Nautical Instruments & Tools
Price = n/a
WWI Convoy or Zig-Zag Clock
Zig-Zag clocks from WWI are almost impossible to find and even WWII examples are both scarce and expensive. The last one of these we had in was back in 2004 so it has been a long wait to secure another! We had previously thought the maker was the US based company Seth Thomas but with online research we have located an identical example which was identified by the Royal Navy Submarine Museum at Gosport as being manufactured around 1915 by The Standard Time Watch Company of New York, who traded between 1885-1926.
This rare early example dates from the first part of the 20th century. In WWI England was suffering huge losses amongst it's merchant fleet due to German submarine actions. It was therefore decided convoys should not sail a straight course and so avoid providing a easy target for German torpedoes. A means had to be found for large convoys to all alter course at exactly the same moment so as to avoid collisions and these clocks were the tools to do it. Secret sealed orders were issued to all the Captains prior to sailing and these gave the exact time when the helmsman should alter course on a predesignated bearing, in unison with the rest of the fleet, often out of vision and without the need to break radio silence or to use Morse signals. The electrical connector on the hand (now absent) would touched the contact on the brass ring attached to the dial and so complete a circuit which sounded a bell at pre-set times. Every time the bell rang the helmsman would change course.
These clock were of basic utility design and made without a bezel or glass exactly as our example. The dial is original, is unnamed and has not been refinished in any way. The metal case has been repainted and has three brass mounting lugs for bulkhead attachment. Three moveable brass contacts remain on the external brass bezel and at the base of the clock are two screw fitted terminals where the bell or buzzer would have been connected. The minute hand carries the remains of the electrical connector whilst the hour and second hands are of standard design. The clockwork mechanism is key wound and is working happily here in the office although we have no record when it was last serviced and it may be wise for a new owner to have this done seeing the age of this timepiece.
As with all our stock feel free to contact us for more detailed pictures and additional information. Whilst we have seen prettier clocks few come with such a story to tell and an extremely rare survivor from a distant war fought on and below the North Atlantic over 100 years ago!