Chess clocks
Oct 5, 2009Public
Photo: The First Chess Clock Ever (?)

Article in Chess magazine No.288 March 1967.

It's generally recognised that forms of timing mechanism (eg sand clocks) were previously in use in an attempt to combat excesively slow play and the resultant marathon games, but this refers to the earliest mechanical clock in  use that I have ever seen or heard of (at the time of writing this).

It is interesting that pendulums were used and that such an early device also sought to record the number of moves.

As an aside, I've not seen any follow-up report in Chess on this clock - although I am missing many issues.
Photo: The First Chess Clock Ever?

Just as well, perhaps, that I added the "?" to the last photo! The above table was published in The British Chess Magazine of March 1978 and it was stated that " ..we have a copy of this table, compiled by Edward Krisch, to show the changes in time clock technique during the early years".

This shows the Tumbling Clock of the previous photo as introduced at London 1883, but also refers to "Clocks" in four earlier events back to 1866 - without giving any details as to the nature of the clocks, although the inference is that they were "proper" clocks as opposed to the simple sand-glass clocks generally in use.  Does anyone have any information or photo's of these earlier events that might shed any light on the mechanisms used?

For further information on A.Fattorini & Sons, the firm to introduce mechanical chess clocks see:
Photo: Clocks sold under the auspices of the English chess magazine "CHESS", of Sutton Coldfield.

CHESS was launched in 1935 by its owner/founder/editor Baruch ("Barry") Harold Wood, a very enthusiastic and no mean chessplayer himself, who did tremendous work in organizing and promoting chess in Britain. In its 1008th issue (Sep. 1987) it announced that it had been taken over by Pergamon Press, although Wood continued to be involved as its editor "freed of administrative toil" as he put it.

As I have quite a number of their earlier issues, this section will - over time - be extended to include not only CHESS clocks in my collection, but, also, adverts etc for other clocks as published in the magazine. As this is unlikely to form a complete catalogue, however, please let me know of any that I may have missed out.
Photo: CHESS No.39 Dec 1938 (cover)

Lovely looking clock advertised on the front cover of the magazine - although not actually sold by CHESS.
Photo: Chess no. 163 April 1949

Advert for chess clock by Chess - no photo or indication of the nature of the clock, or whether it was 'badged' as a Chess of Sutton Coldfield clock.

The 'PT' mentioned to the side of the price is a reference to Purchase Tax - a sales tax originally introduced in the UK in October 1940 to curb wartime consumption. It was charged at varying rates (depending on the perceived 'luxury' status of the goods) up to 33.3% -  the rate charged here is 30%, so well up the scale! Purchase tax continued intermittently at differing rates until it was replaced in 1973 by Value Added Tax.
Photo: CHESS No.187 Apr.1951

"Pocket clock"

This looks identical to the Bijou clock advertised in CHESS in later years and, also, looks an identical design to the Swiss-madeSolora (see next image)
Photo: Solora clock - Swiss made (not part of my collection, sadly)

A beautful little clock that appears to be the same design as the Pocket/Bijou clock sold by CHESS for many years
Photo: CHESS No 288 Mar 1967

Bijou (Jacket Pocket) clock

This design seems to have had a very long run of production/sale in CHESS.
Photo: CHESS August 1951

Not a clock that I have seen or even seen referred to in other issues - so was it ever produced?
Photo: CH180 English, by CHESS of Sutton Coldfield. 

A very attractive clock, introduced in March 1954. The "CHESS" label is a metallic paper, and it looks as if there should be another beneath the hands, but nothing is apparent (and neither is anything visible in the advert - see next photo- or other examples I have seen). An odd diagonally opposed placement of the red "second hand" indicators.

The clock is a slightly simplified - and cheaper - version of one sold previously by CHESS. As yet, I do not hold an example of that but one can be seen here:
Photo: CH180: advert from 1954 CHESS magazine, courtesy of Guy Lyons
Photo: CH180  seemingly the first advert for this clock - CHESS magazine, March 1954. The prior - Feb - issue still has the "older" style.
Photo: CHESS No.288  - Mar. 1967

Standard Clock, original version, available again after supply ran out
Photo: CH249 - the original Standard Clock as sold by CHESS of Sutton Coldfield. I'm not sure when it was first sold (late 1950's seems likely), but this model was superceded in 1965 (see next clock in this album) by a New Improved Version. 

The actual clock in the photo is a later version re-introduced in early 1967 after a short period when CHESS had run out of stock! It had a few small differences to the initial design - notably, minute markings were used all round the clock, whereas previously these were only given through the last 10 minutes.

  CHESS' competitors - British Chess Magazine - were selling more expensive clocks, imported from Germany during the 1960's. It was only quite late in the day that CHESS' adverts made anything of these being the only British-made clocks (although they did note they had a "reliable English movement").
Photo: CH161; English; 1965-onwards (see advert in next photo)
 by CHESS of Sutton Coldfield. This one has rather sweet lime-green plastic balls at the ends of the "pusher" rod.
Photo: CH161 - the New Improved Version of the clock was advertised in several issues in 1965 before a photo was added - here in the September 1965 edition. CHESS had its' own Heidelberg printing press and used a variety of coloured inks on the front and back covers!
Photo: CH161 - the rear. This makes it clear that the "clock" was made up of two fairly standard alarm clocks - the holes at 9 and 12 o'clock are for winder-keys for the alarm functions (you can also just make out the alarm symbols above these).
Photo: A comparison of the two versions - CH249 to the front and CH161 to the rear.

Whilst I like the plastic knob on the later version, the earlier seems overall to be the nicer - a cleaner-looking dial, a nice chrome bezel and seconds hands to indicate which clock is working rather than the so-called "jigger" of the new version.
Photo: Further comparison photo of CH249/CH161. This shows the - for me - nicer rounded back to the earlier version.
Photo: Further comparison photo of the two clocks - from the rear
Photo: Advert from CHESS No.517 Nov.1966

The magazine now transferred the "5-minute chess" accolade from its' "Standard" clock (at top) to the wood-block clock at bottom.

The latter, although with different clock mechanisms, is a very similar format to my clock CH181 in a later photo. As may be seen in the next photo, there is also a later advert that shows the Standard clock mechanism in this type of case (called "The Checkmate") - but, so far, no indication of when that version was introduced. I suppose it is not impossible that this version "insprired" CHESS to replicate it using their own mechanisms. The clock faces and hands (apart from the jigger) look very much like those on CH334, a German Posingis rocker clock dated to c1940.

The advert also refers (see bottom right, the first *) to a small Bijou Jacket Pocket Chess Clock, with Swiss movement at a considerably higher price. This clock has been shown/discussed in connection with earlier adverts.
Photo: CHESS No 567 Nov.1968

The 'Winner' clock (left) - if you zoom in closely on the dial (or just see the next image of it), it can be seen that this is a German BHB clock. It was still being sold well into the 1970's (see subsequent image) although by then it had a plastic wood-effect case, rather than the wood case on the version advertised here. An example of this clock with wooden case can be seen as CH314  in the section here 'German/Swiss clocks'.

The 'Check-Mate' clock (right) - see CH181 for an example.
Photo: CHESS No 567 Nov.1968

Close-up of image of The Winner clock, from which the BHB maker's name can be seen.
Photo: CH181; The "Checkmate" clock, enclosed in a sturdy, but roughly made, oak case with a rocker mechanism on the top for alternating the movements, doing away with the push rod found on other versions. I have seen (and now have an example of, see CH334) a similar case used by the German maker Paul Posingis, dated 1940 - see:

The actual clocks appear to be - probably- mid-1960's- mid-1970's. Note that the "jigger" appears at 1 o'clock here as opposed to the 7 o'clock position in all the other instances I have seen (of the uncased clocks, at least) either in life or in the magazine adverts; I think I prefer this position for playing - it's slightly easier to keep an eye on it and the flag at once.  

 This style was promoted as "the best designed clock to stand up to really rough treatment of the five-minute chess kind".