How to Understand Clock & Chime Mechanisms

By Linda Stamberger
Antique mantle clock with chime mechanism

Clock and chime mechanisms are essential parts of a clock. The clock mechanisms are responsible for the clock working correctly, while the chiming is a byproduct of the clock if the mechanisms are in working order. The chime is the tune that the clock makes when the clock strikes. On many types of clocks with both these mechanisms, the chime generally strikes on the hour.

Examine the clock for weights. On some clocks -- such as grandfather clocks -- there are weights instead of mainsprings. Check in back of the pendulum for the weights, which will be near the chimes. The weights help to keep the chimes balanced, and ensure that the clock will work effectively.

Look inside the clock at the inner working mechanisms, if there are no weights or pendulum. On mantle clocks with chime mechanisms, there is usually a spring-driven mainspring mechanism that resembles a coil, which enables the clock parts to work properly.

Make sure the spring is in working order on an antique clock. If the spring doesn’t work, the clock mechanism won’t function properly or work at all, and the clock won’t make a chiming sound.

Check to see that the clock can be wound easily. If the clock cannot be wound, then there might be a problem with the mainspring, thus prohibiting the inner mechanisms to function properly. Have an antique clock or newer clock with a spring mechanism serviced by a professional if the clock doesn’t work.

If the clock can be wound with no problems, then check that the mainspring and balance wheel are working in sync. Check the pendulum on wall clocks to make sure that it is not out of adjustment. See if the spring is in working order on these types of clocks as well.

Look at clocks that have both chime and strike mechanisms, such as French antique clocks, which are known to have multi-functions, aside from aesthetic beauty. Check for a French Morbier clock with a bell on top. These clocks strike on the hour, and then strike again two minutes later.

Look inside the clock to see if it has an anchor or recoil escapement. The escapement is what enables the clock to make a strike, and thus makes the chime sound. Observe these types of clocks to learn how its intricate mechanisms work. Antique clocks such as these have glass side panels that allow owners to see the moving parts.

About the Author

Linda Stamberger began writing professionally in 1994, as an entertainment reporter for "Good Times Magazine." She has written online copy for The Volusia Community website and is the author of "Antiquing in Florida." Stamberger studied creative writing at Southampton College, where she won a partial writing scholarship.