Why a Vienna Regulator clock is not a regulator. Any discussion of regulator clocks produces a wide variety of conflicting opinions, nevertheless, I will present my point of view on the subject of the regulator clock.

The word “regulator” is used quite loosely but according to one definition it is a master clock, usually of great accuracy, against which other clocks are checked. Respected collectors like Derek Roberts tend to stay away from defining a regulator clock and instead refer to them as precision pendulum clocks. Later in the article I will present three examples for your consideration.

Every clock that has the word regulator on it is not a regulator

Let’s be clear from the outset; every clock that has the word regulator on it is not a regulator. Why would a clock manufacturer put the word “regulator ” on a clock? The term “regulator” is one that connotes accuracy but in the world of marketing it is a word that sells plenty of clocks.

If it was expressly designed as a precision pendulum clock it can be called a regulator.

It is so difficult to define a “regulator” by its mechanical characteristics. Regulator clocks were invented in the late 18th century in a quest for greater timekeeping accuracy. If it was designed as a precision pendulum clock it can be called a regulator. It’s principle features are:

  • Quality weight driven devices,
  • With maintaining power,
  • A heavy pendulum (not necessarily mercury),
  • Generally eight-day movements, some are more than 8 days,
  • Had some form of temperature control compensation,
  • A seconds dial,
  • 60 beats per minute,
  • Featured a deadbeat escapement and
  • Were expressly engineered to keep accurate time.

Complicated features like calendars and strike trains were omitted in the quest for accuracy. Indeed, Regulators were (are) capable of extreme accuracy for a mechanical clock.

Does the addition of a strike train take a clock out of the regulator category? The strike train takes some of the accuracy out of the clock, as the time train produces more friction when lifting the strike levers. If we accept the definition of a regulator as an extremely accurate clock to be used as a time standard, you won’t find any strike trains on these clocks.

Note the three following examples

Example number 1.

Arthur Pequegnat Regulator #1, A Handsome Clock, fitted with a Movement which is un-excelled“, Beautiful Finish on both Movement and Case, (Arthur Pequegnat advertisement)

The Arthur Pequegnat Regulator #1 clock is often compared to the Seth Thomas Regulator #2 as a precision regulator. Many Regulator #1 clocks found their way into offices and rail stations all across Canada. The Regulator #1 is the best timekeeper made by Pequegnat. The company said in it’s advertising: “A Handsome Clock, fitted with a Movement which is un-excelled“, Beautiful Finish on both Movement and Case” and “The Finest Office Clock Made”!  They were weight driven, time-only, at 80 beats per minute, had a deadbeat escapement, with heavy pendulum, eight day movement with a brass weight hung on an iron bracket, maintaining power, a seconds dial and were designed to keep accurate time. It was a reasonably accurate clock used as a time standard. However, some would argue that at 80 beats per minute it would not be considered a true regulator.

Arthur Pequegnat Regulator #1 wall clock
Is this Arthur Pequegnat Regulator #1 a regulator?

Example number 2.

Is the Vienna Regulator clock a true regulator?

So, what is a Vienna Regulator? Is the Vienna Regulator a true regulator?

The clock you see in the photo below is typically advertised on online for-sale sites as a “Vienna Regulator”. It is an attractively designed 1890s spring driven, time and strike clock made by Frederick Mauthe. Many individuals who sell these clocks have no hesitation in calling them Regulators. Let’s apply the definition above.

  • Is this a regulator? No! A spring driven movement disqualifies it immediately.
  • Is it capable of extreme accuracy. No!
  • Was it designed as a precision clock? No!
RS Finial added (3)
Is this Mauthe horse crown wall clock a Vienna Regulator?

Example number 3.

This is an Austro-Hungarian era time-only weight driven clock made in the early 1870s. Many would define this clock as a Vienna Regulator. It has a deadbeat escapement, one weight, time-only, a heavy pendulum, eight day movement and maintaining power.

one-weight Vienna wall clock
Is this one-weight miniature Vienna wall clock a regulator?

Let’s apply the definition above.

  • Is this a regulator? No! There is no seconds dial, and, more than 60 BPM
  • Is it capable of extreme accuracy. No!
  • Was it designed as a precision clock? No!

It is capable of some accuracy but it is not a reference timepiece. However, there is little doubt that some post office and rail clocks in the Vienna style such as this Wilhelm Bauer post office wall clock were considered “regulators” in their day when common folk set their watches and clocks by them.

Wilhelm Bauer post office clock
Is this Wilhelm Bauer post office clock a regulator?

The Vienna Regulator is a particular style of clock made in Germania or the Austrian empire. They are characterized by finely crafted (ornate at times) cases with precision movements. While they were capable of keeping good time, they were not designed as a precision instrument and were not capable of extreme accuracy. They have some but not all the characteristics of a regulator but they are not a true regulator. While the Vienna Regulator may not be true regulator it reflected not only the style and craftsmanship of the period they were made but the quest for accuracy. No one can argue that the best workmanship and attention to detail were put into the many clocks that were produced during what some might call the pinnacle of clock design and engineering.

As much as they are called regulators the three examples presented above are not true regulators. Regulators were (are) capable of extreme accuracy for a mechanical clock. Nothing I have in my collection qualifies as a regulator.

However, in the world of clock collecting and repair it is perfectly acceptable to continue referring to them as regulators since they are generally accepted as such. The word regulator has become part of the lexicon of collectors even if they do not strictly fall within the definition of a regulator clock.

 

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