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  Reader's letter | March 2005 | Clocks Magazine

Brisbane Synchronome

I have recently read the very interesting article by Brian Barkworth of Australia in the January 2005 issue of Clocks regarding his Brisbane Synchronome. I think these are fascinating clocks in that they work so well using a minimum of working parts.

I acquired mine when I was asked to clear out the back of a lecture theatre some years ago at my place of work. It was covered in cobwebs and a thick layer of dust and on enquiry I was told it was used for a physics experiment by the students about 20 years previously and had never seen the light of day since. I managed to purchase this clock for a very reasonable sum. I took it home and spent many hours cleaning the works and the case and it now works very well. At the time I had no idea how these clocks worked but it didn’t take long to find out.

This clock differs from the Brisbane one in that it has a one-second switch in addition to the normal 30-second assembly. It is screwed to the casting as a separate unit so that it could be removed if not required. This drives the second hand. I managed to buy an original copy of the setting-up instruction booklet usually supplied with the clock so I managed to find out a lot more about the mechanism.

I have a book Electric Clocks and Chimes, a Practical Handbook on their Design and Construction. It has a chapter on the Synchronome system. It even tells you how to make a clock. Another chapter tells you how to convert a grandfather clock to impulse drive.

A few years ago I was asked if I would like to repair one of these clocks. I took on the job and the first thing I noticed was the gathering click jewelled tip had broken off. I had no idea where I could get a replacement for it so I made a temporary one using a common or garden paperclip bent to shape. Some of these clips have a shiny surface to them so I thought one of these would do little or no damage to the wheel as the gatherer uses very little pressure. This clock has been running with the paper clip still in place for about nine years and on inspection about a year ago, there was no sign of any damage or wear. I made enquiries at most of the local watch and clock repairers but most of them had not heard of the design so could not help. One clockmaker told me that this type of clock was so out of date that ‘ … nobody bothers with them any more’. He would take it off my hands, though!

I also have a Hipp type clock made by Gents. It has various contacts on it to enable output pulse durations of one second, six seconds and 30 seconds. The main difference with this clock is that the pendulum only receives an impulse when it needs one instead of every 30 seconds. Details of this type of mechanism can be found in Electric Clocks and How to Make Them by Frank Hope-Jones and also in Electric Clocks by S J Wise.

Keep up your good work on this magazine.

Geoffrey Arbuthnot, UK

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