to run for a full year. This astronomical regulator proves that is indeed possible.

I am interested in designing an all-mechanical clock capable of carrying out this task. True perpetual motion is impossible but replenishing lost energy via solar power or some other energy source defeats the purpose for my particular case. I am mostly curious in those design elements which reduce friction and improve overall efficiency of the clock as a whole.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my question.
 

brian fisher

Registered User
NAWCC Member
Jan 20, 2017
1,650
406
83
houston, tx
Country
Region
my suggestion would be to contact joeydeluxed by private message and see if you can arrange getting into contact with whoever purchased this clock from him.

while you are at it, might as well make a movement for me too.
 

Grains

Registered User
Mar 11, 2019
35
1
8
25
Country
my suggestion would be to contact joeydeluxed by private message and see if you can arrange getting into contact with whoever purchased this clock from him.

while you are at it, might as well make a movement for me too.
Good idea.

I'll get right on that. Just send the check on over...
 

Joeydeluxed

Registered User
NAWCC Member
Mar 3, 2007
186
24
18
Country
I could certainly arrange for someone to see the Francis Sommer clock which is now located in California. However, the owner of the
2 time and strike year going clocks would most likely not allow these to be inspected and besides he and the clocks are located outside
of the United States. The Francis Sommer clock does not have any calendar mechanism.


my suggestion would be to contact joeydeluxed by private message and see if you can arrange getting into contact with whoever purchased this clock from him.

while you are at it, might as well make a movement for me too.
 

Grains

Registered User
Mar 11, 2019
35
1
8
25
Country
I could certainly arrange for someone to see the Francis Sommer clock which is now located in California. However, the owner of the
2 time and strike year going clocks would most likely not allow these to be inspected and besides he and the clocks are located outside
of the United States. The Francis Sommer clock does not have any calendar mechanism.
Thank you for the reply joey.

Cali is a little too far for me I think. Thank you so much for the offer.
 

Jim Andrews

Registered User
NAWCC Member
Oct 11, 2018
155
41
28
Oklahoma panhandle
Country
Region
I most respectively disagree. Virtually 1000’s of clocks with an Astro dial were made, far more than all the observatory’s in the world. Most were made for customers who wanted precision time keeping such as jewelers, railroads, factories, public places, etc. I personally have owned at least 50 over the past 40 years including Howard’s, George Jones and by many British makers and also quite a few one of’s like the subject of this thread. The British refer to these as “Regulator dials”. The British ones have come down in price recently and are readily available. Occasionally one is found with both regular time and sidereal time but the normal Astro’s had nothing to do with sidereal time which was not useful in daily life.


QUOTE="gleber, post: 1264791, member: 72351"]This is kind of cool watching the provenance of this clock unfold in real time. What a great resource this mb is!

Tom
[/QUOTE]
Fair enough - everyone has their own opinion. I was stating what I had understood from research on the subject. I have a book that details how the Santa Fe Railway governed its time and they owned a very high end ST Astro Regulator, so I'll agree that they were used in other applications. Given that - would you find any other type of clock in an observatory?
 
  • Like
Reactions: one1laner
Our 2021 National Meeting in Hampton Roads Virginia
Topic related ad experiment
Know Your NAWCC Forums Rules!
RULES & GUIDELINES

Find member

Forum statistics

Threads
160,875
Messages
1,395,751
Members
82,880
Latest member
ANTHONY LEWIS
Encyclopedia Pages
1,099
Total wiki contributions
2,787
Last edit
How to wire a 24 volt secondary for a 12 volt ITR/IBM Master clock system by Toughtool