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Clocks, Watches/Diplomat Grandfather Clock Hour Chime


QUESTION: I have a 1987 Diplomat grandfather clock. It has triple movement, cable operated, with the moon dial.

I'm having a slight problem with the hour chime. At 10 it chimes 11, and at 12 it chimes 1. ALL the other hours of the day, it chimes correctly.

The weights are in the same positions they have always been.

Any idea on how I can solve this problem would be helpful.
Got my tool belt on.

Thank you very much,


ANSWER: Mikey, I apologize for the delay in my answer, but I thought I has sent an answer before.  Evidently it did not send.

On the movement behind the dial, there is a strike mechanism called the rack and snail.  The snail is on the hour tube (on which the hour hand fits).  It has 12 different sections, each at a different level.  As the snail turns with the hour hand and the hour is ready to strike, the rack drops and the tail of the rack falls on one of the levels corresponding to the hour and allows the clock to strike the correct number of hours.  There is probably a problem with the dropping of the rack on the snail.  It sounds like the rick might have slipped out of position.  If you want to attempt looking at it and possibly correcting the problem, you will have to remove the hands and dial to access the rack and snail mechanism.    Then you will have to remove some wheels (gears) and reset them.  Unless you have the mechanical understanding to do this, I would suggest you have an experienced clockmaker look at it.  Let me know what you might want to do.

John Newman
The Village Clocksmith
Old Prattvillage
Prattville, Alabama

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------


Thank you for your prompt reply.

From your description, it sounds like I'm capable of performing the procedure you have described. Although I'm not a professional Clocksmith, I am an experienced, meticulous, mechanic/handyman.

Before I begin exploratory surgery, I'd like to go in as prepared as possible.

Are there any clock-specific tools I may require?

Will I need to clean or lubricate the rack or snail? If so, what products would you recommend or avoid?

Are there any torque settings I will need?

Is there a youtube video link I should check out?


Mikey, I would like to offer you some encouragement, but I will do so with caution.  To attempt servicing the rack and snail mechanism, you are going to have to separate the dial from the movement.  Depending on how the case was designed, you might have to remove the complete movement/dial from the case.  You will probably have to put the movement on a test stand to observe the strike function working to determine what is happening before attempting any correction.  After removing the wheels (gears) you will have to re-install them in the proper synchronization according to procedures.  If the clock has been removed from the case, the chime and strike hammers will probably have to be realigned.

So, in answer to your questions, the tools required would be about the same as for small electronic devices repair where you have to disassemble mechanical assemblies such as a car radio or tape player.  The rack and snail should be clean and only the pivots of the rack would need lubricating with a clock oil and grease for some of the connected parts.  Don't use non-clock chemicals or solutions.  Do not use WD-40, or any of the "miracle" chemicals or any spray types.  I specifically mention WD-40 because many of us clockmakers receive many clocks where the clock owners have used WD-40 in trying to get the clocks to run.  I use WD-40 for many applications, but not for clock use.  It is a water displacement solution, but not a lubricant.  It will soften up the gummy oils and greases in clocks, but they contain a lot of ground up debris that should be thoroughly cleaned out.  If not the wear continues.  We also have to use additional cleaning steps to remove WD-40 before putting it in our clock cleaning solutions to keep from contaminating them.  

In the clock business we do not refer specifically to torque settings, but to feel gained by experience.  Sure, we have all torqued a nut off or found a part that wasn't tightened enough, but we learn fast.

I do not know of any specific Youtube presentations on this.  If you are thinking in learning clock repair (and I hope you are), I would suggest purchasing some books on the subject.  Steven G. Conover of the CLOCKMAKERS NEWSLETTER has an excellent series of books on clockmaking.  I have all of his publications.  Try Googling Clockmakers Newsletter and you can see the books offered.  I would start with CLOCK REPAIR BASICS.  In this one he does explain the chime and strike mechanisms.  You can also Google clock repair books or Google clock suppliers and look for the clock repair books listed.  There are also clock repair videos listed on the Internet.

I hope this has helped a little.

John Newman
Old Prattvillage
Prattville, Alabama  

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John Newman


As I am not a certified appraiser I do not give values of clocks over the Internet. There is very little published information on what I consider to be the value of "modern production clocks". However, considerations are what the clock originally sold for, the condition of the case and movement, and particularly the area in which you live, the demand and the economy. ALSO, WATCHES ARE NOT MY FIELD. However, I can advise the clock owner on proper maintenance of a clock to keep it running, small corrections and adjustments and how to move a clock without damaging it. I can also advise on obtaining parts for clocks. As clock case model label numbers are difficult to relate to the movements, it is helpful if you can give me the information usually found on the movements themselves. Modern clock movements usually have the information on the back plate of the movement. I have been a clockmaker for about 40 years and was plant engineer in the mid 90's and later operations and engineering consultant at Emperor Clock Company in Fairhope, Alabama. I now have my own clock shop in Prattville, Alabama.


One of my greatest accomplishments was traveling to China to assist a clock factory in building clocks to the standards which we required at Emperor. With the proper specifications and quality control, some beautiful clock cases were built. The factory people from the wood carvers to the plant manager were very congenial, friendly and I left a lot of wonderful friends when I returned from my trips.

NAWCC (National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors) 30 years Prattville, Alabama Chamber of Commerce

Horological Times, a publication of the American Watch and Clockmakers Instute. Collaberated column author, with Photos and ideas for clock movement conversion article.

Associate of Science Mechanical Engineering Technology Emperor Introductory Clock Repair (Eventually taught a portion of the class after becoming employee)

Awards and Honors
Small Business of the Quarter (Prattville, Alabama) Leadership Class of 2009 (Autauga County, Alabama)

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