How to Synchronize The Chiming Movement

You proudly hang your clock, set the time, wind it up (if it’s mechanical) and watch happily as it ticks around the dial, but when it reaches the hour, you don’t hear that familiar Westminster chime that it should be playing. What gives? Chiming or striking mechanisms are easy to throw off, especially if you’ve replaced your movement or removed the hands of the clock at some point. To find out how to properly synchronize the hands and chiming movement, read on, dear Emperor readers!

The position of the hour hand is linked to the minute hand, which is how they stay in sync as they rotate to tell time. Often after a movement has been replaced, or even following expert repair from a clock shop, you can find that the clock doesn’t chime precisely when the minute hand is on the 12. It is also quite common to find instances where the position of the hour hand doesn’t agree with the count on the striking mechanism inside the clock—the clock says 5 but it only chimed for 3! These are minor problems that can be fixed in a very short time. All you need are a pair of channel-lock pliers and some patience, and you’ll have your clock back to factory setting in no time.

  1. Stop the pendulum or block the time train to stop the balance wheel if you have a mechanical clock. If your clock contains a quartz movement, allow it to keep running while you fix the issues, so you can listen to the chimes during troubleshooting later. Remove the hand nut and both hands from the clock by pulling them straight forward gently.
  2. If your movement has three gear trains (look at the dial and count how many winding stems it has to see if your mechanical movement has two or three gear trains), reinstall the minute hand and slowly turn it clockwise several full terms, stopping to allow the clock to chime at each quarter hour until the clock chimes the full hour. Regardless of where the minute hand is at this point (it could be on the quarter or half hour, and that’s fine!), count the number of strikes, remove the minute hand, and reinstall the hour hand so that it is pointing on the dial directly to the hour that has just been struck. It could take several revolutions to completely resynchronize a clock with both a chiming and striking mechanism, so don’t worry if it takes some time—just keep moving the minute hand until you find the hour.  If your clock has two trains, you’ll usually only need one revolution of the minute hand to return each of the striking train components to their correct starting position.
  3. Now that the hour hand is correctly positioned, you can reinstall the minute hand to synchronize it with the chiming or striking mechanism. On the back of the minute hand, you’ll see a round brass bushing with a square hole. This bushing is made to turn, but when a clock is out of sync, the square hole is out of relationship with the square on the end of the hand shaft. Use your channel-lock pliers to hold the bushing while you move the hand until the hand points directly to the 12:00 position when it is placed back on the arbor. Be careful not to damage, distort, or dislodge the bushing while you do this.

  4. Install the minute hand and replace the hand nut, using your hands to tighten the nut back into place. Now, turn the minute hand clock-wise in a slow manner and until the chiming mechanism is activated. You should hear the clock click followed by a whirring noise when the chiming or striking mechanism starts when the minute hand points to the 12, regardless of whether you have a three or two chain movement. Now that the clock has been reset to 12, a three chain movement should start chiming precisely as the minute hand reaches each quarter hour mark on the dial, while a two train movement should start on the half hour without any further adjustments being needed.
  5. Do one final check to make sure that the hour struck by the clock is correctly synchronized to the time indicated on the dial by the hour hand. Once this has been confirmed, make sure that the hands have sufficient space between themselves to turn, and tighten the hand nut into place with a tool that will not damage the surface.
  6. Restart your pendulum or unblock the time train to start the clock again, and use the minute hand to correctly set the time. That’s it! You’ve done it!

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