Exhibit of the Week: Anniversary clock - Ryedale Folk Museum

Anniversary clock on dispaly at Ryedale Folk Museum.
Anniversary clock on dispaly at Ryedale Folk Museum.

This object has recently been donated to Ryedale Folk Museum. It is an anniversary clock, so called because it was designed to run for up to 400 days on a single winding. This clock was given as a wedding present to a local family in 1894.

It is a delicate, ornamental spring-wound mantel clock which keeps time with a mechanism which rotates round and back on a weighted disc suspended from a fine wire called a torsion spring. The polished mechanism is clearly visible under the glass dome to allow people to watch it in action.

The clock stands on two pillars allowing space for the disc to rotate. The face is surrounded by a decorative brass ring and attached to a plate in front of the mechanism which is adorned by three attractive finials.

This wedding gift would have adorned the newly-weds’ mantelpiece.

Around 1880, a German man called Anton Harder invented and patented the torsion clock.

He was inspired by watching a hanging chandelier rotate after a servant had turned it to light the candles.

He formed the “Year Clock Factory” which produced these clocks which were made to run for a year. He sold the patent in 1884 to 
FA L de Gruyter of Amsterdam who allowed the patent to expire in 

In 1901, the Ohio clock making company called Bowling and Burdock copyrighted the term Anniversary Clock.

At one time there were 125 different styles of old anniversary clocks manufactured by about 13 anniversary clock makers, each with a unique suspension system.

These clocks were known to be among the first to resume production after World War Two as thousands of American GIs brought them back to the USA as souvenirs because they were easily purchased at Post Exchanges on American bases.

However, fashions do change, new inventions come along and by 1965 there were only about five 
clock makers still in production.

Although the clocks would run for at least a year on a single winding, they did not maintain accuracy for the whole 12 months. Unless they were rewound two or three times a year, they would lose time after about six months as the mainspring gradually lost power.

In 1951, Charles Terwilliger invented a temperature compensating suspension spring which allowed more accurate clocks to be made.

The clock is not working at present but one of our museum volunteers, who is a keen amateur horologist, believes it can be repaired. Indeed, in this day of “electronic” time recording, it is interesting that the British Horological Institute is noting an upsurge in young people eager to learn the skills necessary to make and repair watches and 
clocks. There is even a three-year degree course in horology at Birmingham City University.