Long drop Ansonias have free play in minute hands

Discussion in 'General Clock Discussions' started by Peter Planapo, Jan 10, 2020.

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  1. Peter Planapo

    Peter Planapo Registered User
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    Mar 23, 2019
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    Hi all,

    I have two long drop Ansonias running, and I think they're great. Apart from one tiny thing.

    In both of them, the minute hand has about 40 seconds' free play. Gravitational pull on the hand means that when they're on the right side of the dial, they read faster, and on the left side they read slower. So if I set them during the first half hour, they read 40s slow in the second half hour, then correct again in the next, etc.

    The overall timekeeping isn't bad, they're 2 minutes apart after a couple of months and I know they can do better, well they're deadbeats after all.

    It's just a bit strange to have this 40 seconds' discrepancy between the left and right halves of the dial.

    My questions are,

    1. is it just me and my two clocks?

    2. if it's a common fault, is there any remedy or should I just accept it as a lovable idiosyncrasy of a 19thC antique? They both run well keeping good time over 10 days, so I don't think it's worth a full stripdown just for this minute hand sloppiness.

    3. unrelated, but does anyone know the correct beatrate for these clocks? I've determined 5040BPH by counting the EW teeth (84). The EW is, on one clock, connected to a second hand, so I made an assumption that it goes round once a minute. However, my experience with Vienna Regulators tells me that a second hand may not always go round once a minute. There are quite a few Ansonia beat rates published but nothing close to 5040.

    4. also unrelated, but can anyone give me an approximate age for these? The one on the right seems older, paper dial on zinc, maybe 1880? The one on the left differs in detail from pictures in the various catalogues I've seen, notably the letter A isn't enclosed in a square and a diamond. Dial is printed on non-magnetic metal, maybe a modern replacement. The movements have no serial numbers.

    All help greatly appreciated.

    Peter

    20200110_194909a (Custom).jpg
     
  2. Jim Hartog

    Jim Hartog Registered User
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    Jan 6, 2010
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    Hello Peter,

    Tran Duy Ly's Ansonia Clocks and Watches book has two versions of this clock. One is called "Office Regulator" from 1901 and it shows a seconds bit. On the next page, from 1906, is the "Regulator A" with no seconds bit.

    I have a "Regulartor A" in a time only with calendar and the minute hand slop is about 15 seconds if I manually push it around.

    Something tells me that you cannot have an escape wheel with 84 teeth.

    One is missing the inner trim ring on the dial pan. If you think that the "non-magnetic" material is aluminum, it may be a reproduction. The other one is missing the inner dial section. Since it has the post for the seconds hand, that is probably the office version while the other is the non-office version.

    The lower door on the one on the left should look like the door on the one on the right.

    Jim
     
  3. Uhralt

    Uhralt Registered User
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    Sep 4, 2008
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    The slop in the minute hand you describe is quite normal for this type of movement, You find it in many American wall clocks. 40 seconds is quite moderate, I have clocks where it is more than a minute.

    Uhralt
     
  4. Peter Planapo

    Peter Planapo Registered User
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    Mar 23, 2019
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    Hi Jim and thanks for taking the time to reply.

    Yes, of course you're right about the impossible 84T EW. I meant 84 beats, 2 per tooth, hence it's 42T. So 2 x 42 x 60 = 5040. I'm pretty sure that's correct as the clocks keep time after regulation to that beat rate.

    The one-piece dial with no seconds bit does look in rather better shape than the other one. Behind it (see picture) the EW does have an arbour sticking out about the same amount as the one which actually does have a seconds hand, as though the clock may have had a seconds bit at one time only to be scrapped when no replacement dial could be found with seconds bit. If that makes sense. It's sure that this dial is not cardboard, and I have the feeling they all were at that time, or perhaps not?

    The inner dial section isn't AWOL; I have it safe but I wanted the movement visible so I could demonstrate to visitors how an escapement works (it's proved popular). I'll put it back by and by.

    Interesting that you have 15s of slop and I have 40s. that implies that mine might have seen more work than yours over the last century and a score, which further implies that when new, there was probably no slop at all. It must be something in the Ansonia design as I have other clocks from the 19thC with play in various pivots but none in the minute hand.

    Regarding the door being wrong, it looks old to me (photo), and see this snip from 1915 (on the left) which seems to have a black door without the gold fillet and the same spade hands as mine. I have the impression that this style of clock was made for decades, so variations in detail are expected. My two are both made of mahogany but for instance my clock on the right has reinforcing fillets in the angles at the sides, while the other has none, and the clock illustrated below right (from the 1908 pricelist) also has club-style hands (if that's the term) as has my clock with the seconds bit.

    I'm really interested in the history of these, and the marketing aspects too which will have changed the appearance according to the intended environment, office, home etc. The few books I have on American clocks (Tyler, Palmer, Harris, Thomson) have very little Ansonia detail.

    I think I have more questions but I'll post separately.

    Peter

    20191229_150159a (Custom).jpg 20200111_131914a.jpg 20200111_133635a (Custom).jpg 20200111_133202a.jpg 20200111_133222a (Custom).jpg Ansonia Regulator A 1915-16.JPG Ansonia Regulator A 1908.JPG
     
  5. Peter Planapo

    Peter Planapo Registered User
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    Thanks for the reassurance Uhralt. I won't worry then but just enjoy the quirk. Interesting how a clock which people might depend on, e.g. office or factory, could vary by a minute, but then maybe when they were new they weren't like that, or possibly also time was a more relaxed commodity back then, than it is today.

    Peter
     
  6. Uhralt

    Uhralt Registered User
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    The amount of slop mainly depends on the number of teeth of the wheel and leaves of the pinion driving the minute shaft, as well as their shape. The more teeth and leaves, the less slop there will be. Also, the less free space there is between the wheel and the pinion when meshing, the less slop. I doubt that there will be a big difference caused by aging of the clock, unless the bushings have worn considerably.

    Uhralt
     
  7. Peter Planapo

    Peter Planapo Registered User
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    I can understand about the teeth and leaves, though it's only my two Ansonias that behave this way, while other, European clocks don't. Also interesting is that one of my Ansonias does have pretty worn bushings, the other one seems to have run little and doesn't. Yet both will keep time to 10 seconds/day and both have the 40s hand slop.

    I'll only fully resolve this when I strip the worn clock for overhaul, but as long as it's running fine, that may not happen. It may be good practice to overhaul it anyway, as I believe worn bushings can lead to incorrect wear on other surfaces. We'll see.

    Peter
     
  8. JTD

    JTD Registered User

    Sep 27, 2005
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    I am curious to know how you can tell so exactly with clocks of this type. Please can you explain, as I would like to learn.

    JTD
     
  9. Willie X

    Willie X Registered User

    Feb 9, 2008
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    This is not a "fault". Nearly all American clocks have a remote hand shaft and rather coarse gearing in the motion works. This all ads up to some free play in the hands which is completely normal and a bit more notaceable in a clock with a large dial. These are good clocks and keep a good rate, even when they are not in perfect condition.
    If you are overhaulling the clocks to get a better rate, you will probably be diasappointed. :) Willie X
     
  10. Peter Planapo

    Peter Planapo Registered User
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    I detect a dose of skepticism there although it's entirely possible to measure Ansonia rates to within 10s/day precision, In fact I can check my Ansonias to a measurement precision of 0.028s/day and 0.57s/day (with and without seconds bit respectively) with just a week of readings.

    1. On my phone I installed a free app called WatchCheck to do the rate measuring, and another one called AtomicClock for setting the time, both of which connect to an NTP server, compensating for signal propagation lag; thus the clock in the phone, which is usually a bit wrong, is not used at all.

    2. I set the time on my test clock by reference to AtomicClock. For the Ansonias (doesn't matter for other clocks) I do this between about 5 past the hour and 25 past the hour, to ensure that the weight of the minute hand rests it against the "fast" end of its slop.

    3. I then take a reading with WatchCheck, which checks my input clock time against NTP and records the +/- deviation.

    4. Over the next days I make further WatchCheck readings, which record the deviation as well as calculating (a) the rate since last reading, and (b) cumulative rate since start. These readings are also taken between 5 past and 25 past and are always at integral, or whole, indicated (not true) minutes. On my Ansonia with seconds bit, reading error is about 0.2s, which over a week's readings will drop to 0.028s/day. The other Ansonia has no seconds bit, and I must nail the minute by estimating the position of the minute hand, which I can do to with an error of about 2 seconds each way (I've checked this) thus 0.57s/day over a week.

    5. After a week of doing this once or twice a day, I'll have the overall rate as well as a picture of how it's varied through the week. But I don't need to stop at a week; I can do a month or 5 months (as with the quartz below).

    If I want to go further, I can export data from WatchCheck in CSV format, import to Excel and plot the deviation and rate against time, as well as create running averages to smooth out irregularities, which is useful to assess how the unwinding of the mainspring affects the rate. I could add temp, pressure and humidity data from a USB data logger to see how they've affected the rate, e.g how a clock slows down when it's warmer. I haven't done this but the loggers are avilable for around £40.

    I'm currently checking a 40-year-old quartz clock, which is losing about a second a month, that's 0.03s/day. Naturally, my reading error is much bigger than 0.03s, but over a month my cumulative reading error is down to 0.007s/day, and over the 5 months I've been recording, once a week or so, my reading error is around 0.0013s/day. Thus the clock rate is 30+/-0.7ms/day), and I could get the same mesurement precision for any clock, though most mechanical clocks with more erratic rates wouldn't justify the effort.

    I attach a WatchCheck screenshot from my Germania Vienna, from which I can read the time with +/-0.2s error as it has a 40T EW and therefore a seconds hand that goes round once a minute. It's not always this good, but it's showing an average of -0.2s/day for that period.

    You may ask if it's worth all that trouble. It isn't much trouble at all. When I'm actually in a measurement cycle, it takes me about 5 minutes a day to keep track of half a dozen clocks. 95% of the time, I'm not in a cycle (except doing the quartz which I measure once or twice a month)

    Cheers!

    Peter

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  11. Peter Planapo

    Peter Planapo Registered User
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    Well, I only have two of these but am impressed so far. As I said above, one has quite a bit of pivot play but is as accurate as the other which is nice and tight. It's a horological equivalent of the Hawker Hurricane or the A10 Warthog both of which could get themselves shot up to blazes and carry on flying. No, I wouldn't try to improve the rate of these ones by overhauling, but I did think it was perhaps not ideal to continuously run the worn clock, for fear the wear would extend to parts less easy to repair than pivot holes. You might call that "routine preventive maintenance" a bit like going to the dentist for a filling which, if neglected, will probably lead to worse.

    Also as I said above, I find it easy enough to keep these within 10s/day, and I had the older one with seconds bit at 6s/day over a 2-week period. I'm more than happy with that. The second one was £30 on eBay last month and nobody but me wanted it. I haven't done thorough testing yet, but it runs very well. The seller had described it as non working but I think she'd knocked it out of beat.

    I have another question though; this second clock with a one-piece dial has an extended EW pinion which is pretty similar to the seconds arbour on my older clock. Did all the clocks have this, or only clocks with a seconds bit? (That would mean my one-piece dial is wrong, and I should replace it with one with the seconds bit.)

    One thing puzzles me. These Ansonias are deadbeat escapements driven by open springs. You might say the most accurate escapement driven by the least constant driving force. I wonder what was the reason behind pairing the two, I mean the only other deadbeats I know of are driven by a weight or a barrelled spring. The proof of the pudding, etc, and yes they are pretty accurate, so my question is, why is it so? How do open springs work so well? I have a 1960s Hibino wall clock with open springs and it's not a great timekeeper, but not bad. The week's curve was quite steep.

    Any hints, etc...

    Peter
     
  12. Willie X

    Willie X Registered User

    Feb 9, 2008
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    Peter,
    The clocks are actually varying all over the place. What you are looking at is a long time average. As your samples get smaller you will see the variances.
    Any old clock that will rate to within a minute or two per week (year round) is a good timekeeper.
    Willie X
     
  13. JTD

    JTD Registered User

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    No, I wasn't being sceptical, I truly was curious as to how you did it. Now I know. I don't have a phone that would do what you suggest and am too old to start worrying about timing simple clocks to fractions of seconds per day. But thank you for explaining your method.

    Yes, that's good enough for me too.

    JTD
     
  14. Peter Planapo

    Peter Planapo Registered User
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    Well, Willie, it's one of my pleasures to check the variation over time, and try to explain it to myself, and to reduce it if I can.

    I don't think I'd able to handle a minute or two a week over a year, as the cumulative error could be an hour over that time. I think people used to correct it at each winding, I can't see anything but proper one-second regulators reading right after a long time.
     
  15. Willie X

    Willie X Registered User

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    I meant a minute or two per week period. It would be reset weekly when you wind it, as is customary. Willie X
     
  16. JTD

    JTD Registered User

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    That's what I do. Most of my clocks are 100-150 years old and I am happy with that sort of weekly adjustment, but we're all different, I guess.

    JTD
     
  17. Peter Planapo

    Peter Planapo Registered User
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    My apologies to you, JTD. Years of working in science and engineering environments mean that trying to improve precision and accuracy is practically an instinct. I also check the lux values and spectra of lamps, while normal people just switch them on and use them. But that's just me. The antique clocks don't have to be spot on to the second. I simply get a thrill when I can get them close; it's pointless really, I know, as I can get atomic time from my phone, but as you know, it's not about that.

    Sorry for being dense. I get it now.

    We are. Of course I also do the weekly, bi-weekly or monthly adjustment, but when I can reduce the correction amount, or extend the period, I feel quite pleased with myself.

    Peter
     

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