How to use old chiming clocks

Written by brian adler
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Chimes are a common feature on old clocks, especially grandfather clocks. The clocks play a variety of melodies. The most usual are Westminster, Whittington and St. Michael's chimes. Depending on the complexity of the particular chime sequence, clocks will require sets of either 4, or 8, bells, gongs or rods. All old chiming clocks chime on the hour, with many also chiming on the half hour and quarter hour.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Look for the chime selection lever on the dial of the clock. Clock dials that say "chime silent" have only Westminster chimes. Other models allow a choice between different melodies.

  2. 2

    Select the chime melody by moving the selection lever to the correct position. Do not move the lever when the clock hands are within five minutes before of any of the possible chiming positions. For example, if the old chiming clock has quarter chimes, the chime cannot be set when the hands are anywhere between 10:40 and 10:45, because the chimes will go off at 10:45.

  3. 3

    Synchronise the time and the chimes by listening to how the clock plays its chime melody. The chime melody will be different at each quarter hour. The Westminster chime, for example, plays 4 notes at the quarter hour, 8 at the half, 12 at three quarters, and 16 on the hour.

  4. 4

    Move the minute hand of the clock backwards 15 minutes, if the chime sequence is incorrect. Next, move the minute hand forward until it passes the next quarter hour on the clock face. The clock will chime.

  5. 5

    Listen to the clock chime. If the number of notes is still incorrect, continue to move the minute hand backwards and forwards 15 minutes until the chimes play in the proper sequence.

Tips and warnings

  • Many chiming clocks have a night shut off lever that will silence the chimes.
  • Clocks that are called three-quarter chime clocks do not normally play melodies on the hour. Most strike the hour only with the appropriate number of bells, or chimes.

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