Care and conservation of Pendulum clocks

 Clocks are familiar objects which can not only be works of art but are also special-purpose machines requiring care and maintenance to perform their intended function. They exist on a variety of scales; from large turret or stable clocks, to grandfather (longcase) clocks, bracket clocks and carriage clocks. Well-maintained clocks will give years of pleasure, but even the best maintained clocks will experience wear and parts may eventually need repair or replacement if the clock is to continue to function. Fortunately, many of the most common causes of damage and deterioration to clocks can be avoided by following some simple guidelines. As the owner or custodian, you must decide whether the clocks in your care are to be static or working objects and whether to repair or replace worn parts, (compromising the object's integrity) or to stop the clock.

Winding of clocks
Winding should always be done regularly and preferably at about the same time for day-running clocks (30-hour or less) or on the same day of the week for week-running clocks (8-day). Always use a well-fitting and appropriate key. For mantel clocks use a 'butterfly' key and for longcase clocks and other large mantel or bracket clocks use a crank key. Wind gently, steadily and fully, being especially careful not to bang the weights against the underside of the clock. If you are winding a spring-driven clock, be careful not to come to a sudden stop at the end of winding. While there is really no such thing as 'over winding' a clock, considerable and potentially expensive damage can be caused by not winding gently and steadily. It is helpful in this respect to count the number of turns it takes to fully wind a clock, and to use this number as a guide each time you wind the clock, particularly if it is unfamiliar.

Hand setting
Setting the hands and any other indicators such as day, date, month, moon phase, complex striking etc needs particular care. If your clock has any additional indicators or unusual striking patterns it is advisable to seek professional advice before undertaking any adjustments
For timepieces or striking clocks, never turn the hands backwards without proper advice. Instead, stop the clock and wait until the time catches up with that shown on the dial, then re-start it. As with winding, hand setting should be done gently and slowly, always allowing a striking clock to complete striking before moving the hands on. Only the minute hand should be used for setting and never attempt to move or adjust the hour or seconds hands. Try to avoid moving the hands more than an hour or so forward. Rather than turning the hands forward through several hours it is better to stop the clock and re-start it when the time matches that on the dial.

Care should be taken not to touch the dial. All types of dials can be affected by the moisture from hands, which is corrosive and may also remove painted or printed features. Fingers and hands also deposit grease and dirt, which builds up into unsightly and potentially damaging marks. For particularly vulnerable dials the use of cotton or surgical rubber gloves is recommended. Contact a horological conservator for advice on dial care and conservation.

Stopping a clock
Before going on holiday, or overnight in the case of a short-duration clock, it is best to stop a pendulum clock to prevent possible damage to the clock mechanism through loss of power.

It is inadvisable for clocks to be stopped for periods longer than a month. However, if this is unavoidable the clock should be professionally examined and, if necessary, re-lubricated. If a clock has not had any attention for a considerable time, it may be necessary to have the clock dismantled, 'cleaned' and freshly lubricated.

Pendulum clocks
Regulation of pendulum clocks is normally done by moving the pendulum bob up or down. Many French mantel clocks have an adjustment on the dial and a small key is provided to adjust the length of the pendulum to bring the clock to time. In most other cases the pendulum bob is adjusted by a rating nut upon which the bob sits. Turning the rating nut to the right raises the bob and makes the clock go faster and conversely, turning the rating nut to the left slows the clock down. This adjustment should always be made by stopping the pendulum and supporting it so that it cannot twist as the rating nut is turned. Small adjustments (half a turn) are best, allowing 2 or 3 days between adjustments for the effect to be observed. Do not expect quartz timekeeping from a mechanical clock.

Pendulum clocks are not self-starting and the pendulum will need to be set swinging by moving the pendulum about one centimetre to the right or left before releasing it. If ticking can be heard then the clock has started. If not, repeat the procedure but move the pendulum a little more to the left or right before releasing it. Beware of moving the pendulum too far as this can damage the mechanism.

Maintenance of the clock movement (the works)
Like all machines, clocks need to be serviced regularly. Even in perfect conditions lubricants deteriorate, particularly after three years. For this reason alone, clocks should be examined and re-lubricated every three years. After five years, and certainly no longer than eight years, the whole movement should be dismantled and 'cleaned' if excessive wear and expensive attention is to be avoided. This should be carried out by a professional as there is the potential to cause damage from the use of too much oil, or oil in the wrong place. Do not be tempted to use proprietary products to lubricate a clock.

If a clock, for no obvious reason, begins to keep erratic time or fails to run or strike for its full duration; this usually indicates that it needs attention and professional advice should be sought.



The pendulum must always be locked before moving the clock.  The locking system is at the base, the screw in the centre. The pendulum balls must be held to stop them from moving while locking and unlocking.

·         To unlock:  GENTLY turn the screw clockwise.

·         To lock:      GENTLY turn the screw anti-clockwise.

2. When pendulum is stationary, rotate it slightly either to the right or left, approximately one half turn, then release.

3. HAND SETTING – The clock should be set to the proper time by moving the minute hand. Do not touch the hour hand as this moves automatically.

4. WINDING: -- Clock winding is a memorable anniversary for many families the world over. To some, New Year’s Day is ideal; others honor the date of anniversary of a wedding, birth, or special family occasion with this sentimental custom. For testing and regulating purposes, the clock has been one third wound before leaving the factory. To wind fully, give the spring 3 to 4 further turns with the key. Please turn anti-clockwise. Do not force the spring, wind only until you find that the key will not readily turn further. when fully wound, your Schatz clock requires no further winding for 400 days.

5. Carefully place the glass dome into position, covering the clock.

6. To prevent loss, keep instructions and key under the base of clock.


Schatz instructions, figure IIISchatz instructions, figure I


7. The cup located on the base centers the pendulum . . .if the pendulum touches the side or bottom of the cup, the clock will not operate accurately: This indicates that the clock does not stand on a level surface. In such a case accurate leveling is accomplished by adjusting the leveling screws (K) protruding from base of clock, enabling pendulum to rotate freely and the clock to operate satisfactorily. The cup also prevents the pendulum from swinging too much when the clock is moved . . . thereby preventing damage to the glass dome or suspension wire.

8.  On the top of the pendulum is a disc (figure III), on which numbers are engraved 1 – 16 and two arrows marked F-S. the small indicator hand (L) will be pointing to a number on the disc at which the clock was regulated before leaving the factory. Should you find it necessary to regulate the clock observe the number to which the indicator hand points. The distance between each number is equivalent to 1/2 minute in 24 hours + or -.
For example: If your clock loses two minutes per day (24 hours) and the indicator hand points to number 8 on the disc – move the disc on the direction of the arrow marked F until the indicator hand will point to the number 4.


9. In some instances, the clock may be "out of beat": this should be rectified by an experienced clock-maker. This can be determined as follows:

Observe the lever and escape wheel through the two holes in the back plate. When the lever (pallet) leaves a tooth of the escape wheel, the pendulum must rotate a litter further. The pendulum will then rotate to the opposite side and will also rotate a little further after the lever leaves a tooth of the escape wheel. If the distance the pendulum travels is unequal at both ends of the rotation, the clock is "out of beat". To put the clock "in beat" the method is as follows: On the back plate is a bridge (D) under which a small round pillar is attached and held by screw (F). The suspension wire is held in place by a small bracket centered within this pillar. Screwed to the suspension wire at a slightly lower point is fork (E), which guides the lever. Loosen screw (F), turn the small pillar slightly, with the help of the protruding arm (G) in the direction that more rotation is wanted, to make it equal. Tighten screw (F).


Westminster Clock Instructions


The clock comes with a key to wind the clock and the pendulum.

The clock must be placed on a level surface. 

Access to the clock movement and chimes is made through the back of the clock.  Open the back to the clock and gently attach the pendulum to the hook.  Fully wind the clock without forcing.

Start the pendulum swinging gently.  If the tick sounds uneven (tick-TOCK-tick-TOCK), place thin shims (like cardboard from a matchbook cover) under the feet on one side or the other until the tick evens out (tick-tick-tick) like a metronome.


Set the hands by gently turning the hands forward only stopping at each chime point to let it chime.

Changing the speed of time keeping is accomplished by adjusting the pendulum weight higher (for faster) or lower (for slower), a very small adjustment will make a large difference in the time (fast or slow) on the clock.