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Antique Chelsea Clocks: "Timekeepers of the Sea"
By Edward tuten, ISA CAPP

Chelsea Willard Banjo Clocks have been eagerly collected by clock collectors and antique enthusiasts worldwide. Known as “The Timekeepers of the Sea”, Chelseas have been built to withstand the rigorous conditions of the sea and have been used by The United States Navy and the United States Coast Guard aboard their ships for many years.

In addition to ship clocks, Chelsea also has made decorative clocks for the home. One decorative clock is the “Chelsea Willard Banjo”. Simon Willard patented the American Banjo on Feb.8, 1802. Chelsea began making Willard reproductions in the early 1900's. Today’s, appraisal is for a Chelsea Three Quarter Size Timepiece Banjo from a mid-south home. Purchased in Boston by members of the family in 1918 the time piece has been well maintained and has its original sales slip and maintenance records.

American Federal in style, constructed in a mahogany frame, the Chelsea has the original brass hinged bezel, brass eagle crest ,throat and box glass and painted (no repainting noted) 6 inch tin clock face with Arabic numerals. The timepiece has the factory weights and clock works with a serial number which places the manufacture of the clock works about 1917.( Chelsea has kept a record of sales by serial number. but the numbers are in numerical order and generally indicate the year in which a mechanical movement was made. Entries in the company registers indicate the date of sale which may differ from the year of manufacture and not month, date, year.) The throat plate glass and the Willard style square box glass are the pre WW1 glass depicting the home of George and Martha Washington, Mount Vernon. There is minor reverse paint loss do to flaking. Overall length of the timepiece is 32 inches. The earlier Chelsea Willard models do not have a lower crest or decorative additions in keeping with the Simon Willard Model.

Chelsea made several types of Banjo Clocks. There were two sizes three quarters with a six inch dial and a full size with a 7 and 1/2 inch dial.Both sizes were available with choice of ship’s bell strike,hour and half hour strike, and non strike 8 day movement. Selections were also available of four style hand painted panels:Mount Vernon, Boston State House,Perry’s Victory,and Constitution and Guerriere. Customers had a choice of eagle or acorn crest on either size clock and a choice of Arabic or Roman numeral dials.

Because this timepiece is in almost original condition and has been so well maintained, with its original receipt and maintenance records, I would place insurance replacement value at $1,800 to $2,000.

You may want to view some Chelsea Clocks.A good source ,of course, is Ebay where you can see Chelsea Ships Strike, Ships Bell, Desk Models,Mantel,Shelf and Wall Clocks.

A good question often asked by clock collectors is, “What is the difference between a clock and a timepiece?” The answer: ”A clock has a chime or gong and records the hour or half hour by a ring, while a timepiece only shows the time.”

If you are interested in clock and watch collecting a good place to start is The American Watch and Clock Collectors Museum and Office, Columbia, Pennsylvania. They have an extensive library, helpful personel, many area meetings through out the country where you can study clocks, buy and trade, learn and study from other clock and watch collectors.
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About the Author

Edward tuten, ISA CAPP, team estate appraisal
6973 crestridge rd
Memphis, TN 38119
901-758-2659

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