The Regulator


The old-wooden-brass- clock hangs on my office wall in a narrow space adjacent to the window. It is heard more than seen. I never thought I’d have a symbiotic relationship with an old Regulator clock, but I do.

2020-02-26 Feb 2020 mtns at Cripple Creek 001            It is a “Regulator A” according to the inscription embossed in gold cursive on the small glass window in the door to the space occupied by the swinging pendulum.   Under the number 12 at the top of the clock face, covered by a round-glass door, is another identifier, “COLUMBIA.”

I told my wife that I wanted an old school clock, i.e. a “Regulator,” for my office and she found this one on e-bay.

The seller represented that it was in good working order but when I unpacked it and hung it on the wall it wouldn’t operate. So, I took it to a clock shop for a tune-up and the clock repair man said it just needed a cleaning and some adjustment. He was right, but he couldn’t guarantee the accuracy of its timekeeping which has become evident after putting it into service.

The case is made of hardwood like oak. Eight pieces of this wood frame the clock face, each cut on an angle and assembled to form an octagonal. There is a handmade brass boarder hammered into piecrust bezels around the clock’s face.

The mechanical mechanism inside the frame consists of concentric circles of now rusty metal which are wound by a key inserted through slots in the face at the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions. The 4 o’clock position winds clockwise and the 8 o’clock winds in the opposite direction. The springs unwind against each other causing the pendulum to swing in a side-to-side motion moving the clock hands around the face.

This old Regulator is like me, the old man who owns it. It needs winding up every morning or it refuses to function for more than a few hours to keep even a semblance of accurate time. It collects dust and needs to be cleaned daily. Like my reading glasses, the glass cover over the clock face needs cleaning frequently to read the hours and minutes accurately.

Its hour-hand needs to be adjusted every day after it is wound, much like I need to be adjusted for the day to come by taking my morning pills and having my first cup of coffee. If I forget to wind its springs for more than a couple of days, it just stops working. I do too, if I don’t have my coffee before beginning my daily routine.

If its old wooden case gets pushed off center during cleaning, the pendulum stops moving. If I over-do my physical activities such as shoveling large amounts of snow off the driveway and decks, I just stop moving, and need to sit and rest.

I often wonder where it hung before my wife bought it?

Has it hung in a teacher’s room or a principal’s office? Or, has it hung in another old guy’s study, waking him up every hour with its happy chiming?

Did it decide to sound-off during a telephone conversation interrupting the discussion? Did it sound the hour early in the morning alerting its owner to the need to rise from his bed and begin the day?

And with a certain finality, was it hanging in another old guy’s study when the old fellow took his last breath and did it chime recording the time of his passing?

Caveat actor, will it record my passing? If it will, do I need to wind it daily to make sure it records the event accurately.

Ben Echeverria

March 15, 2020

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