Posted by: viewfromtheriva | November 20, 2012

1950’s Russian “boat” clock joins the collection!


As most readers know, I have a real passion for mechanical things–pocket watches and clocks high on the list.  When I lived in Russia for a decade (1996-2006), I had the good fortune to find a “Molniya” pocket watch in mint condition, circa 1955 that kept such good time it could be certified as a chronometer (plus or minus 15 seconds a month or in that range).  For a wind up watch, it was pretty amazing!  I also have a Waltham, named after the city in Massachusetts that was synonymous for making watches and other mechanical timepieces, like the venerable Pilot brand, also Russian, made by a company that made bomb fuses in WW 2.  And a wonderful 1927 Omega in a yellow bakelite frame (the stuff used to make the black AT and T telephones in every American household until the 1960’s), which unfortunately needs repair.  Take a look:

Part of the small collection–the Russian watches are on the left, the gold plated Waltham is on the right and overlooking them in its yellow bakelite case is a 1927 Omega.

When I left Russia to come to Croatia I couldn’t take my real prizes, a large, handsome 100 year old German made wall clock found in an antique store in Moscow and an amazing solid wood “boat” clock with key wound metal mechanical works.

The boat clock was so named because it was made in the Volga River region of Nizhny Novgorod, which used to be named Gorky in Soviet times and was a closed city until the 1980’s.

How I came to get it is a marvelous.  Natasha and I were in our local neighborhood post office and I looked up and saw this simple, yet somehow elegant wooden clock stuck on the wall.  Obviously not working, I asked someone who seemed to be in charge about it.

“Oh, hasn’t worked for years, all the municipal post offices and other places had them, it’s called a boat clock because it comes from around here where they used to build a lot of boats.  We don’t have the key….”

Gingerly I asked if I could buy it.

Our 1950’s Russian wooden “boat” clock. With a heavy beveled glass door, porcelain frame and metal hands–all wood with mechanical works in the rear, and of course,  a center slot for key winding that you can several inches up from the number 6.

Well, the clerk looked at me oddly and blurted out, “if you can get us a clock that works, you can have it!”.  I practically ran out of the post office to the nearest magazine (a Russian shop) and happily paid about $5 for a cheap Chinese battery-operated wall clock the same size–which is actually quite large, about 37 cm square.

Rushing back, I took it out of the box, popped in a battery and handed it to him like it was a treasure.  “Great!, thank you!”, he said.  And then climbing up on the counter, I unhooked the boat clock and took it home, where of course it began to work perfectly once I wound it using the same key from our antique German wall clock!

After languishing unwound back in Russia for the four years we have been away, it is now back where it belongs, on our wall here in Split.  After a shaky couple of hours to get its tick back, it is now extremely happy and keeping great time.

One clock left to go and I’ll be all set!

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