The clock that saw 24 PMs


Par­lia­ment’s clock is un­like any that clock-re­pairer Rowan Pil­brow has ever seen.

The 109-year-old clock was dam­aged in the June earth­quake and is at Pil­brows Watch and Clock Restora­tion in Taupo for re­pairs.

Built in Lon­don in 1908 and in­stalled at Par­lia­ment in 1921, the clock was ac­tu­ally ousted by the Labour party in 1960 and sold to a pri­vate owner, Pil­brow said.

‘‘Then the Na­tional Party bought it back from that owner 30 years later in 1989. I un­der­stand the Speaker of the House was very fond of it,’’ Pil­brow said.

The large ‘‘mas­ter clock’’ clock would have pow­ered 13 other ‘‘slave clocks’’ around Par­lia­ment, Pil­brow said.

Ev­ery 60 sec­onds, the mas­ter clock would have sent a pulse of elec­tric­ity to the slave clocks that would move their minute hands by one. It stands alone now.

‘‘This clock is re­ally un­usual in that most mas­ter clocks have to plug into the mains power to get all the slave clocks to run,’’ Pil­brow said

‘‘This clock cre­ates its own elec­tric charge, all by it­self, which I’ve never seen be­fore and didn’t know ex­isted, un­til it ar­rived.’’

To gen­er­ate power, a 130kg solid metal weight turns a min­ute­keep­ing clock un­der the main clock face, Pil­brow said.

‘‘When the sec­ond-hand gets to twelve, you’ll hear a bang.

‘‘That’s be­cause there’s a gear in there which gets re­leased and turns very quickly. That runs a lit­tle dy­namo in­side the elec­tro­mag­nets, and cre­ates enough elec­tri­cal charge to drive this clock, as well as all the other clock faces around the build­ing.

‘‘It’ll give one burst of elec­tric­ity, and that’ll move all the [con­nected] clocks one minute,’’ he said.

‘‘Some re­ally smart per­son must have come up with that sys­tem, given this clock was built in 1908, be­fore elec­tric­ity be­came main­stream.’’

‘‘It’s a very sim­ple sys­tem, but the way they’ve done it is in­ge­nious.’’

Ev­ery two days, the clock’s 130kg weight reaches the floor and the clock needs to be wound up.

Pil­brow said there were clock mak­ers in Welling­ton, but they hadn’t man­aged to fix the clock’s var­i­ous prob­lems in re­cent years.

‘‘There’s a bit of re­search and knowl­edge in­volved that you wouldn’t find in a nor­mal clock,’’ he said.


Rowan Pil­brow is fix­ing the 109-year-old Par­lia­men­tary clock this week. Insets: the clock face and the elec­tric­ity-gen­er­at­ing com­po­nent.

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