The historic clock in Bellingham Square is
right on time.
Thanks to the efforts of the world-renowned
Chelsea Clock Company, the clock has been repaired and is now showing the
correct time for all 1,440 minutes of each day.
“The clock is fixed – I’m very happy,”
proudly reported master horologest Bhupat Patel of Chelsea Clock. “We’re going
to come back again to put the new lenses on the glass. The city is going to
remove all the rust and repaint the clock.”
Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson was on hand
for the relaunching of the clock.
“They did an outstanding job,” said
Robinson. “Tom [Ambrosino] had reached out to me to get in touch with Chelsea
Clock to fix the clock.”
Robinson is the
brother-in-law of long-time Chelsea Clock official D. Bruce Mauch.
Massachusetts-based Chelsea Clock, one of America’s oldest and most distinguished makers of fine clocks, barometers, and tide instruments, is pleased to announce that Robert Ockenden, AWCI certified master clockmaker, has been named chief horologist for the company’s repair & restoration facility. Chelsea operates one of the largest branded clock repair facilities in the country.
Previously serving as director of repair and restoration services,
Ockenden will now play a key role in the development and leadership of the company’s new in-house certification and training program, soon to become a requisite for all Chelsea repair technicians and master clockmakers. While details of the curriculum are still under refinement, the program will focus on imparting the knowledge and technical skills necessary for excellence across all Chelsea-branded clock repair and antique clock restoration services.
“Chelsea is a venerable brand, with a rich, long history of manufacturing and repairing fine timepieces,” says JK Nicholas, CEO of Chelsea Clock. “We are very pleased to have someone with Bob’s horological expertise and extraordinary talents develop a state-of-the-art certification program that will help establish and maintain the highest levels of performance for all Chelsea repair services, now and for the future of the company.”
Ockenden is a nationally known, well-respected voice in the clock making industry. An AWCI-certified master clockmaker, he has been a frequent lecturer at both local and national AWCI conferences. Additionally, he has served in various capacities on the education, strategic planning, and certification committees of the AWCI and has been a consultant to the editorial staff of Horological Times. He is also a member of the British Horological Institute.
Founded in 1897 in Chelsea, Chelsea Clock is the oldest clock company in America and one of the most renowned and respected makers of fine timepieces. The chimes of the Chelsea Clock Ship’s Bell, originally designed and patented in 1898, have long alerted U.S. Navy sailors and worldwide mariners to the time during their “watch,” earning the company a distinguished reputation for producing authentic, high-quality, nautical timepieces.
Today, Chelsea Clock continues to produce a broad range of nautical and heirloom quality clocks, with styles ranging from the company’s renowned Ship’s Bell to classic reproductions and contemporary timepieces. The company’s wide range of fine products is available through marine merchants, specialty shops, jewelers and gift stores, as well as online at www.ChlelseaClock.com. For more information about Chelsea Clock, call 1-866-899-2805 or visit www.ChelseaClock.com.
By Seth Daniel
The old Chelsea Clock building was torn down on Friday and Monday of this week. The building stood as the headquarters for the luxury clock maker for more than 100 years. They moved out in 2014, and Fairfield Residential tore down the iconic Chelsea landmark to make way for more than 700 apartments.
Three generations of Chelsea residents have worked, walked or driven by the famous Chelsea Clock building on Everett Avenue, but none will be able to do either any longer.
The last pieces of the former brick luxury clock factory – outfitted with the black banner and white lettering reading ‘Chelsea Clock’ – came down last Friday and Monday.
After more than 100 years and two major conflagrations, the old building that in many ways symbolized Chelsea as much as the Soldiers’ Home water tower, is now gone.
“I think most people in Chelsea are a bit saddened by seeing that iconic building disappear, but the environmental conditions made it impossible to retain,” said City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “I just hope that what replaces it, a modern apartment complex with a bit of retail on Everett Avenue, will bring positive benefits to the City.”
The Chelsea Clock company, now on Second Street in a restored building, said it had no comment on the demolition of its former long-time headquarters.
What is about to replace that piece of Chelsea history is a 700-plus unit apartment community on a large piece of land, adding some retail in the mix fronting Everett Avenue.
Fairfield Residential is developing the property, and intends to begin construction soon now that the demolition is complete.
The Chelsea Clock company moved out of the old building in 2014, and has occupied their new headquarters for three years.
Fairfield has said it hopes to have occupancy of its project in 2019.
Governor Charlie Baker and Chelsea Clock CEO JK Nicholas cut the ribbon at the dedication ceremony for the Chelsea company’s new headquarters and factory on Second Street. Baker praised the company for its outstanding 118-year tradition and heritage of producing the finest quality clocks in the United States. Participating in the ribbon-cutting ceremony are, from left, State Rep. Dan Ryan, City Councilor Dan Cortell, State Sen. Sal DiDomenico, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash, Chelsea Clock CEO JK Nicholas, Chelsea Clock COO Anthony LaChapelle, City Council President Leo Robinson, City Manager
Tom Ambrosino, and Chelsea developer Anthony Simboli.
Governor Charlie Baker joined executives, employees, and guests of the Chelsea Clock Company to dedicate the company’s new headquarters and factory in Chelsea, Massachusetts. The historic company, which handcrafts the finest quality clocks in America, has been crafting, selling, repairing, and restoring clocks and nautical instruments for the past 118 years.
The company’s recent move from its original location, a building it occupied since its founding in 1897, took more than one month. The complicated effort included tracking, organizing, and moving more than 100,000 parts – some minuscule – which are used in restoring and assembling clocks and nautical instruments as well as 55 pieces of manufacturing equipment–some state-of-the-art and some historical equipment still in use.
Each Chelsea product is a timeless, handcrafted work of art, produced to the company’s exacting standards, and often passed down from generation to generation. Every American President since Theodore Roosevelt has owned a Chelsea.
“Chelsea Clock holds the living memory of Massachusetts’ history and is truly a national treasure,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Generations have marked the passage of time by the hands made here in Chelsea, and I’m honored to join the company as a new chapter in its own history begins.”
“We are proud that Chelsea Clock has been making the finest clocks in America right here in Chelsea for the past 118 years,” said JK Nicholas, CEO of Chelsea Clock. “With this move, we have recommitted to the City of Chelsea, MA, and we are thrilled that our new home will enable us to continue this tradition and continue manufacturing in Chelsea for decades to come.”
The company’s heritage is rooted in the tradition of keeping time at sea and in handcrafting the authentic nautical timepieces that have been used on some of the world’s finest ships and sailing vessels for more than one hundred years.
Chelsea clocks can be purchased at fine retailers, including Shreve Crump & Low, Tiffany & Co., and Ralph Lauren, as well as on the company’s website chelseaclock.com.
JK Nicholas, president of Chelsea Clock, in his old office at the historic Chelsea Clock building.
Nicholas and the rest of the company wrapped up their last days of production in the 117-year-old headquarters this week and are full into the process of transferring over to a new headquarters on 2nd Street. “The phones go on at our new place on Monday,” said Nicholas.
For the first time in 117 years, when the phone rings at the Chelsea Clock factory, the person on the other end of the line won’t be on Everett Avenue.
Starting on Monday, the company will be mostly moved out of its 117-year-old headquarters and into a newly renovated older industrial building on 2nd Street.
Gone will be the quaint old brick industrial headquarters where celebrities, dignitaries and even presidents visited to get their precision, luxury timepieces.
This past week, production wrapped up in the old headquarters, as the last clocks to be assembled and shipped from the storied building were completed. Simultaneously, much of the old, specialized clockmaking machinery was being moved via flatbed trailer by Bormann Brothers of Pepperell.
The engraving department carved out its last name on a clock Tuesday morning.
Gear cutting machines were being washed down and unscrewed from the floor.
And, almost uniformly, the legendary Chelsea Clock company was putting away 100 years of history and heading a couple blocks east for what most believe will be an exciting next 100 years. The building, however, doesn’t have such a bright future and is slated to be torn down by its owner to make way for a large-scale apartment development.
“For the most part, the last eight years have been spent re-building Chelsea Clock,” said President JK Nicholas. “This is one of the centerpieces for us to fulfill the overall objectives in rebuilding and putting Chelsea Clock in a new place for the next 100 years. We like it’s new location near the office park. This is a wonderful old building here and has a lot of spirit in it, but it is tired. It’s sad it will be torn down, but on the other hand you have to roll with the times and create and innovate. You can’t be the same old thing forever. Our newer place will be more efficient and have better working conditions overall for the people who work here. That is very important.”
Nicholas said he and the company are grateful to the City for its support and its desire to keep them in Chelsea.
“The company is really incredibly grateful for the support we’ve seen from so many different corners of Chelsea itself,” he said. “It was really our desire to stay in Chelsea and we’re really grateful we were able to do that. It wasn’t clear at one point. We looked in Everett and Somerville, not because we wanted to, but because we couldn’t find anything. Then the new place opened up and it worked. That was fortunate. It wouldn’t have been so good to have to say, ‘Here’s your Chelsea Clock made in some other city.’ It would have been a sad day for Chelsea.”
The company began as early as 1884, but became Chelsea Clock in 1897 when Charles Pearson bought it and moved the headquarters to Everett Avenue in Chelsea. It was in that building that the patent for the first Ship’s Bell mechanism was designed, and where the company came up with the idea of offering products in a catalog. Over the years, it became well known for its marine clocks (used by ships and vessels worldwide) and its luxury, precision mantel clocks. The history is voluminous, and probably worth the effort for a full-scale book if one hasn’t already been written.
However, to get a great history of the place one needs only to talk with the employees, who finished up their work in bittersweet fashion this week in the building they have called their workplace for decades.
“This building has survived everything,” said 59-year employee John McCarthy. “I started in here in 1956. This building has survived so many fires. The bar next door used to be a three-decker and it caught fire and I don’t know how this place didn’t catch. There was a big lumberyard next door that burnt completely, but this building was untouched. Of course, we survived the large fire in the 1980s somehow. Everything else around us was burnt down. The alarms were going off and the sprinklers activated and we had no water pressure, but the building stood.”
He said there is a sadness to leaving the place, but a great hope for the future.
“It is tragic and sad, but the important thing is the talent is going with us and the specialized machinery is going with us,” he said. “This new place is going to be much better because the building is better. We’ve been on three floors here. It’s hard to be efficient like that. We’ll be much more efficient. This new owner has a vision and it will take us to the next 100 years. We’re moving a few blocks after being here a long time, but we’re staying in Chelsea.”
Efficiency is a key.
Last Tuesday, a small dumbwaiter elevator bringing clock parts up from the basement to the first floor assembly room got stuck between floors. It’s a common problem, and one of the things they’ve grown accustomed to dealing with. To fix it, one has to go to the first floor and hit a button to release it. That won’t happen any longer, and neither will the cold, drafty days in the winter, nor the unbearably hot days in the summer.
Master Clock Maker Jean Yeo said she has spent 53 years assembling clocks in the old building – nowadays being a specialist in the famous Ship’s Bell clock.
“I don’t know what I’ll miss,” she said. “I guess about the only thing I’ll miss is coming over Carter Street and seeing the big Chelsea Clock sign…It’s going to be quite a transformation for me. Old is better in some respects. We had a lot of good times here. I’ve learned how to do quite a lot of things here. We’ve had dignitaries, celebrities and even kings come through this building to meet us and see what we do. I have the time ingrained in me. I can hear a clock chime and know if its two or three seconds off. I can’t deal with it if it’s more than five seconds off. When I go up Rt. 1, I always know what time it is before I see it on the placards. And I never, never ever had an alarm clock in my house. I just get up automatically. The thing is, I learned all of that here in this building.”
The feelings are mutual for Bhupat Patel – a master clock repairman who was brought to Chelsea Clock from England for his expertise in repairing Chelsea Clocks.
That was 33 years ago.
“I’ve been here since 1981 and I’m used to this building,” he said. “We know so much about this building because all these years we’ve spent walking around and getting things. We’ll have new floors and a better place to work, but you have to kind of miss a place like this.”
Sentiment aside, the down and dirty business of moving from a place that has been stationary for 117 years has not been easy, said Spokesman Patrick Capozzi.
The process started last year with a color-coding system and a plan for moving one department at a time.
“We stopped manufacturing last week,” he said. “We made sure to have enough product ready to go so when we shut down the machinery, we have enough product to ship out. It’s important in retail products to keep shipping to our clients. So, we built up inventory to keep things going.”
However, the clean out has been a little more difficult.
What to do with an industrial molding for a clock that hasn’t been manufactured for decades?
Do you save it, or toss it?
“There are gears and molds and things that we haven’t produced for years that were on a shelf in storage here in the building in case we ever decided to bring it back or something,” he said. “The question with all those things is what do we do with it?”
Anyone who has been in the building knows that there are beautiful photographs that not only tell the story of Chelsea Clock, but also the story of Chelsea and the United States. Wall after wall of photos contain presidents, authors, former Chelsea mayors, generals and royalty figures posing with their Chelsea Clocks. Those things, along with all the press clippings so diligently saved over the years, have no question marks about their future. Those, Capozzi said, will be saved in a very special archive at the new building.
“We’ve been talking about the move for quite a while, and now it’s here and almost done,” he said. “We like to say around here that we hope the moving process goes like clockwork.”
Noted Clock Repairman Paul Calantropo – who lives and
works in Chelsea – has been fixing the historic City Hall
clock since last summer. Next Monday, he will have it installed
back in its home.
It’s been a long while since the hands on the Chelsea City Hall tower clock turned, but rest assured, they’ll be keeping time with pinpoint accuracy after this week.
Paul Calantropo, a Chelsea resident and esteemed clock repairman in Boston and Chelsea, reported this week that he will be installing the fully repaired clock later this week and over the weekend. By next month, it should be fully operational.
“I kept trying to get them to repair it, but they were always short of funds,” he said at his Chelsea workshop on Monday. “I did a few little things in 2007, but there was never any money for a full repair. It was embarrassing to have that not working in Chelsea. So, finally, we got it done. We took it out early in the summer and have been working on it ever since. It was pretty well rusted together so it took a good amount of soaking and working to loosen it up. The extent of the rust was pretty amazing. Over the last month, we had a big push on the work, and we want to get it done by the end of the month. Some 99.9 percent of the clock is original except for the electric motor.”
Calantropo has been operating his clock repair business in Boston for 40 years and does all of the major tower clock’s there – including the Custom House and South Station. About four years ago, he established a workshop and home in Chelsea.
As an artisan who enjoys fine timepieces, Calantropo said it is a very important thing for Chelsea to keep its tower clock on the move.
“It is significant,” he said. “Every tower clock, even if partially working, is important. It hearkens back to a time when not everybody, especially in an immigrant city like Chelsea – had a watch. Public clocks were important in those days because people had to look at City Hall or another public clock to know the exact time. They didn’t all have a cell phone or wrist watches.”
Chelsea City Hall’s clock was made by the world famous E. Howard & Sons of Boston. They made clocks from the 1840s until the 1930s, and then pivoted into only making gears for the government. Calantropo wasn’t sure when the clock was made, but said it was certainly original to City Hall.
“This clock will run two, three or four clocks at once with the universal gear it has,” he said. “It’s a similar version of every other clock in Boston. The Custom House clock is about three or four times as big and is exactly the same except for the electricity.”
The only defect, at least for a purist, is that the City Hall clock had been electrified with a motor some time in the 1950s. In doing that, all of the original weights and workings had been removed. That is no rare disease for Chelsea, but something that was widespread throughout all areas with old tower clocks.
“Unfortunately, it was something that happened often,” he said. “Everyone at that time was very conscious of maintenance and the cost of keeping things up. There were a couple of guys who went around to all of these places and sold them these motors to electrify their clocks. I always say the pendulum swings in both directions on those things. It was on that side back then, and now the pendulum has swung the other way and conservation of such clocks are very big. In those times, we tore down a lot more than we should have and electrified a lot more than we should have.”