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S. Haller "Time Bomb Clock" Information

Richard Hadden

NAWCC Member
Oct 16, 2019
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Hello To All,

I was recently asked by a friend to look at an anniversary clock for general condition and service. I've not worked on one but, willing to take a look and do some research. I put about 4 winds on it, going slow because it felt like the mainspring was broken. It is an odd spongy feeling as it's wound and I let it back slowly until the winding handle stopped, since it didn't feel like there was a click that would catch (of course, there isn't). Doing research, I found much here on the forum about this S. Haller "Time Bomb" Clock and it's dangers. Also found a good article by Mervyn Passmore. The clock seems to be running well but after hearing about the potential for it to someday explode my friend doesn't want it back.

After reading the dangers of this design I am concerned as to how far it is currently wound up other than the 4 winds I put on it. My idea is to store it in a 5 gallon bucket with a lid, wait till it runs down on it's own, remove the mainspring spools and keep it as a non running display. I wouldn't sell it to an unsuspecting party, even with full disclosure of it's danger.

From what I've found out there is no way to fix the dangers in this clock. Even if new parts were available the design may always lead to an injury causing failure in the future. Somewhere in my research it was mentioned that possibly this clock could be refitted with a conventional mainspring. Has anyone ever heard of that actually being done as a way to save it?

Although I see this is an old subject that has been gone over many times on the NAWCC forums I would appreciate any new information anyone has, particularly the idea of refitting .

Thanks,

Rich H

S. Haller 1.jpg S. Haller 2.jpg S. Haller 3.jpg S. Haller 4.jpg S. Haller 5.jpg
 

shutterbug

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The spring will still have residual power when the clock stops, so don't take the cover off until it's completely let down. The only way to let it down fully is to remove the anchor and control the speed of the escape wheel with a thumb. A glove helps ;)
 

Cheezhead

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If you must disassemble the movement then in addition to letting the mainspring down to locate all of the mainspring on the lower drum, turn the winding crank clockwise with your winding crank to remove the winding square before removing the backplate.

For suggestions to enhance safety search "Elgin-Haller GTB Safety Improvement?" You should find my safety cage modification made of wire ties and another by a Jeramy Cleghorn who made a mainspring containment cage with metal. These cages may not be necessary as I have seen no evidence of one of these clock mainsprings self-destroying with no provocation or while winding although that has been speculated to happen. It has also been speculated that the wire ties will deteriorate and weaken over time but these are used extensively in slightly elevated temperatures over electrical wire bundles and must remain effective over indefinitive time. In a heavy current application electrical wires do warm up a bit.
 

Richard Hadden

NAWCC Member
Oct 16, 2019
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Thanks shutterbug and Cheezhead. If I do try to take it apart I will be sure to use a gloved hand(s) to remove residual power from the main spring and take out the screw that holds the end to the upper spool. The idea of a protective cage or warp was actually suggested by a friend. I did the search you suggested Cheezhead and I thank you as all the information I need is there and some methods that I had already considered for working on this clock are confirmed. I will use the wire ties until I can source some steel strapping.

Rich H
 

tracerjack

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I am still at a loss as to how any mainspring could rip apart heavy brass plates held together with screws. Internal wheels, yes, but exploding? With no first hand accounts of this actually happening spontaneously, it’s beginning to sound like a well told tale lacking actual fact. It is more likely that any exploding that has happened was from a lack of understanding that the movement cannot be taken apart in the usual fashion for 400 day movements.
 
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shutterbug

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The spring in these clocks are quite long and powerful, and the movement is made from thin brass. If the spring happened to break when fully powered I can envision it exiting the movement. The idea of using a plastic dome is a good suggestion. Although there are no eyewitness accounts of an explosion posted here, we shouldn't assume that the clock got its nick name on a whim. They are beautiful things, but precautionary respect for them is still the best policy.
When the spool on this type of clock breaks, the spring implodes, wrapping itself in knots as it retracts, which can shatter and send shrapnel in every direction.
 
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tracerjack

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Then, the movement itself doesn’t explode, but the mainspring could possibly shatter, explosively sending pieces flying? Now, that’s a different story and sounds reasonable. I agree that the clock merits caution - I am a great advocate of better safe than sorry. But I am skeptical that they should be avoided at all costs or thrown away. Plastic domes, placement in areas of little traffic and partial winding seem more than enough to safely own and admire them.
 

shutterbug

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I agree completely. It's the drum that usually gives out, and with nothing to contain the spring it knots up as it slips rapidly from the broken coil. I was spared serious injury when that happened to me while taking my first one apart. Scared the bejeebers out of me!
 
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Ken M

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Some day I'll get one of these. I won't even bother taking it apart if it runs, jus stick it in a corner and let it run. JMO.
 

Richard Hadden

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Oct 16, 2019
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With so much good information and ideas I am quite sure I can get this clock apart safely, and serviced, I was able to pick up some reinforced nylon banding used to strap down loads of brick onto pallets. I'm going to use this thin light material to make a wrap around the movement as precaution against any future failure of the main spring. I have two different widths and fitting them both around the frame should leave enough space between them for the over wind stop lever to drop should it ever be needed. In the meantime, it is a great looking clock parked high up on a shelf in the corner of the garage.
 

marylander

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I bought five such clocks over a few years. they are good looking clocks with innovative design. The magnetic pendulum suspension system, the reversed main spring winding, and skeletonize gear train intrigued me, except the cheap materials were used. I carefully look apart the clocks and cleaned them. They all working fine except one needs bushing done. I did not do it. they are kept on top of cabinet and are wound once a year to keep them move for some months. I normally wing 14-16 wings at a time.
Ming

878107BE-E4C0-4805-B7B5-C1E19E57145D.jpeg
 

etmb61

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I'm beginning to think this clock gets a bad rap here. I've been searching the real world for any reported incident with this clock self destructing and causing damage or injury and I come up empty. These clocks have been in the market for 50+ years. I find them for sale all the time. I've owned two myself. If they do explode and injure people, someone would have reported it by now outside of the anecdotal stories in a clock repair board.

Just saying.

Eric
 
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tracerjack

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That’s what I think too, a bad rap. I still believe it stems from being disassembled incorrectly. If there were some inherent design weakness, I would think most would have blown apart after 59 some years.
 
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Wayne A

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Only seen one for sale that looked like it blew up, most likely from improper disassembly. It was still in one piece just a little puffed out on the side plates. Like any clock they need service at some point, mine was full of the green goop semi solid oil, which I didn't like seeing on that spring clutch. Also mine had allot of bushing wear. I fully wound it preferring to fully exercise the mainspring rather than repeated winding of the same 2ft of spring.

Wayne
 

clksmyhobby

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I agree with tracerjack, etmb61 and others about these beautiful clocks. Over the last 10 years I have acquired four of them at a very modest cost - one even still had the original winding handle. The base plates on all but one had a patina that was easily removed with Maas polishing cream. Otherwise, they were in excellent condition.

After letting down the main spring, disassembling and inspecting the winding components, I have found no breakage or deterioration. I fully respect the power of the main spring and its failure potential, and I also haven't read a first-hand report of a spontaneous occurrence. I enjoy the seeing these clocks operate as designed with their great pendulum swing of more than 360 degrees.

Best regards,
Mike
 

shutterbug

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Just keep in mind that the production of this clock was suspended by the manufacturer. It had to be one of their best sellers, so it was discontinued for a good reason.
 

tracerjack

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If the company suspended the movement for the reason of spontaneous explosion, I would expect some serious lawsuits would have followed. However, if the company closed at or near the same time, then there wouldn’t be anyone to sue. I hope etm61 continues looking for facts. We can speculate forever and never really get anywhere. Still, no matter our opinion on whether it can spontaneously explode or not, I think we are all in agreement that the clock should be handled with caution and common sense. It might be nice to have a thread dedicated to this model so all the helpful information is in one place.
 

Ken M

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I agree. I don't know how many times I've seen this topic discussed, always coming to the same conclusion. Maybe there should be a sticky?
 

KurtinSA

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There is a bookmark icon in the upper right of existing posts. Not sure what that does. On the previous forum software, vBulletin, tags could be added to each thread to help with future searches. Not sure if I can see anything like that on Xenforo. Anyone know if it can be done?

Kurt
 

etmb61

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Someone could compile the pertinent information and create an encyclopedia article about the clock. That's what the watch people do.

Here's what you do: On the menu bar above click Forums->Encyclopedia. Under Encyclopedia Subjects click Torsion Clocks then Create new page on the right. The editor page that opens will take plain text or BB Code. To insert pictures you need an external online link or better still create a media gallery (also found under the Forums tab above).

Haller's clock technically isn't a torsion clock but that's where it seems to have landed.

Eric
 
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Richard Hadden

NAWCC Member
Oct 16, 2019
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Maybe one good lawsuit stopped production of this clock, whether the company went out of business at the same time or not, (think of the Chevrolet Corvair in the 60's). When the information was stamped on the back plate to not remove the plate if the mainspring is not wound down would indicate they knew there was a problem which may have been the result of a lawsuit. By todays standards I can't imagine a company getting away with continuing production of a proved dangerous everyday product just by putting a warning on it for curious owners, tinkerers, or repair people. Repair people should be the first to be advised of what they are working on. That being said, one screw into a nylon spool holding back all the power that a reverse wound mainspring holds does seem like a bad design. A buyer just wants a beautiful clock like this and be able to wind and set it without any worries. Any mainspring powered clock can cause injury to someone trying to take it apart if they haven't educated themselves on the dangers and proper procedures. But, it looks like the debate will go on. Is this clock safe to own, service and display as a working model? Once the doubt to personal safety is put into mind the trust is gone.
 

marylander

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Just keep in mind that the production of this clock was suspended by the manufacturer. It had to be one of their best sellers, so it was discontinued for a good reason.
Shutterbug,
Thank you for the info. I wonder why the company discontinued the production instead of change material to solve the problem.
Ming
 

Cheezhead

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Instructions for disassembly and reassembly would be useful to control the fear and speculation regarding this clock. Even a partial instruction to safely get the mainspring portion out of and back into the movement would be good. Perhaps someone here who has disassembled or will disassemble an Elgin-Haller 400 day clock for maintenance or repair would document the procedure and post it in the Clock Repair forum.
It could also have been useful for those who have proceeded to work on this clock without instruction or prior knowledge to first disassemble a common retractable tape measure to see what happens with an inherently unstable coiled flat metal spring given the right opportunity.

I did find this but it's much too long to be seriously useful and is missing some details. I would not feel confident to abbreviate it to a dozen or so sentences without actually doing the work. The Haller Time Bomb (GTB) Anniversary Clock - haller-gtb.pdf
 
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Bod

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Instructions for disassembly and reassembly would be useful to control the fear and speculation regarding this clock. Even a partial instruction to safely get the mainspring portion out of and back into the movement would be good. Perhaps someone here who has disassembled or will disassemble an Elgin-Haller 400 day clock for maintenance or repair would document the procedure and post it in the Clock Repair forum.
It could also have been useful for those who have proceeded to work on this clock without instruction or prior knowledge to first disassemble a common retractable tape measure to see what happens with an inherently unstable coiled flat metal spring given the right opportunity.

I did find this but it's much too long to be seriously useful and is missing some details. I would not feel confident to abbreviate it to a dozen or so sentences without actually doing the work. The Haller Time Bomb (GTB) Anniversary Clock - haller-gtb.pdf
It's about the best advice that can be given regarding these clocks. Includes photos of the offending parts.
The "problem" is that there are not the usual click mechanisms to control the main spring, and the spring is used very differently to normal.

Bod
 

Wayne A

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Before I rebuilt mine I had read the Mervyn Passmore pdf but when it came time to do the work I just used the 7 pictures I found in post #8 in this THREAD.
Didn't agree with some of Mervyns conclusions or methods, and I'll agree that it's a little wordy for a maintenance procedure but still helpful.

I did not fully unwind the 20' mainspring at one time because if you allow any slack its going to curl up into a mess. I found it easier to just roll the spring forward onto a large dowel rod. Screw the end on the dowel and clean as you roll it onto the dowel. Had chucked the dowel rod in a lathe and rigged a spool holder for the mainspring spool. Stopped at a couple of winds left on the spool to not deal with it coming off.

Mine had been swinging around 500 degrees but the swing drifted around and so did the rate. I had initially used dry film Teflon on the pin pallet pins and EW and pin pallets just have more friction. So a couple days ago I applied a film of oil on the pins and let it run. Seems to have stabilized the swing and the rate with a side effect of increasing the swing almost to the point of binding the lever, 630 degrees of rotation! Think that's a record for any of my clocks. Made of VIDEO of the clock running on clock tuner showing its stable now and the rotation just has to be seen. Few gaps in the trend is from me moving things making noise.

Wayne
 

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