Every clock and barometer that arrives in our repair and restoration shop comes with a story. Some are short; some have generations of chapters. But all reflect the deep connections owners have to their cherished Chelsea pieces. Each, in its own way, is an heirloom; a lifelong gift that holds special meaning. And one that undoubtedly gathers more profound value from one generation to the next.
Here’s a story that accompanied a circa 1930s Chelsea Manhattan Barometer, recently sent to us for repair and restoration:
“The Manhattan (and the Mariner Clock, of which I sent you a picture) were originally acquired by my grandfather, a progeny of immigrants, who, through hard work raised himself to become a Master Mariner. My first memories of the clock and barometer are as a small boy in the 1950s. The clock stood on the mantel in his study; the barometer, prominently displayed on his desk. From my grandfather, I learned the nautical importance of each instrument: the clock as an aid in ship’s operation (crew watches) and navigation (determining longitude); the barometer’s role in discerning weather changes at sea. When Granddad passed in 1963, the clock went to my Aunt Louise and the barometer to my father, which, in turn, passed into my care upon my father’s death in 1966.
It would be misleading to say that I treated the Chelsea Manhattan as a cherished memento. As an adolescent, and later as a young adult, other matters were more prevalent than the care of a legacy barometer. However, I kept it with me throughout a 27-year military career, moving across the globe and finally settling in Hawaii. Despite my wife’s admonishments to “get rid of the ratty thing,” I kept it. Then, last November, I acquired my Granddad’s Mariner clock upon the passing of my aunt. The clock, unlike the Manhattan, had been meticulously maintained by my aunt.
Now I am the third generation custodian of these family heirlooms; a link in their continuity as well as in the continuity of my extended family. Restoring the Manhattan barometer represents tangible acknowledgment of my responsibility in that link. It’s difficult to explain my definition of that responsibility, except perhaps by the Sanskrit word “dharma.” Were I to characterize the meaning of the Manhattan Barometer as a memento it would be as follows: The instrument is a reminder of a fleeting childhood where one learns without knowing he is being taught. Moreover, it is material evidence of the powerful force of dharma even among the unwitting.
I am proud to be a thread in the tapestry Chelsea Clock has been weaving of the American landscape for over a century.”
Fred H., Hawaii
When we thanked Fred for sharing his story, he quipped, “A story isn’t a story unless shared. Ask any sailor.”