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There are two main types of mechanical movements used in Ridgeway Grandfather Clocks - those using cable movements or chain movements.

A cable movement is wound with a key to wind the weights to the top of the clock. Gravity pulls the weights down over an 8 day cycle and provides the power for the clock.  Cable movements are considered to be better movements than chain movements, however with proper care both movements will function for many years.


Some clocks have a mirrored back wall and when combined with an interior light create a spectacular decorative feature.


Cabinetry is considered an art-form by many clock makers. It is the process of designing, carving and finishing the wooden case of a Grandfather Clock which will encase the clock dial and movement.


Some Ridgeway Clock feature a working moon phase dial. This appears above the 12 o'clock dial using the Grandfather Clock movement and shows the phases of the moon within the 29½ day Lunar Cycle once the dial is set. 


A feature that is excellent for light sleepers. Selecting the Automatic Night Shut-off feature means your clock stops chiming after 10:00pm and begins again at 7:15am automatically. All Ridgeway Cable Driven Grandfather Clocks feature an Automatic Night Shut-off option.  All models also feature the option of full chime silence if you want the clock to be quiet during the day.



"The deep, melodious chimes of a clock add beauty, solace and comfort to your home. To each of the chimes there is a story. To each there are words."


symbols_music Listen to the Westminster Chime


The world's most famous chimes are the Westminster. Nearly everyone associates the Westminster chimes with London's famous Big Ben of the Houses of Parliament. Originally, however, they were fitted to the clock of the University Church, St. Mary's the Great, in Cambridge, England. The chimes are believed to be saying the simple but beautiful prayer:

"Lord, through this hour, 
Be thou our guide
So, by Thy power
No foot shall slide."


symbols_music Listen to the St Michaels Chime


The story of St Michaels Chimes is one of adventure. The bells were cast in London and installed in St Michaels Church steeple in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1764. When the British took over that city during the Revolutionary War, they took the bells back with them to England. Then a Charleston merchant bought them in England and sent them home to America. In 1823, when cracks were found in some of the bells, they were sent back to London to be recast. In 1862, during the seige of Charleston, they were moved to Columbia, South Carolina, for safekeeping, but Sherman's army set fire to that area and nothing but fragments remained. These were sent back to London once more, where the original molds still stood, and again the bells were recast. In February 1867, the eight bells were reinstalled in St Michaels steeple, and on March 21 they rang out joyously:

"Home again, home again 
From a foreign land."


symbols_music Listen to the Whittington Chime


The Whittington Chimes originally rang in the church of St. Mary le Bow, Cheapside, London. In the 14thcentury, they became famous through the legend which connects them with Dick Whittington. The boy, escaping from the drudgery of his master's housekeeper, thought he heard the chimes say:

"Turn again, Dick Whittington,
Thrice Lord Mayor of Londontown."

Dick Whittington turned back to London and eventually became Lord Mayor.


Clock FaceA grandfather clock is a weight-driven mechanical timepiece encased in a tall, wooden cabinet that acts as an echo chamber for a cathedral chime melody. As the hand advances, the minute hand trips a star gear located on the central stem of the dial face. The point of the start gear lifts a pin that triggers the turning of the music roll (just as you would find in a music box).

As the music roll turns, it pulls back a chime hammer, which then falls back to its original position and strikes a chime rod. Chime rods are cut at various lengths to produce different notes. These hammers and rods, struck in various orders, will produce the selected cathedral chime melody - Westminster, St. Michaels or Whittington.

The moon dial tracks the 29½ day Lunar Cycle. A separate gear on the centre shaft of the dial, trips a pin once every 24 hours which advances the dial one "click" per one day. The phases of the moon (i.e. new, quarter, half, full, etc.) are depicted through the Eastern and Western Hemispheres (1/2 circles located on each side of the moon dial) bisecting the moon through its rotation.



Pendulums are a vital element of a grandfather clock. The swing of the pendulum (the amount of time it takes the pendulum to go back and forth once) will remain constant while the weights in a clock fall. Variances in time-keeping are caused not by the weight of the pendulum but the length.

Most quality grandfather clocks feature a time adjustment nut at the bottom of the pendulum to adjust the length of the pendulum. Winding this nut up or down the thread will increase or decrease the length of the pendulum which in turn will slow down or speed up the clock.





Built in QualityEver wondered how Grandfather Clocks transform from a stack of lumber into a work of art like our Ridgeway Clocks? Well here is how...

Every one of our clocks begins as a stack of lumber which is carried to a conveyor system where we inspect each piece. During this initial stage we check to make sure each board meets our specifications.

We then use computerised routers to shape the doors, pediments, bases and other decorative pieces that make our clocks so beautiful. Then we sand each piece before the clocks are assembled.

The finished pieces are then sent to the assembly station where the individual wood components begin to take the shape of a beautiful floor clock. Using traditional cabinet making skills, we glue, nail, dowel and screw the pieces together to assemble the clock cabinet. These cases are built to last!

Once the cabinets are assembled, the second phase of sanding begins. We carefully hand sand to prepare them for a beautiful finish. We apply the first coat of stain evenly to each piece, hand rub the finish and glaze to bring out the character of the wood grain and once again hand sand the cabinet. This creates the glowing finish that you see on every Ridgeway Grandfather Clock.

At this point we are ready to install the locks, dials and decorative elements that help give each clock its style and personality. Then we place the glass into the cabinet doors, lock the doors and line the clocks up for another inspection.

Ridgeway Clocks use Kieninger movements manufactured in the Black Forest region of Germany which are considered by many to be the best in the world. We carefully install these movements along with the pendulum and weights, secure the face and hands, position the hammers on the chime bar and set the time for a 24 hour time check.

Installing a movement

Once the clock has passed its final inspection we slide in the upper glass panels and carefully clean the clock so it will be spotless when it comes to you. Finally we tag and bag the clock and send it to the warehouse where it waits until it makes its way to your home.

From a stack of lumber all the way to a family heirloom, this is how Ridgeway Grandfather Clocks are made. Our clocks are built to last.

If you would like a closer inspection why not visit one of our Showrooms.



Martin Foster is a respected international luxury industries journalist. He is also a qualified watch maker with over fifty years experience in the industry. Written in September 2006 this article provides a comprehensive perspective of time measurement and various mechanisms used through the years.

Technical H4_2


The time-ball on the Sydney observatory falls every day at 1pm. Perhaps it escapes us that it should be a reminder of who we are and why we are in Australia. For today we use it to signal "time for lunch" or to fire the gun on Fort Denison to frighten the Russians away and excite the tourists.

What a poignant fall from its noble role of giving seafarers the prospect of returning from remote ports without the appalling uncertainties of "dead reckoning" navigation. For dead reckoning was no more than educated guesswork which was treacherously unreliable.

Time is not an intangible concept - "Time is nature's way of keeping everything from happening at once". It promises an uncertain future which fleetingly becomes the here-and-now but just as swiftly slips away, generating tangible history in its passing. It is this history and why increasingly accurate measurement of time has been the unseen integrator of historical events which was the origin of seaport time-ball towers around the world.

Time goes by many associations which may be very briefly chronicled as:-

  • The annual cycle of recurrent celestial star patterns
  • Seasonal cycles of farming
  • Moon phases and mystical belief
  • Stonehenge and the cosmos
  • Astronomy and the invention of mechanical clocks
  • Portable clocks evolve into mechanical watches
  • Navigation and finding the Longitude
  • Invention of the Marine Chronometer
  • Communication, radar and the great war
  • Radar spin-off into the quartz watch
  • Ultra fine mechanical watches evolve from timekeeping to art

The first of these reach into prehistory without much relevance here. For our story Stonehenge gets closest with the commencement of its construction put at 3200BC. In the 1960's an astrophysicist named Gerald Hawkins computed Stonehenge alignments and concluded that the trilithon stones (three stones in the form of a portal) marked key dates in the megalithic calendar. Although the alignments are a little rubbery, they are accurate enough to have been used by megalithic man for ceremonial and astronomical purposes.

In terms of marking time, nothing scientifically significant happened for another 4000 years and technological advance was at a standstill in Europe. This interregnum saw the introduction of the sundial, hourglass and water clock and it is not until the end of the 10thcentury AD that a mechanical clock was constructed by Pope Sylvester II.

Early clocks were driven by falling weights. Spring-powered clocks appeared in 1510 made by Peter Henlein, a German locksmith from Nuremberg and this allowed smaller (portable) clocks. Henlein called his clocks "Nuremberg Eggs". Although they slowed down as the mainspring unwound, they were popular among the wealthy due to their smaller size. And now this chronicle widens to involve the Church of Rome and Europe's maritime nations.

The next century became a period of great scientific advance and was partly driven by the invention of the telescope which revealed the true relationships between the celestial bodies. This informed the heretical proposition taken by Galileo that the Earth revolves around the Sun and not the contrary, as insisted by the 1633 Inquisition of the Holy Office of Rome. In 1656, Christiaan Huygens, a Dutch mathematician, made the first pendulum clock having a natural period of oscillation. Huygens pendulum clock had an error of less than one minute a day, the first time such accuracy had been achieved and he later improved his clock's error to under ten seconds a day.



In 1675 Huygens developed the first sprung balance wheel, allowing 17th century watches to keep time within ten minutes a day. The first reported person to actually wear a watch on the wrist was the French mathematician and philosopher, Blaise Pascal (1623-1662). With a piece of soft cord, he attached his pocket watch to his wrist. Coincidentally in the same century wealthy European nations put to sea, no longer with any fear of sailing off the edge of a flat earth but without any way of sailing the way back home having lost sight of land for weeks or months at a time. And this is the core of the navigation problem which exercised the finest minds of mathematicians, philosophers and clockmakers for some hundreds of years. Why? Because it compromised their naval war-mongering competency and their ability to trade in far-off ports.

Latitude - the North/South angular position of a ship between the pole and the equator - was easily available with a sextant. The longitude - how far west or east a ship has had sailed from its home port - is theoretically simple but fantastically difficult in practice given the understanding of contemporaneous physics and the elusive art of timekeeping at sea. Longitude and time are directly interchangeable, thus 12 o'clock midday at Greenwich is exactly 12 o'clock midnight on the Pacific dateline at 180 deg longitude.

The advent of an appalling loss to English naval might in 1707 was the single critical event which shocked the English Admiralty into coming to grips with the problem of the longitude. On the evening of October 22nd a tragedy of such catastrophic proportions occurred in the Atlantic waters off England that the political, sociological and demographic consequences remain with us today.

Admiral Sir Cloudisley Shovell set sail for England from Gibraltar encountering gales and increasingly rough seas. Approaching the English Channel, visibility dropped so low that his ships could barely see each other through the dense fog - while seas rose, mercilessly buffeting the fleet. The Admiral was convinced he was at the entrance to the English Channel and continued his north-easterly heading. A dissenting sailor who had kept his own reckoning of the ship's position was promptly hanged from the yardarm for mutiny. But the Admiral should have listened.

Marine ChronometerHMS Association struck the rocks of Gilstone Ledges on the Scilly Isles well west of where Admiral Shovell believed his position to be. A short time later nothing more remained of the mighty HMS Association as huge Atlantic waves pounded the crippled flagship until she was swallowed by the wild, swirling sea. Three more ships followed her with the same chilling result. On that dreadful night only 20 miles from England, 2000 fighting men including the Admiral, lost their lives due to a simple navigational error. Britain paid the horrendous price of losing four of Her Majesty's finest warships with all on board. The political momentum, culminating in the invention of an accurate timepiece which we now know as the Marine Chronometer, started on this night in 1707 and this precision marine clock arguably became one of the most significant mechanical inventions of all time.

The full drama of this saga is best picked up in Dava Sobel's book Longitude. Sobel's thrilling story of how John Harrison overcame the many physical challenges and the equally forbidding political problems to finally win the prize after forty years of effort makes for fascinating reading. It is a book which reminds us of the critical importance of the individual throughout history.

John Harrison


Following this disaster, the British Parliament under Queen Anne, passed the British Longitude Act of 1714, with a prize of 20,000 English pounds for anyone who could find longitude to an accuracy of half a degree or a time-keeping accuracy of three seconds in 24 hours. It was an immense amount of money, the equivalent of many millions of dollars today.

Sobel explains the quest as "Longitude requires that you be able to tell the time where you are and also at that starting point of your ship's journey". Pendulum clocks cannot work in the unstable motion at sea let alone the widely varying temperature, pressure and humidity. The problem of keeping accurate time on board ship was so daunting that as eminent a personage as Isaac Newton did not believe the problem was solvable. This huge fortune did not go unnoticed and astronomers, mathematicians, magicians and alchemists all contributed to the myriad schemes put before the Board of Longitude.

Worth relating is one by Sir Kenelm Digby, famous for being the inventor of the process of making todays domestic ginger beer. Sir Kenelm made an incredible discovery while in a remote part of France. He called his discovery "Powder of Sympathy". It was a miraculous powder that could cure a wound even, it seems, at a great distance. If someone were wounded and his powder were applied to a bandage from the wound, it could heal the wound.

Sir Kenelm proposed that the captain takes an injured dog aboard his ship when he sets sail. At noon each day a little Powder of Sympathy was applied to a bandage that was once on the dog's wound. Even though the dog might be 5000 miles away, he would yelp with healing pain from the powder when it was applied to the bandage back in Greenwich Observatory at a precise hour. Now if the captain knew what time it was at Greenwich then the longitude of the ship was known by its difference in time from Greenwich.

It is recorded that the Board, regretfully, declined to enter into discussion with Sir Kenelm.

In 1773, at age 80 and after more than forty years of work, Harrison finally received both the prize money and the recognition of having solved the longitude problem. He died three years later, on his 83rd birthday. His specific chronometer design was not actually adopted. But the great value of what Harrison did was to demonstrate that it was possible by mechanical means to keep this high order of timekeeping at sea.

Subsequently others quickly took up the challenge and England forcefully preserved its sea-going superiority of the British Royal Navy by formal replacement of the perilous dead reckoning with the Marine Chronometer. A chronometer industry flourished in England under Admiralty patronage and global journeys were possible to far flung places including the penal colonies in Australia, then known as New Holland, the Dutch having been here before. (Subsequently chronometers reached the zenith of their production in WWII. With the onset of war, the US Navy needed chronometers in large numbers and the first Hamilton chronometer was delivered to the Navy in February 1942. During the next year, Hamilton production increased to 500 chronometers per month.) Any ship leaving any port needs only to know the local longitude/time and relate this to the shipboard chronometers to be able to find the longitude when at sea.

Sydney ObservatoryIn 1824 Captain Robert Wauchope RN proposed that local time could be conveyed to all the ships leaving port by an exact time-ball in a prominent place. He suggested a sphere, which slides up and down a vertical mast and which can be abruptly dropped at an appointed hour - it is raised halfway up the mast at 12.55pm, to the top at 12.58pm and drops at 1pm precisely. The first time-ball was erected at Portsmouth in 1829. After Portsmouth another one was installed in 1833 at the Greenwich Observatory by Astronomer Royal John Pond which has dropped at 1pm every day since then. Around 150 public time-balls are believed to have been installed around the world after the success at Portsmouth and Greenwich. And now we come full circle to the falling time-ball on the Sydney Observatory.

Large ports such as Sydney were host to many ships servicing the needs of the colony and its squalling, shadowy inhabitants. Sydney's first Government Astronomer, William Scott, was appointed in 1856 and the building of Sydney observatory was commenced in that year.

The observatory, built with Sydney sandstone and designed in the style of the Florentine Renaissance, was completed in 1858 including its time-ball. This was visible to all ships in the harbour. Interrupted only by time-out for repairs, it has fallen daily at 1pm ever since. The Sydney time-ball weighs over a hundred kgs and has a hydraulic catching mechanism about half way down.

The broadcasting of radio time signals that became widespread from 1920 made Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) available to mariners at any time of day. This and other electronic systems coming into widespread use at that time, signalled the closing chapters of the impressive era of the Marine Chronometer. The ubiquitous quartz crystal had a pivotal role in this. Although its piezoelectric properties had been understood since the 1880s, the first application in a timepiece didn't occur until 1927. It was in that year that the original quartz clock was invented by W.A. Marrison and J.W. Horton. In his book Crystal Clear, Richard Thompson relates the story of the quartz crystal in World War II, from its early days as a curiosity for amateur radio enthusiasts, to its use by the US Armed Forces. It follows an intrepid group of scientists and engineers from the Office of the Chief Signal Officer of the US Army as they raced to create an effective quartz crystal unit. They had to find a reliable supply of radio-quality quartz, devise methods to reach, mine and transport the quartz, find a way to manufacture quartz crystal oscillators rapidly and then solve the puzzling "aging problem" that plagued the early units.

It was this wartime research which generated the need for large quantities of crystals to support the communication and radar needs of the war. Inevitably these methods were refined, the size of the crystals became smaller and subsequently the possibility of their use in watches emerged. The development of quartz oscillators became the second largest scientific undertaking in World War II after the Manhattan Project.

The "first" quartz watches have two claimants who phrase their claims with very carefully chosen words. The Swiss were the "first" to unveil a quartz watch, in 1967. The Japanese Seiko 35SQ Astron was the "first" analog quartz watch to be sold, in 1969. Miniaturisation, portability, reliability, cheapness and mass production of quartz timepieces have all combined to spell the demise of the Marine Chronometer and most mechanical watch production. A slim modern wristwatch such as the Longines Conquest VHP (with double-quartz) can deliver accuracy of a couple of seconds in a year with five years between battery changes. But for navigation even this is overtaken by the simplicity of any number of GPS systems nowadays developed for ships and aircraft.

Today, Marine Chronometers and their global supporting time-ball systems are simply remarkable relics of two turbulent centuries of naval history and they have a cherished place in the minds of horologists as very beautiful symbols of a truly momentous time.

Williamstown Ball-Tower_2So when the time-ball falls on the Sydney Observatory and the gun goes off on Fort Denison we don't frighten too many Russians and our thoughts just turn to lunch. But it is a symbol of great consequence and we might well contemplate that if the Portuguese, Dutch or French found the longitude ahead of the English then they would have known how to return here and we might well be speaking one of these languages instead of English!

Ultra-fine mechanical watches, "Swiss Made" of course, are now rising steeply in price after the chaos of the cheap quartz revolution of the seventies. But now mechanical watches are for the pleasure of collectors as, for timekeeping, they are eclipsed by any mundane quartz watch, just as the Marine Chronometer was technologically eclipsed fifty years ago. The Marine Chronometer is the ultimate symbol; the zenith of two centuries of the most finely developed, most sophisticated of the mechanical arts and is now rendered redundant. And so too are the stately time-ball towers.

"The end of all our explorations will be to come back to where we began and discover the place for the first time." - T.S. Eliot

©2006 Martin Foster





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