He was a friend, as is his assistant John Gordon. I haven't any idea what will happen to Horolovar, and I'm in bad shape myself. Natalie, who is better at this sort of thing than I, is on the phone with John. John and Chris were close buddies, since high school here in Lancaster.
Oh no! I was communicating with him via email a couple of weeks ago and he apologized for a late response, saying only that he was dealing with some issues but things were better. We have all lost a friend, colleague, and the very center of the universe for those of us that concentrate on 400-day clocks.
There might have been a hidden heart problem, for he looked fine when we were over there a couple of weeks ago. Horolovar was three people plus Heidi the Horolovar dog. There was Chris, his daughter, and John Gordon, Chris' high school buddy and fellow clock repairer. Natalie has been on the phone with John, who is in poor shape today. We're all sort of friends, for Lancaster is a small town.
Chris has a son and a daughter and perhaps other kids, none of whom have much interest in clocks. We don't have any idea what might happen to Horolovar. It has had several owners over the years: Chris bought it from the guy in Detroit some years ago.
I'll post more when I know more. For what it's worth, you can reach me at email@example.com or 740-503-1973.
I do know that there would have been some orders waiting to be shipped out, and I don't know when those will be dealt with.
This announcement about Chris Nimon comes as a shock to me and to many other torsion pendulum clock enthusiasts. I met Chris at the NAWCC National Mart in Dayton, OH in July, 2013. He brought a few parts that I had requested, and we had quite a discussion. On the way home on that trip, my wife and I stopped at Horolovar in Lancaster, Ohio, and saw his operation including his collection of unusual 400-Day Clocks and the stock of clocks that Chris had obtained from Bill and Sue Ellison with his purchase of the Horolovar Company.
Chris and I had several emails over the years since, and he was always cooperative granting me permission to reproduce back plates pictured in the Repair Guide in conjunction with articles in The Torsion Times, publication of the International 400-Day Clock Chapter #168, and never complained when I printed such a picture and forgot to ask permission in advance.
The Horolovar Company was founded by Charles Terwilliger after the Second World War. At that time, the U.S. National Bureau of standards offered assistance to small businesses and provided information to Mr. Terwilliger about a material suitable for use as suspension springs in 400-Day Clocks which would improve timekeeping. This happened in the early 1950s, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Charles also put together a number of editions of the Horolovar 400-Day Clock Repair Guide. Information useful to repair persons based on the backplate of the clock was provided, as well as sketches of appropriate suspension spring designs for each clock. The Horolovar Company, in addition to supplying the correct suspension units for 400-Day Clocks, was able to supply other parts from a large selection of parts clocks. Collectors of 400-Day Clocks have Mr. Terwilliger to thank for availability of clocks to collect today since, most likely, clocks would have been discarded years ago due to the lack of repair parts.
Upon Mr. Terwilliger’s death in 1988, the Horolovar Company was purchased by Bill and Sue Ellison, and moved from Bronxville, New York to Harper Woods, Michigan. In the 20 years that Bill and Sue owned the company, a new, more comprehensive issue of the Repair Guide was produced, and additional suspension units and parts were reproduced by Bill to duplicate the original parts used by the manufacturers. Again, collectors of 400-Day Clocks owe Bill and Sue a great deal of thanks for continuing the Horolovar tradition for another 20 years.
Chris Nimon purchased Horolovar in 2009, and continued supplying 400-Day suspension units and other repair parts. Chris is also due many thanks for his willingness to continue providing necessary 400-Day Clock parts to collectors. He will be greatly missed.
Bill Ellison has presented a talk on the history of the Horolovar Company at several NAWCC meetings, and his talk was printed in the June 2019 issue of The Torsion Times, the publication of the International 400-Day Clock Chapter #168.
Yep. We're trying to figure out just what to do. I'll be at the funeral home with the family tomorrow and I'll try to represent the interests of both John and a world full of Horolovar customers, whom I don't believe the family is at all aware of. With luck they'll consent to keeping the firm going as best we can, which will be challenging even if everyone cooperates.
Details will be released as they become available and no, I do not know what I'm doing.
Thanks. I don't know how long that link to the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette might last, so I'll reproduce the text here:
Chris Nimon, master craftsman, clock expert, and friend.
Mark Kinsler November 10, 2020
An irreplaceable man abruptly left us last Saturday. Besides his family and local friends (including me) a world-wide community of specialized clock repairers and enthusiasts also lost a good friend and mentor when Chris Nimon, 59, passed away at his home in Lancaster.
Chris owned the Horolovar Company, about which some explanation is in order.
An ‘anniversary’ or ‘400-day’ clock is a gleaming brass mechanism that lives under a glass dome. At the bottom is an elaborate revolving pendulum sporting four shiny balls. These clocks will run for over a year on a single winding, so they’re given as wedding presents to be wound at each anniversary celebration. You’ve seen them.
Anniversary clocks are famously delicate and finicky to repair, so around 1953 one Charles Terwilliger wrote a complete guide to the repair of these tricky clocks and began manufacturing and selling their most critical parts to clock repair shops. Named ‘Horolovar,’ a variation on the word ‘horology,’ the firm was sold several times over the years, most recently in 2009 to Mr Nimon, a Lancaster computer professional with a passion for clocks.
It’s a small outfit: Chris and his long-time friend John Gordon, both master craftsmen, did repairs and stamped out parts in the unassuming Horolovar headquarters on West Fair Ave. Chris’ daughter Lori supervised shipping and telephone calls, and Heidi the Horolovar dog greeted customers. Clocks were shipped in and parts shipped out world-wide: if you repair 400-day clocks in Vietnam or Denmark or Peru, you know Horolovar.
Chris was as generous as he was skillful. His website and the famed Horolovar manual (Chris and I discussed plans for some re-writing) will teach you to fix these clocks, and Chris himself spent hours on the telephone guiding people (including me) through repair work. I readily admit to wasting afternoons hanging out at their shop.
When I posted the sad news to an e-mail clock-repair discussion group Sunday morning, responses of shock and dismay arrived from everywhere, for Chris was a vital part of many a craftsman’s (and craftswoman’s) life and work.
Chris grew up near St Mark Catholic Church on Lancaster’s West Side. He met John Gordon during Pee Wee football training at General Sherman Junior High the summer after 5th grade. John twice completed the required 40-yard dash with Chris on his back, and the two became inseparable thereafter. “He became my rock, and I became his,” John told me.
After high school Chris started at Diamond Power as a draftsman, eventually becoming a computer operator. He took computer classes at OUL and programmed for Diamond Power until a headhunter recruited him for Bank One, where he was a star IT professional.
But clocks were Chris’ passion, and when Horolovar’s previous owner wished to retire, Chris purchased the firm, hauling tractor-trailer loads of parts, clocks, and machinery to Lancaster. Though occupied with anniversary clocks and his family, Chris still found time to man the St. Mark food bank.
John Gordon, who hopes to continue Horolovar in Chris’ memory, summed it up: “He was complicated, but there never was a kinder man.” To this I can only add my farewell and my thanks to Chris for his friendship. He will be sorely missed.
Thanks Mark for putting that text here so it may remain in perpetuity. I never got to know the man himself, but like everyone here, valued the horolovar company and his part in keeping it going for the ultimate benefit of all of us who do our best to keep these unique clocks running.
Yep. We went to the funeral mass this morning and sat next to John Gordon. The church knew Chris through his years of work with their food bank, and the priest mentioned in the homily that he'd really never had any idea what Chris might do for a living, but that now he understood that it had something to do with clocks. John and I looked at each other and sort of shrugged.
Chris was one of six kids from the not-very-prosperous west side of Lancaster. I talked to them yesterday, and his two kids, and everyone seems to want to keep Horolovar going. The alternatives seem to be to sell the company--it would be its third sale--or to keep the present place operating on a limited basis until John can get some help. Either alternative would seem to involve some delay in parts shipping along with a fairly complete elimination of any advice over the telephone. The parts orders that were packed and ready to ship were shipped out this week, but I don't know about future orders.
Thanks for the update, Mark. I'm sure all of us would appreciate the idea of limited parts shipments in the near term. I have no idea what type of supply was on the shelf for main springs, suspension springs, etc. I suspect it might have been a limited future supply and that manufacturing were ramped up as the customers needs rose. Seems clear that springs would be the most common thing that tended to enquire about.
I'm glad the family has some counsel with you being around.
Beats me. I'm not sure anyone else knew where Chris had stuff squirreled away. I didn't get much of a chance to talk to John today, but I do know that it's possible that any orders that came in via Horolovar's email are likely to be sitting in cyberspace for at least a while, because nobody has the appropriate passwords or whatever Chris might have used for computer security. For what it's worth, most of Horolovar's products are available at Timesavers and I think Ronnel, so you might send orders to one of them. If you've already sent in an order to Horolovar and don't get it within a while, order what you need from Timesavers and them. Horolovar mainsprings aren't vastly different from any others, and Timesavers ought to have something close in their listings. They have suspension springs from several makers including Horolovar, too.
Chris sold a lot of stuff via eBay and Amazon, and those listings will have to be considered dead as well, at least for the time being.
You're right about other sources. But I always got my sensitive stuff through Chris because he was one of us! I knew that he was very conscious of material used for springs as he understood the consequences. I vaguely remembered there was a concern for poor quality main springs a number of years back. I called Chris at the time and he had said that he had sourced a new supply of quality steel...he worked hard to get the right material.
As for suspension springs, it's often discussed how the quality control of those springs added consistency to how clocks ran. It is the precise width and thickness that mattered. It has been written that non-Horolovar springs are wider and thus a 0.0036" from these other sources isn't going to perform the same way. Even Timesavers and maybe Ronell...others I think I've seen...show pictures on their websites of suspension spring packages and they are the familiar red-white that we know and trust. In time, I guess their supplies may dwindle.
I guess all we can do now is to press ahead knowing what we know and continue to support our community.
Chris would cut suspension springs off the reel of shiny stuff with a pair of scissors. John told me that they have a machine to do this, and my guess is that one of us will be repairing the thing to speed up the process a bit: I think Chris didn't mind doing it by hand because it was the sort of dumb labor during which you sort of zone out and relax. Polishing pivots does it for me.
Dunno about mainsprings, but there's a list of suppliers for all this stuff. John stamps out and drills and taps suspension with hand-(or pedal) operated bench-top machines that I think may have originally been used at the Ford Motor Company for something. They've got a big old shear and a sheet-metal brake to make the battery adapters, and Chris generally did that.
Horolovar was a happy place. The front office is sunny, and there was a jungle of house plants gradually taking over Heidi's collection of dog toys. She's living with Chris' son now; there are two other dogs there and she has reportedly bonded thereof, but it's clear that she's puzzled and misses Chris.
I suppose all this has hit me a bit harder than I'd thought it would.
I dunno. I had to take a day off the Horolovar Watch to get some clocks fixed, none of which are 400-day types. I happened to stumble on someone who was selling Horolovar suspension springs on eBay, so I used their 'contact seller' communications channel to let them know that Horolovar was 404 for the time being, and why. Turned out to be the guy from Mount Vernon, Ohio, not far from here, and he'd known Chris for years.
I'll try to give John Gordon a call tomorrow to see what the status of everything might be. Currently if you call Horolovar you get Chris on the voice mail. Please leave a message. If invited, I'll see if I can lend a hand getting the place running once again, if indeed that's what's going to happen. I'll send reports.