Tidy WT on eBay[UK] @ £2500

The eBay UK auction attracted no bids at £2,500 and closed on 13.7.2018.
eBay keeps redirecting to the wrong link so I have now had to remove it.

This example of the Gents C40A needs the wiring connected [perhaps using the colourful cables supplied] but is [thankfully] otherwise quite complete mechanically.  It sports a good set of bevel gears which are sometimes absent from WTs put up for sale.

The time-setting dial needs re-silvering with traditional "white" salts. Rather than the later "burnished silver" look. The wonderful contrast of flat, matt white salts is a major advantage to legibility. Which is usually lost with cheaper salts. The traditional "white!" silvering salts are still available commercially and used by any, antique brass dial, clock restorer with an a ounce of self respect. The difference in cost is minor. While the finished results are [quite literally] night and day.

The time setting crank is [typically] absent but easily copied. I used a naturally aged, pepper grinder handle from a charity shop myself.

This example of the smallest WT, the C40A, is probably circa or post WW2. It has all the desirable [?] and earlier, deep, lacquered brass components rather than the later, silvery, plated minor parts.

The later "silvery"finish was an improvement by Gents to protect the metal from long term corrosion. Not that the lacquer was necessarily inferior in that respect. Except perhaps in open clock towers or other, very exposed sites. Gents would have known intimately what worked well in practice and introduced changes from direct, hands on experience, as discovered. Competence and reliability was the watchword for Gents. Which produced a considerable range of timekeeping products and sensor apparatus with a uniquely attractive sense of style. 

The "bandaged" electromagnet coils are from the later period. The earliest coils were bare, tightly wrapped, wound copper wire. Which was followed by the thick, green wax coating against weathering and damp over the wrapped wire. Each iteration was an obvious step forwards in mechanical protection against normal "wear and tear" in often poor working conditions.

Church, and other towers, were often subject to damp stonework and gale-driven downpours. Then there was always the risk  of debris brought in by nesting birds. Or vicars, with a penchant for over-oiling. Because he had heard, probably third hand, that the older, medieval clock "badly needed it." Often leading to highly premature wear as airborne dust turned to grinding paste in the presence of oil. "Clean" pinions and the larger [gear] wheels would easily outlast this assault because dust would simply fall off bare metal.

In the case of the WT it meant oiled contacts positioned directly right under the Hipp V-block. Cleaning the contact surfaces carefully would probably have solved the problem. But not necessarily the "oily" vicar. I bought new silver rod from  local jeweler and soft soldered them to the brass contact bases in place of the badly worn original contacts. They have never given the slightest trouble ever since.

The WT, by design, was largely free from the natural wear on toothed wheels [gears] in earlier, weight-driven clocks. Though the worm from the clock hand drive was hard chromed very early on in the WT's commercial availability. Gents was an early adopter of breakthroughs in metallurgy and protective surface treatments.

The vast majority of WT installations would have been the result of architect specified and designed buildings.  Replacement of existing, but completely worn out, weight-driven clocks would also have been quite commonplace.

The WT's biggest selling point, in not needing winding, resulted in some almost "abandoned" situations on tall factory chimneys and towering memorials. Where only a rare visit by a steeple jack was possible. Presumably the examples found in train stations, airfields and laboratories were given an occasional "once over."

The avoidance of a human clock winder was always a balance against rising wage costs and the price of a brand new, electrical timekeeping system. The vast human losses of WW1 resulted in a complete change in the cost of "hired help." This occurred during the early history of Gents and WTs. Which may well have been the USP [unique selling point] at the time.

The WT needed both a power supply and a master clock to operate. Replacements for the very earliest "chemical" banks of batteries would require a charger. Which would, in turn, require a reliable mains electricity supply. It should not be forgotten that mains electricity was not always a normal service in the early commercial life of the WT and impulse timekeeping systems in general. Fortunately those who had mains electricity were "early adopters" with the fund to afford a new "timekeeping system." The office blocks of nationally important used WT to compete with each other in the sheer scale of public dial size. No weight driven clock could provide enough power as a practical or economic match for the highly accurate WT.

The WT's unique, non adjustable and heavy pendulum bob is present. Making a vital contribution to an easy return to timekeeping with the addition of  a Gents C7 master clock and a separate 24V 1Amp DC power supply. Fortunately a modern, plug-top power supply is readily available these days. I have even purchased many such power supplies from charity shops which often seem to have a box full in my own experience.

12 Volt car or motorcycle batteries, in series, would seem like an obvious choice. BUT, can supply very dangerous levels of unwanted current. With fire or severe damage to shorted coils all too likely a risk without professionally competent fusing in both legs of the drive coil, power supply cable. A plug-top PS will hopefully fail before any faults turn nasty. Though, even here, suitable fusing will provide full protection.

One potential danger is poor adjustment of the Hipp Toggle which switches the power to the drive electromagnets. Doing so very briefly at exactly the correct moment in the natural swing of the pendulum. JABDC [Just After Bottom Dead Center] in motoring parlance. Poor adjustment can easily lead to the Toggle rocking deep in its V-block. Each rocking connects the full current to the big coils. The resistance of the many turns of wire is limited and they will soon heat up if the current is excessive.

Normal adjustment and the rubber hose tipped damper, are excellent insurance against problems occurring. Fortunately the WT pendulum will completely refuse to swing without proper adjustment. The bob can then be manually swung off to the right to instantly clear the toggle from its V-block. Then a much "later" setting in the pendulum swing of the drive contacts will easily cure the obvious problem.

I have run my WT for years, almost without any attention except constant admiration. With only foolish curiosity limiting its perfection of timekeeping when I decided to check how much swing was actually required for a WT to function normally.

The WT requires to be constantly reset, at exact, half minute intervals by a brief  low voltage impulse from the master clock. The impulse operates the small [time relay] electromagnet below the "Waiting Train" mechanism. Locking and release can only be achieved with a minimum pendulum swing. Which allows the gathering pallet to pull round the individual teeth on the ratchet [escape ] wheel.

The genius of the Hipp Toggle and its matching V-block are its fail-safe, mechanical measure of minimum swing. The toggle height and its position left to right are equally adjustable. As is the tilt of the contact set. One soon learns what works and what, quite obviously, doesn't. 

The minor, but absolutely vital, mechanical components all seem to be here. Some foolishly overpriced examples turn up on eBay with vital parts missing. Which makes restoring the WT a major headache. Original castings are extremely difficult to reproduce with any fidelity to historical accuracy! So be buyer be warned unless you are a skilled clock restorer.

The WT has a whole chain of drive components which power the remote hands of the usually large, large tower [or turret] clock dial. The WT is, after all, nothing more than a very powerful device for providing a highly reliable, low speed drive to exposed clock hands.

Until the arrival of the later, geared synchronous electric motors the WT was a major revolution in timekeeping. With few competitors and none so remotely successful. The genius behind the WT and C7 master clocks went on to build the largest public clocks of the time. 

Then there is the WT [waiting train] device consisting of further, but absolutely vital components in the electricity supply. One lot of parts keeps the pendulum swinging regardless of the effects of the weather on the highly exposed clock hands. Which are often high above the ground.

Where gales, cold, ice and flocks of birds could otherwise impede the normal movement of the clock hands.  Causing the timekeeping to vary. Where accuracy is the most important purpose behind any public clock dial. Often during a historical time period when the modern wrist watch was a rarity amongst the general public. Alternatives, of the time, included having a human "knocker up" tapping at the bedroom windows of the back-to-back terraces surrounding the vast buildings of the Industrial Revolution.

Accurate public timekeeping was not always as readily available as it is today. Today, we take perfect timekeeping so much for granted. We have multiple sources to instantly and conveniently aid our knowledge of the exact time without paying the GPO for each and every time check. Mobile telephones, TV, radio and the Internet are all [almost] freely available. So that we hardly give it a second thought these days. Timekeeping services are still controlling some battery clocks by radio.

In the quite recent past, not knowing the exact time often meant losing a job to support one's family. It meant missing a train, a vital train connection or a daily bus ride. The history of public timekeeping is the long record of man's [mostly] commercial attempts to provide the public time which controls our work. The lack of universal timekeeping meant trains were often missed and shops failed to open on time. The WT was a revelation in accurate, public timekeeping which often went completely unnoticed. Which of the many dials in view was correct?

It should be remembered that clock movements were largely at the mercy of the owner once they left the factory. No doubt there are WTs out there painted in a very personal choice of non-standard colours! Even the details of the WT might be changed over time following breakdowns or a change of ownership. An accidental shorting of the drive coils might require a much later, manufacture replacement. Perhaps a past swap by a collector or dealer?

Though there was unlikely to be the constant visits enjoyed by a weight driven clock movement for weekly [or daily] winding. Perhaps even by the landed gentry themselves in the case of a stately home keeping an eye on things. I saw the neat signatures of the family members of a once great estate, written on the wall of one, very dusty, whitewashed clock room.

Click on any image for an enlargement.


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