Emperor Grandfather Clock
Our Christmas Clock ... the time of our lives.
I started building the clock kit in October of 1974 as I was finishing my Master’s Degree in Journalism, Mass Communications at California State University, Fresno. The solid Oak wooden pieces of the kit took about six weeks to build “between classes” while I also managed media relations and marketing for the Council of Fresno County Governments (COG). Diana still work at Gemco. Less than a year later, Diana would be pregnant with our son, Ian.
Here’s before and after shots of the face with the moon dial. The new moon dial can be lit from within so the stars shine at night.
Okay, so here’s the story of our Christmas Clock that, as the tempo and pace of our lives, is ...
I saw an ad in a magazine about “building your own grandfather clock.” The company was Emperor Clocks. I knew that was something I could do (and figure out). Diana and I talked about it. Then we plunked out somewhere around $600 for the Oak wood kit that included a German Hermle clock movement, chimes and the rest of the “clock works.” I had never really built anything so I had no tools. After the kit arrived I bought tools and clamps as I needed them. It took a little over six weeks to figure it all out and “put things together.” Going into Christmas, the clock was “ticking and chiming.” And, ever since, we’ve called it The Christmas Clock.
Here are photos of building our grandfather clock ... from October to December of 1974 ....
Diana (with our dog, Pasha) is holding up the door to the face of the clock. The other photos show me building it, along with a peek inside where the movement is.
Fast-forward to December 25th, 2018
A little bit more about Emperor Clocks. First, they have great products that last (obviously). Their wooden kits are excellent. The movements are Hermle from Germany. An interesting aspect of this whole story of putting in a new movement for our grandfather clock is that I didn’t even know Emperor Clocks was still around. But, out of the blue, I got a Black Friday Special email from Emperor Clocks. This, as Diana and I were already thinking about putting in a new movement. How we were going to do that, we had no idea. But, as the Universe so often does ... it made things happen for me to somehow find this email in my email junk folder of Outlook, So, I called, talked to Sally (she is the best!). And, we got the great deal! Then the a new movement (all 50+ pounds of it) was on the way to us. Which, I might add, cost a lot more than the original price for the wooden kit AND movement. Hey, it’s 44 years later! And, we got an Incredible Black Friday deal on the price. One of the few things I have ever bought on a Black Friday Special!
Here are a couple of shots BEFORE we put in the new triple-chime movement (which is beyond awesome).
I admit it. I was spooked as I examined what we were going to be putting together on Christmas Day. Almost half a century later, now we’re going to “retrofit” our grandfather clock I built when I was still in college! But, hey. We took out all the stuff for the new triple-chime movement. Then Diana and I worked our way through the well-written instructions to “put the pieces of the puzzle together.” It took a little over three hours. On Christmas Day we had it all working! And, it was amazing. Same ‘ole clock, but, WOWSERS! A whole new booming, wonderful, enchanting sounds. Like what you hear in a European cathedral ... like the ones Diana and explored in Spain after got married there.
And, hey, we did it!
Our house is alive with so much more of a richer chiming at each quarter hour and, of course, on the hour is the “big show” with 32 notes along with the hammers marking each hour.
Here is the pictorial of “things going together.” And, yea, there were some tricky parts (like having to rebuild the spot where the clock is mounted. But, no big deal. We just took it all a step at a time. It was fun, actually. Removing the old movement was the most challenging part. That’s because I hadn’t been “in there” in over four decades. But, like with everything else, we followed the instructions, step-by-step, checking off each one and making sure it was all done right. Then when I set the pendulum in motion, the “Escapement” lever went right to work ... second by second, locking and unlocking the mechanism for the “tic-toc” show to continue the pace and tempo of our lives ... and to keep the clock going. We like that you wind the weights on this clock, as opposed to carefully pulling up the chains on the weights (the heaviest weight being the one on the right side).
I had the Moon Dial exactly positioned, too! Thanks to a great web site. For anyone interested in the phases of the moon (even if you don’t have a Moon Dial), here is where you can get the exact details:
There are so many amazing and enchanting aspects to this new Hermle movement. One we really like is that the moon dial has openings where the stars are, so you can put soft lights inside to “make the stars shine.” We did that, of course, with tiny Christmas tree lights ... which is quite fitting because it’s our Christmas Clock! We also like the second hand, too. Lots of moving parts create the most amazing look.
So, here are the highlights from one of our best Christmas Days EVER!
And, that’s that. Our house is now more alive than ever with the “time of our lives.” Ah, well, I let out a deep sigh once everything was “ticking away.” The last tricky part of was adjusting the pendulum. And, that wasn’t much to do, slightly raising and lowering the “turning of the screw” on the bottom of it to “get the swing” just right. That then puts the Escapement Lever to lock and unlock, second by second, to “tic-toc” the cadence and rhythm for the “time of our lives.”
I can’t say enough good things about Emperor Clocks. They made this all happen. Their “people on the phones” (Sally and Tom) know their stuff. They are so helpful in answering questions and easing your mind about taking on such a challenge. And, when you finally have everything done (the first time around and then putting in a new movement all these years later), well, there just aren’t that many companies that can be such an important part of your life.
The satisfaction of “hey, I did this!” ... and, that this magical, enchanting clock has been and is (now better than ever) such an important part of our lives - day and night - very few things in life are so sa-weeeet! Our Christmas Clock has not only been the “heartbeat” of our lives, it has been right “there” in the background of so many photos over the years. So much “gets lost in time,” but not the multitude of memories (and photos) associated with this amazing Grandfather clock.
The most fitting “end” to this piece I’ve written here is that our Christmas Clock is chiming on the hour right this very moment as if to say, as it always does, “Yes, this is, indeed, the time of your life!”
An important point in all of this has to do with Diana and me. This grandfather clock is an example, from thousands, of how, together, our lives are extraordinarily, ordinarily wonderful and, most importantly, fun! Yea, maybe that’s boasting. But, hey, we had no idea about how to build a grandfather clock or anything at all about clock movements and getting them to work. We felt it was worth the try (and risk) to do something that turned out to be incredible, as well as a BIG part of lives over the years. We’ve done things like that over and over. Yea, we “crashed and burned” and had plenty of “ups and downs.” All of that is dwarfed by a whole lot of incredible experiences, too, just like with this epic clock story. It never would have happened if we didn’t make things happen. And, hey, we’re going to do plenty more. Like we always have, working together every step of the way. All of which definitely is...
The time of our lives!
NOTES: You can hear the Hermle chimes by clicking here -> triple-chime movement
So, what chimes do we now have melodically ringing throughout our house? We chose the Whittington chimes, which are also known as the St. Mary-le-Bow chimes. Here's the story of these chimes, which are second in popularity to Westminster chimes. The Westminster chimes are famous for booming from Big Ben in England ... well, Big Ben is silent for now as badly needed repairs are being made. It will be another couple of years before Big Ben is "back in business" better than ever.
The customary English theatre story, adapted from the life of the real Richard Whittington, is that the young boy Dick Whittington was an unhappy apprentice running away from his master. He heard the tune ringing from the bell tower of the church of St Mary-le-Bow in London in 1392. The penniless boy heard the bells seemingly saying to him "Turn again Dick Whittington". Dick returned to London upon hearing the bells, where he went on to find his fortune and became the Lord Mayor of London four times. He used the tune as a campaign song for his three returns to the office of mayor. A version of his campaign song goes:
Turn again, Whittington,
Final thoughts ... if we can do something like “building a clock” ...
... you, too, can do just about anything you can imagine!!
THE BIRDS: Oh, yea, you did see the birds in the first photo at the top of this page, right? We not only have birds “in the sky” by our Christmas Clock, there are birds “taking flight” on the walls and ceilings in our living room and bedroom.