Anniversary clocks are a special type of timepiece whose movement is controlled
by what is known as a torsion pendulum. Rather than the back and
forth tick-tock style, a torsion pendulum is a weighted wheel with metallic
balls which are usually ornately decorated. This wheel rotates whilst
suspended on a thin wire or cord which is referred to as the torsion spring.
As the wheel rotares, the energy is effectively stored in the twisting
spring, to a point where the spring eventually has enought energy to slow
down, then reverse the direction of the rotating pendulum. The process
then begins again, with the spring first releasing its energy until the
twist has gone, then, as the rotating pendulum continues to rotate by its
own momentum, storing the energy in the reverse-direction twist.
The idea of the torsion pendulum itself was first patented by the inventor
Robert Leslie in 1793, but the 1st actual torsion pendulum clock was invented
and patented by Aaron Crane in New Jersey, USA, almost 50 years later in
1841. The Anniversary clock started ticking here - or umm, rotating.
The torsion pendulum design allowed these timepieces to run far longer
between 1st winding and the next wind, as a result of the fact that the
slow rotation of the pendulum uses a very small amount of energy.
In 1852 Silas B Terry from Plymouth in Connecticut, USA obtained a patent
for the idea of a torsion pendulum marine clock. Silas was the son
of Eli Terry who was famous for being considered as the first person to
mass produce clocks in the USA. Silas formed the Terryville Manufacturing
Company and built a new factory at Pequabuck, Connecticut, where
he became the manager. Although the torsion pendulum marine clock's
were successfully produced, only few were sold. Silas remained manager
at Terryville until selling his interest in the company in Autumn 1854,
when he returned to his own shop. Sadly, Silas went bankrupt in 1859,
causing his shop and assets to be disposed of. Undefeated and undaunted,
Silas became manager of W.L. Gilbert & Company's clock movement department
in Winsted, Connecticut for around 2 years, after which he moved to Waterbury
in Connecticut where he was similarly employed.
With his superlative skills as a designer and clockmaker, it appears
that working for someone else was not what Silas was truly intersted in,
and in 1867 he created a new concern named the Terry Clock Company with
his 4 sons at Waterbury. Although the company was able to obtain
patents for a number of ideas, it suffered from a severe lack of capital,
and after Silas' death in 1876 ,his sons were only able to keep the business
running until May 1880 when the dread hand of bankruptcy struck once again.
Three of the sons were taken on by an investment group from Pittsfield
who took over the bankrupt business, keeping the name of the Terry Clock
Company, but the business went under and was taken over in 1888 by creditors
who renamed it Russell & Jones Clock Company, and ran the business
for around 4 years.
A separate torsion clock invention was patented by Anton Harder in Germany
around 1880 to 1890, which is effectively where the idea started to take
off in a serious way. The idea of using this torsion energy to keep
a clock powered was first engendered in Anton Harder's mind by observing
the continuing turning motion of a suspended chandelier after a servant
had rotated it to light its candles. From this "light" of inspiration,
he proceeded to conceive a clock which would run for a whole year between
windings, a factor which would later inspire the name of Anniversary Clock.
Anton Harder formed a company known as Jahresuhrenfabrik, which means
"Factory of the Year Clock", but back in those days his clocks were far
less accurate than today's modern timepieces. The patent was sold
by Jahresuhrenfabrik in 1884 to another company, F.A.L. deGruyter of Amsterdam,
who subsequently in 1887 let the patent expire, allowing other enterprises
to begin serious production of torsion clocks.
The actual name of Anniversary Clocks was first applied to torsion clocks
in 1901 by the Bowler and Burdick Company of Cleveland, Ohio in America.
They gave the timepieces this appellation due to their ability to run for
40 days between windings. As such, the clocks effectively could be wound
once a year on a special day like a wedding anniversary. Bowler and
Burdick were actually able to obtain a patent on the term Anniversary Clock
at that time. The clocks increased in popularity, particularly as
wedding gifts to be first rewound on a 1st anniversary, and also
as actual 1st anniversary gift ideas.
After the Second World War and the associated scarcities of everything
from food to materials of all kinds, these clocks were one of the first
types to return to production. Soldiers returning from the the ravages
of the battlefield were able to bring them back from distant european lands
as a particularly special gift for their loved ones, thus enhancing their
romance even further.
By 1953 around 13 companies made their own individual design of anniversary
clocks but this declined to around 5 by 1965. Due to their finely
made compenents, the clocks broke down easily and replacement parts were
expensive and difficult to find. Modern technology was about to come
to the rescue however, with an additional bonus too. As well as their
delicacy, since their 1st invention, the one other main drawback with torsion
clocks was their lack of accuracy. With the advent of battery powered
movements and quartz technology, the modern anniversary clock has taken
a quantum leap forward in accuracy and reliability. Now, rather than
give a winding each year, each anniversary can be celebrated by invigorating
the clock with a fresh supply of batteries, ensuring its energy continues
until the earth rotates around our sun once more and the next anniversary
can be enjoyed by a happy couple.