American Glass or Plastic (Acrylic/Plexiglass etc.) side panel on Howard Miller "Thomas Tompion" mantel clock

Discussion in 'General Clock Discussions' started by Friendofclocks, Aug 16, 2019.

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  1. Friendofclocks

    Friendofclocks Registered User

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    #1 Friendofclocks, Aug 16, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2019
    glass.jpg

    Greeting all; some of you may remember me blitzing this group, several months ago, with lots of pestering questions about cheap materials (plastic, mystery wood etc.) used in expensive modern/reproduction clocks. Very reluctant to do so, re-entering this territory. Apologies for annoying folks. But it's a very real practical question.

    Admittedly done with the intention of likely selling for small profit (possibly keeping it instead if I would absolutely fall in love with it, unlikely), I purchased one of these Howard Miller "Thomas Thompion" clocks now ubiquitous on Ebay, based on a significantly (but not vastly) lower than average price. I was sure it the low price was based on haphazard advertising and poor photos.

    When I physically obtained it (pick-up rather than delivery), my old perceptions and suspicions were renewed, concerning plastic and other shockingly cheap materials. For example, the "hinged" brass handle on top of the clock is not hinged at all, but a solid immobile piece molded to appear hinged. In other words, to save 3 cents, they made an imitation as opposed to real (moving) hinge.

    As to the dial (esp. spandrels), many may recall my old thread: incredibly shoddy plastic. But truth is, I was expecting that.

    What I would deeply, deeply, deeply appreciate is if anyone could confirm or dispel or otherwise clarify my strong suspicion the side panels are some form of plastic/acrylic/plexiglass. These HM TT clocks as I said are all over Ebay, at least 10 at any one time, I can be excused, I hope, for referring to ebay for images. I've included in this post one image from ebay, though, of a side panel seeming to confirm my suspicion: the seller is acknowledging a "white scuff" on what is supposedly "glass." Could real glass actually get a blemish like that?

    If my perceptions are unfortunately true, and this is some form of plastic, how is it possible that a clock listed at well over a thousand dollars (even if it rarely or never actually sells at "msrp") would resort to a cost-cut that even a $2.00 jar of pickles or strawberry preserves doesn't resort to. I mean, 6" x 3" glass panel is so expensive to Howard Miller that they'd substitute plastic to save 3 cents on a $1000 clock?

    Again, I know you kind folks can't tell merely from photos (the one I posted or any on Ebay you're kind/patient enough to look at) if this is glass or plastic, but If you could clarify this baffling issue for me in any way, very, very deeply appreciated. Seriously: if Heinz can lavish the "luxury" of real glass on a jar of pickles, Howard Miller can't splurge on real glass for a $1000 clock? Is this possible?

    Thanks so very much for any responses!!

    Andrew

    BTW, though I suspect most are at least vaguely familiar with the clock in question (it's Howard Miller's flagship mantel clock, with a Hermle triple chime movement, interior back panel mirror to visually highlight the movement through the side panels), burl veneer on the door, and somewhat enlarged case, with a gold accent stripe painted around the base.

    It's obvious that this was mass produced for the corporate retirement gift market, and Howard Miller obviously had contracts with AT&T and other large corporations to make this a standard retirement gift; many on Ebay have small plaques (w/ logo) to this effect. Is it possible these corporate models were made with somewhat cheaper materials, more plastic etc., so they are slightly different in this way from what one might buy at a clock store?
     
  2. bruce linde

    bruce linde Technical Admin
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    Short answer: yes… They are that cheap.

    Longer answer: I think of Howard Miller as being in the business of selling clocks, not making clocks. For me, I never expect quality of craftsmanship such as you would find in clocks over 100 years old. I would add that just because someone asks a certain amount for a clock on eBay or craigslist doesn’t make it worth anywhere near that.

    Since I do not expect quality construction from howard miller I am never disappointed. and, yes, I’m sure they have some high-end clocks… Whatever.

    Mass production manufacturing men’s shaving pennies… And that’s exactly what they’re going to do. Are you really that surprised?
     
  3. Friendofclocks

    Friendofclocks Registered User

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    Thanks so much, Bruce!

    Well, as I indicated in my previous foray into this issue, months ago, I was indeed shocked (then) that Sligh and Hermle were substituting all that plastic for brass. Once that sunk in, I accepted it.

    But making the side panels of a $1000 msrp (even assuming it always sells for a small fraction of that, say $300-$400) clock out of materials even Heinz wouldn't use on a $2 jar of pickles, defies my imagination: I have to assume such a glass panel would cost a small fraction of a dollar, maybe $.25, $.40 max). They have the nerve to make a supposedly "luxury" items more cheaply than a disposable pickle jar, or even $1 bottle of Snapple:???:?

    I mean, they couldn't even lavish the material of the cheapest beverage's disposable container?

    I continue to be shocked if this is true. Even considering all the imitation brass.

    Thanks so much again.

    But again, on a practical note: how to even confirm if it's glass/plastic? Should I assume plastic, based on the picture and all the foregoing?
     
  4. John Arrowood

    John Arrowood Registered User
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    The side windows may be acrylic which is a substitute for real glass,
     
  5. Friendofclocks

    Friendofclocks Registered User

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    Thanks, John; reply very much appreciated!

    However: Yes, I understood Howard Miller appeared to be substituting acrylic for real glass; I was asking the group specifically if this was likely the case based on the evidence/signs I was mentioning, and if anyone could suggest a way to confirm this.

    Thank you so much again for taking the time to reply!
     
  6. Uhralt

    Uhralt Registered User
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    The white cloud that you see is a sign that the "glass" is indeed plastic. This happens when something pokes or pushes the plastic. These are microscopic fractures or fissures.
    I have seen the same effect in a cheap "Joker" alarm clock where I replaced one original glass side panel with a plastic one (taken from a picture frame) because modern window glass was too thick to fit and I had the plastic at hand at that time. After a couple of days I realized that the open spring had run down and was pushing against the "glass". Where the spring touched the "glass" it showed the same kind of cloud that you have. I looked for an old picture frame and replaced the plastic with real glass from that frame.

    Uhralt
     
  7. Friendofclocks

    Friendofclocks Registered User

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    Thanks Uhralt!

    Sad for me, and sad for Howard Miller that they lack the respect for themselves, their product, and their customer to make their clocks with the quality even of disposable Snapple bottle. If that isn't a sign of being garbage, what possibly could be?

    Since such container is garbage, we have to conclude that Howard Miller using going even cheaper than a Snapple bottle confirms that Howard Miller is quite literally garbage.

    Sad how we see in so many areas of life (politics, manners.... CLOCKS) decay and deterioration being the way of the world.

    Thanks again for all responses!
     
  8. gleber

    gleber Registered User

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    You are likely to be disappointed in today's cars as well. Howard Miller wasn't being cheap, they were being competitive as forced by a market that wanted economy over quality. You can't blame them for making material selections decisions required to stay in business. You can blame consumers for not caring, or only caring that it's good enough. Like Bruce says, if you want quality, you usually have to look to an earlier era. There are very few manufacturers, no, make that craftsmen, in business today. Who wants wind up clocks in the digital age? The good news (for buyers) is prices are low, so quality can be had at near commodity prices.

    Tom
     
  9. Friendofclocks

    Friendofclocks Registered User

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    Good points Tom and others.

    Still, if the pennies' worth of glass used in a disposable Snapple bottle is too pricey/precious to use in your clock, and you use plastic windows, your product has gone from being a cheap imitation to an insult to all concerned: the maker himself, the customer, and the tradition it mocks.

    In an earlier thread I griped about plastic fake brass. Now it's plastic fake glass. Makes me want to say the maker is an.....
     
  10. gleber

    gleber Registered User

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    Consumers have a choice, and suppliers can respond across the entire spectrum of possibilities from the highest quality and most expensive to the least. Consumers vote with their wallet, but unlike an election, there can be lots of winners. The only concern is when a supplier sets out to deceive, and I don't think that is the case here. If you don't like the value of an offering from one source, you can seek another. You are also free to voice your opinion.

    Do you think you were deceived, or are you lamenting the general quality of mass production?

    Tom
     
  11. mauleg

    mauleg Registered User
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    #11 mauleg, Aug 18, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2019
    Like cars, there are 2 types of timepieces: utilitarian and aesthetic. If I want to know the exact time, be alerted to a pending meeting or track time for billing, I'll depend on my smartphone. If I want to enjoy the look, feel, motion and sound and tinkering, I'll turn to my way-too-large collection of mechanical clocks and 19 century hunter pocket watches. Unlike clocks, I keep cars only as conveyances and believe that old vehicles are great in collections, parades, museums and auto shows, but not for everyday travel or hauling:

    Cars used to have 5-digit odometers, because the idea that a car would last 100,000 miles was inconceivable. Modern automobiles routinely clock 300,000+. Furthermore, as evidenced by this Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash test, and annual per capita traffic fatalities, older vehicles were deathtraps compared to modern vehicles. Add to this the massive raft of navigation and information systems as well as creature comforts now available and there's nothing left to recommend old vehicles other than sentiment or aesthetic considerations.


    For the OP, it's pretty easy to differentiate plastic from glass: plastic can be penetrated with the point of a #1 Xacto blade; glass cannot. Test in an inconspicuous inside area; It will leave a tiny divot about the size of a fine needle point.

    In terms of the use of plastic for cases and such, the practice goes back to the 1950s on some Schatz models and others, so it's nothing new. You could always easily replace it with glass if you find it offensive.
     
  12. Friendofclocks

    Friendofclocks Registered User

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    #12 Friendofclocks, Aug 18, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2019
    ....The only concern is when a supplier sets out to deceive, and I don't think that is the case here. If you don't like the value of an offering from one source, you can seek another. You are also free to voice your opinion.

    Do you think you were deceived, or are you lamenting the general quality of mass production?

    Tom[/QUOTE]

    Thank you for the response, Tom!

    You pose 2 questions: Whether a supplier set out to deceive, and whether I myself was deceived. I bought it used on ebay for a relatively low price (compared to the going ebay prices, not msrp which is several times higher), and knew this was a substantial possibility based on the vastly sub-mediocre reputation of Howard Miller and pictures like te one I posted here, from another listing. So I would say i was not successfully deceived by Howard Miller, but still disappointed as I held out a hope HM hadn't sunk as low as I suspected.

    As the above suggests, I do in fact there was an intent to deceive, and to be honest, I think the NAWCC community might consider the possibility that as a group with some collective leverage, it should hold HM and Hermle to standards of honesty/integrity to the clockmaking craft.

    When plastic is made to pass itself off as brass, that is deceptive, except in the limited/unusual case where plastic is structurally/functionally preferential on a particular part and it's colored that way to match the rest of the movement.

    Plastic on a dial that is colored to pass itself off as brass is deceptive, and if used in an expectation or hope that a purchaser will or might mistake it for actual brass, possibly out-and-out fraud.

    Plastic that is used where glass would otherwise be expected, and the seller/manufacturer benefits from the consumer's expectation will be glass is deceptive-- arguably, out-and-out fraud.

    In a bait-and-switch, something of value is presented to interest another party, while something other than the reasonably expected item is actually on offer. The hope is having made some investment (in time, or emotionally) toward the purchase, the customer will go through with it based on the initial investment, and desire not to walk away empty-handed, settling for something slightly (or even very considerably) inferior to what was expected.

    I have tremendous appreciation and admiration for NAWCC, but my initial impression is NAWCC has/may have collectively given the likes of Howard Miller (including Hermle) a pass on this issue and thus (arguably) passively or tacitly enabled fraudulent conduct.

    If my above definitions concerning deception, fraud, and bait-and-switch are misguided or incorrect, could anyone suggest how, or in what way?

    Again, among my premises are that these clocks are purporting to be essentially aesthetic and/or luxury items, typically advertised as representing a tradition of craftsmanship and including "fine" or "finest" quality materials. Typically where function is the overriding concern, and aesthetics secondary, plastic becomes implicitly more acceptable.

    Also among my premises is that refraining from using a particular implied material would be excusable to the extent that scarcity or preciousness make substitutions (e.g., plastic) a reasonable expectation. Because the cheapest keys and doorknobs are usually real brass, a consumer buying an ornamental clock (particularly one priced at several hundred dollars or more) would reasonably expect that the amount of brass used on a few keys, or half that on a $5 doorknob, would be used on the clock. Normally it is not reasonable to expect the consumer to think it might be plastic.

    The same applies especially for glass. A window on such a clock would normally be expected to be glass based on the cheapness of glass and its aesthetic superiority to plastic. So in such cases, unless the manufacturer alerts customers that it's plastic, we can assume the manufacturer wants it to be mistaken for glass and is engaged in deception.

    I hope I can be forgiven for cutting and pasting much of this comment in a separate new thread, as I consider fraud very serious and suspect it is a matter the NAWCC community would agree is well within the purview of its mission. Although, by the way, NAWCC considers advocacy for genuine antiques a high priority, with implicitly lower regard for reproductions and imitations ("cheap" or otherwise), these manufacturers purport to be representatives of a tradition (often invoking things like a "tradition of craftsmanship") that makes the notion of basic standards of integrity and aesthetics vis a vis that "tradition" relevant to members of this community regardless of a default cynicism or dismissiveness toward modern imitations/reproductions.
     
  13. mauleg

    mauleg Registered User
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    #13 mauleg, Aug 18, 2019
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    Euphemisms, superlatives and subjective claims do not constitute fraud and deception. It's only fraud and deception if a definitive physical attribute is intentionally and explicitly misrepresented.
     
  14. Friendofclocks

    Friendofclocks Registered User

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    I think "intentional" is satisfied here. Howard Miller benefits from people thinking it's real brass, and is clearly intended to simulate real brass.
     
  15. Steven Thornberry

    Steven Thornberry User Administrator
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