Winding Keys on Westclox Big Ben Leg Model Alarm Clocks

October 31, 2014 | By | 9 Replies More

I was sorting Westclox parts in my clock shop, and came across 2 plastic bags labeled: “Rare, pinched Big Ben Style 1a Keys” and “Early Style 1 Big Ben Keys”. This motivated me to write about the development of the Big Ben winding key.

First, here are 2 examples of the Big Ben leg model (note – there are many variation in the dials):

Big Ben Style 1 leg model.

Big Ben Style 1 leg model. It has three screws in front, and the legs are riveted on.

Big Ben Style 1a leg model.

Big Ben Style 1a leg model. There are no screws in front, and the legs screw on.

Rear of Big Ben Style 1a, showing the keys.

Rear of Big Ben Style 1a, showing the keys.

When the Big Ben was first made in 1908, the keys looked like this:

IMG_9901

Early Big Ben keys (1908 – 1910)

IMG_9900

Early Big Ben keys (1908 – 1910)

Starting in 1910, the key shanks were nickel plated:

Early Big Ben keys (1910 - 1911)

Early Big Ben keys (1910 – 1911)

Early Big Ben keys (1910 - 1911)

Early Big Ben keys (1910 – 1911)

The handle shape was updated in the first half of 1911:

IMG_9905

Standard Big Ben keys (starting in 1911)

IMG_9904

Standard Big Ben keys (starting in 1911)

They reduced the shank diameter in the teens, but the shape of the handle stayed like this through the end of the leg model in 1935). The style 4a Loud Alarm (1935 – 1939) and 5a (1939 – 1946) Loud Alarm had the same key handle shape. Thus, this style of key was used for about 35 years!

There are variations in the handle. The earlier ones have a round bottom, later changed to a flattened bottom. Since millions of these keys were made, there are undoubtedly more variations.

Now, we need to talk about the Baby Ben Style 1 (leg model) for a moment. The first Baby Ben keys (style 1, introduced in 1912) were a small version of the key shown above.

N. T. Mills received a patent for the “pinched” or “closed” key on November 9, 1920:

Pat. 1358457

Patent No. 1358457, filed June 15, 1920 and issued November 9, 1920.

The patent drawings show that with the old type of key, the winder’s thumbnail may contact the time set knob accidentally. The closed or pinched key provides more clearance between the key and the set knob.

Baby Ben alarm clocks started using the closed key in 1920. The Big Ben kept on using the open key . . . except that a few Big Ben have closed keys:

IMG_9902

“Closed” or “pinched” Big Ben key, ca. 1920

IMG_9906

“Closed” or “pinched” Big Ben key, ca. 1920

We don’t know for how long the Big Ben had the closed key. If you have one, please let me know!

We also don’t know why Westclox kept the open key for the Big Ben.


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Category: Westclox History

Last updated: October 31, 2014

Comments (9)

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  1. Bill Stoddard says:

    The screw by the F S is the regulator to make the clock go faster or slower to adjust it for accurate timekeeping. Your clock may have a broken mainspring, that is why it won’t wind.

  2. Shellie says:

    HELP. I just recently inherited a Wesclox style 7 Baby Ben, model 11003. It has two winders, one for the time and the other for the alarm. It also has the screw to set the alarm in the screw to set the time. It has a knob at the top to push and pull which I guess shuts the alarm on and off. And then it has three tiny screws holding the clock together as well as another screw labeled FS with for little notches under the labeling. I have figured how to wind the clock and set the time and the alarm but I DO NOT KNOW WHAT THE EXTRA LABELED SCREW IS FOR. I ALSO CANNOT SEEM TO GET THE ALARM TO GO OFF, it might be due to the alarm windup which doesn’t really seem to wind it just clicks when I turn it. My main question is about the labeled screw so if anyone knows what it is for please let me know.

  3. Fiona Lovering says:

    Hello, I bought a Westclox Big Ben this morning with the time winder missing. from the photographs posted, it looks like the winder from the 1911 model would be the correct one. Can anyone advise where I might be able to find a replacement winder. The alarm winder is with still with the clock.
    Thanks

  4. Fiona Lovering says:

    Hello, I bought a Westclox Big Ben this morning with the time winder missing. from the photographs posted, it looks like the winder from the 1911 model would be the correct one. Can anyone advise where I might be able to find a replacement winder. The alarm winder is with still with the clock.
    Thanks

  5. david saenz says:

    where can I buy small screws for the 1939- 1940 big ben Black clock for the outside housing,reply

  6. william f panciera says:

    I need to purchase a pair of the open keys. Where can I purchase them? Thank You

  7. Bill Stoddard says:

    Bryon Hallman reports an example dated 8-31-20.

  8. Bill Stoddard says:

    Thanks for the info, Jim! It is good to hear from you.

  9. Jim Thompson says:

    Bill
    I recently restored a Big Ben that has closed keys. The date on it is April 22, 1920.

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