Chelsea Ship Clocks Have Big Brass Bells

The Chelsea Clock company has been making clocks in the USA since 1897. Chelsea ship clocks appear everywhere from U.S. naval vessels to super yachts to the White House. But Chelsea is best known for their iconic mechanical* brass ship clocks.

Chelsea’s mechanical ship’s bell clocks contain two components. The first component keeps time while the second rings out ship watches (that’s the “bell” part). These two components must be hand wound separately using a key once a week. Made in Chelsea, Massachusetts, the ship’s bell clock has over 300 “precision brass parts—many plated with gold—and an 11-jewel movement.”

For land lubbers who don’t want to “keep watches” 24 hours a day (hint: there’s no OFF button for the ship’s bell), Chelsea offers the “Harbour Master” version with only the time-keeping component.

Chelsea Ship Clocks: Harbour Master

Chelsea Ship Clocks: Harbour Master

Chelsea Ship Clocks: Serious Maritime Clocks

A word of caution: Chelsea clocks are not just eye candy. These are serious maritime clocks meant to last generations. Clock cases are made from forged brass and sealed with lacquer to withstand to harsh environments. As a result, these clocks weigh a lot. For example, the ship bell model with an 8.5″ dial weighs in at a hefty 15.4 pounds. If you are concerned that your walls might not handle the load, Chelsea offers stands that allow you to use their clocks as desk or mantel clocks.

Chelsea Clock 8 1/2" Ship's Bell Clock in Brass

Chelsea Clock 8 1/2″ Ship’s Bell Clock in Brass

Prices reflect the craftsmanship and materials that go into the clocks, as you can see in the video below. Indeed, for those who want a little extra panache, Tiffany even offers a line of Chelsea clocks with the Tiffany name on the dial.

For anyone on a budget (or who doesn’t want to wind a clock once a week), Chelsea manufactures quartz clocks based on German quartz clock movements. Quartz Chelsea Clock models start around $200 and go up in price, and weight, from there. Chelsea has an excellent guide explaining the difference between the mechanical and quartz models.

Vintage Chelsea Ship Clocks

To say that Chelsea ship clocks are made to last is an understatement. A quick eBay search reveals a long list of serviced and restored Chelsea clocks dating back to the early 1900’s. Many of these vintage Chelsea clocks come with storied histories, having served in everything from World War I warships, to World War II liberty ships, to Cold War era missile silos. For those who prefer to buy direct, the Chelsea Clock company offers vintage clocks on their website. Best of all, these clocks can be bought at a fraction of the price of a new clock.

If, like me, you have a passion for history, the stories behind vintage Chelsea clocks are worth the price of admission by themselves. Furthermore, these clocks will be ringing out the watches long after our watch on this planet is over. Just don’t snipe my bid.

Made in USA Gifts

For more American-made gifts and accessories, check the Made in USA List under Accessories.

* NOTE: For those unfamiliar with mechanical clocks or watches, read this explanation of how clockwork (windup) mechanisms work. No batteries required!

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