As far as “important” watches and clock go, J.J.’s is not so important: a Time Clock by Simplex Time Recorder Co., Gardner, MA. But this clock is connected with one of the largest of all corporations of business: IBM. Here, I contrast J.J.’s Simplex Time Clock with a magnificent antique clock of which there are only 12 examples, recently sold. Both clocks tell a story of their time, and in fact, J.J.’s clock, from the standpoint of material culture, tells the more “valuable” story.
J.J.’s clock is heavy – in side that oak case is machinery for punching time cards: a fully mechanized metal recording stamp engaged with the time card in the slot activated by the lever. Simplex was known for its heavy mechanized clocks: another model from the 1930’s featured an RCA radio built into the middle of a grandfather clock.
The interior has a cylindrical recorder that prints out the time on a roll of paper for the boss. J.J.’s has an original key, once pinned on the waistcoat of the boss so that an employee could not get into the machinery of the clock.
This clock is indicative of the way time was held by your employer; time was HIS indeed, and would be from this invention forward. So although it is not an “important” clock in the parlance of the auction house, it is historically valuable.
On the other hand, the Duc d’Orleans’ clock was a thing of opulence, the Breguet Sympathetique, a creation of a French master clockmaker, Abraham-Louis Breguet, a great architect (1835). Only 20 were made for the grand palaces of the European royalty in the last grasp of royalty in general.
The grand clock was an engineering marvel. At the top crest, a pocket watch set in a gilded “docking port,” auto-wound by the main clock. When we think today of auto-sync, that feature wouldn’t impress us. But royalty used to sit up until three in the morning when the master clock synchronized the pocket watch.
Such a clock was commissioned in the 1830’s by the young Duc d’Orleans for this Paris Pavillion de Marsan, and it lived there for a very short time, because, although the clock entered the Duc’s life on his 22nd birthday, he died at 32 in a carriage accident.
In the mid 20th C., the clock made its way to Rockford, IL, not such a glamorous place. Seth G. Atwood (1917-2010) founded the Time Museum of Rockford, and hired a celebrated horologist to find him that Breguet Sympathetique. Dr. George Daniels found it in a Paris antique store in 1974, but the unique dual winding system was damaged. It took Daniels years to figure out how the original clockmaker did it: the clock lived in Rockford until 1999 when Atwood sold the museum. Today only 12 Sympathetiques exist.
The grand clock sold for $5 million: that is not the same figure J.J. should expect. Many exist and the workings are so simple that even J.J.’s boyfriend can repair the time puncher. But the very invention of a machine to ‘clock-in’ a human worker is monumental: the system for doing so was invented by Willard LeGrand Bundy of Auburn, NY where each worker punched his card by turning his unique key.
Bundy and his brother Harlow formed the Bundy Manufacturing Company in 1889: by 1900 the Bundy’s merged with other companies to form the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR), which later changed its name to IBM.
Yes, I mean THAT IBM, in the business of making time clocks under their equipment division from 1900-58, when the IBM Time Equipment division was sold to the established time clock makers, Simplex.
The “buddy punch,” which was found to be a problem, necessitated the development in the 1970’s of a card swipe or a scan technology. Today a time clock is a “smart clock” which takes the employee’s photo. No longer is a weighty clock like J.J.’s of usable service. Today’s time clocks do more, as in more oversight, such as the biometric reader to identify a unique feature of the employee. For this, the employee is required to give away the configuration of the iris of an eye.
J.J., if you want to spend more than the $300 your clock is worth, you can buy a ticket to New York to visit the inventor’s home in Binghamton, a house museum dedicated to the Bundy brothers, who set the wheels in motion for the biggest company in the world responsible for ‘time computing,’ IBM.
Certified appraiser for estates, inheritances and trusts.
Dr. Elizabeth Stewart's column appears every week in the Salon & Style section of the Santa Barbara News Press. Email her your questions and high-resolution photos at ElizabethAppraisals @ gmail.com
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