Since 1900, Chelsea Clock has been known for the Ship’s Bell timepiece collection. Every Ship’s Bell clock is made and assembled by hand at our factory in Chelsea, Massachusetts. It takes up to four weeks to craft each timepiece, They are made with over seven pounds of solid brass and more than 290 precision parts (including gears, pins, plates, and screws) as well as our patented 11-jewel movement. All of our Ship’s Bell clocks mark the hours not only by their handsome, hand-silvered dials but by rich, mellow chimes the same way they have since these timepieces were first introduced in 1900.
However, while many of our nautically-inclined customers know ship clock bells inside and out, some are unfamiliar with either the chimes or the meaning behind them. In case you don’t already know about the Ship’s Bell code, here’s a quick lesson. By knowing the sequence your clocks follow, you’ll know why the ship’s bell sound is meaningful — and the strikes may become a part of your life too.
The History of Ship Clock Chimes
Mariners have used a unique bell code to tell time at sea for hundreds of years. The code is based on the crew’s typical workday routine while the vessel is underway. A ship at sea requires constant attention throughout the day’s 24 hours. Therefore, the day is divided into six four-hour periods that are each called a “watch.” Similarly, the crew is broken up into three divisions. Division members stand their individually assigned duties on two watches per day, with eight hours off duty between watches.
First Watch: 8:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.
Mid-Watch (also Black Watch): 12:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.
Morning Watch: 4:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.
Forenoon Watch: 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Afternoon Watch: 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Evening Watch: 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
To rotate each division’s watch times, the Evening Watch is periodically divided into two watches. These are called Dog Watches because they “dog” the watch schedule for all divisions ahead by one watch period.
The watch officer struck the ship’s bell every half-hour to apprise the crew of the time. A single bell denoted the end of the first half-hour, and one bell was added each half-hour. Eight bells, therefore, signaled the end of each four-hour watch.
8 bells: 12:00, 4:00, 8:00
1 bell: 12:30, 4:30, 8:30
2 bells: 1:00, 5:00, 9:00
3 bells: 1:30, 5:30, 9:30
4 bells: 2:00, 6:00, 10:00
5 bells: 2:30, 6:30, 10:30
6 bells: 3:00, 7:00, 11:00
7 bells: 3:30, 7:30, 11:30
In the “Age of Sailing”, time was kept using a 30-minute hourglass that was turned with each bell striking. Modern timepieces are now used, but the chime sequence remains the same to this day.
Modern Ship’s Bell Clocks
Chelsea Clock Ship’s Bell clocks always have and always will follow this same sailing bell sequence. So, like centuries of seafarers, Chelsea Ship’s Bell clock owners know the time even when they can’t see it — they just have to hear its signature chimes! View our entire collection of Ship’s Bell clocks and other handcrafted clocks, barometers, and tide instruments at ChelseaClock.com.
February 7, 2018 at 11:49 am
I have six Chelsea clocks! I grew up there so I really love them.
One clock goes a little fast. Which way should I turn the little wheel on the middle left of the face? Left or right?
Chelsea will never be forgotten here in Northeastern Pennsylvania !
February 7, 2018 at 1:17 pm
If the clock is running slow, you’ll want to move the wheel towards ‘F’ for Faster. I’m not sure whether that’s to the left or right on the face of your clock.
February 7, 2018 at 1:50 pm
My clock only rings either one or two rings. Can I fix/ adjust this on my own.
June 7, 2018 at 1:19 pm
I have a manual wind Boston labeled Chelsea ship’s watch bulkhead clock I can provide a serial number upon request to verify its age. I’ve read through all of the FAQs & found only a couple that are similar but not the exact same problem I’m having. Top of the hour strikes correctly, even numbers 2-8. The bottom of the hour however isn’t just off by one or more but is completely out of sequence but consistent. I checked the strike hammer for alignment it’s in the middle of the rod & gap is about 1mm at rest from the rod. The hammer strikes the rod every time without stopping short.
The sequence is this:
1200 is 8, 1230 is 7, 1300 is 2, 1330 is 1, 1400 is 4, 1430 is 3, 1500 is 6, 1530 is 5
1600 is 8, 1630 is 7, 1700 is 2, 1730 is 1, 1800 is 4, 1830 is 3, 1900 is 6, 1930 is 5.
Any ideas on this one? I’m baffled.
January 30, 2019 at 9:00 pm
I recently inherited my brother’s ship’s clock (I think it was made in the late 70s) and I love it. It looks very much like the clock face in the photo. It keeps good time and the bells ring in the correct sequence. But I recall that my brother was able to silence the bells when needed (like avoiding disturbing the sleep of houseguests who are not used to the sound) but I can’t see anything that would enable me to do that. I tried just not winding them but for whatever reason, that seemed to cause the usually-reliable clock to stop. There is a fast/slow adjustment on the face but no other things except the two holes for winding. And believe me, I have looked.
Anyone have any ideas?
March 10, 2019 at 1:55 pm
If the clock is a Ship’s Bell Clock, open the front cover look closely at the number 8 at 8 o’clock. To the left of that number is a small lever that moves in a slot. if you move the lever to the bottom of the slot, away from the bell image, the clock will be silenced.
March 15, 2019 at 1:30 pm
do the different sizes of ship’s bell clock have different sounding bells? Do two clocks of the same size differ appreciably in sound?
June 3, 2019 at 3:51 pm
My clock doesn’t chime can I adjust the clock to have it chime?
October 18, 2019 at 8:42 am
On a grandfather chiming movement, there are “segments” that make up a chime “train”. Some are fastened together in a sequence that can not be removed or altered. Others can be disassembled for cleaning but can also be put back together incorrectly resulting in an unrecognizable chime tune.
It appears your ships bell clock has had its sequence disturbed and only needs to be reassembled correctly.
The Pendulum Shoppe, Richland, Wash. email@example.com
November 3, 2019 at 10:20 am
My clock does not ring accurately. How do I reset the ring pattern to get 8 bells at the proper times?
December 2, 2019 at 8:40 pm
We are in the same conundrum. Ours just rang 3 bells at 730 pm
February 24, 2020 at 7:50 pm
Hello. Should a Chelsea shipstrike clock strike the 2 dog watch sequences?
May 30, 2020 at 8:08 am
It is difficult very tricky to properly set gears to result in correct bell sequence. Suggest use a clock expert who has and does set ships bell clocks.
August 29, 2020 at 7:57 am
We receive a Chelsea clock as a gift. We love it. I accidently moved the clock to set it without stopping at each half hour to let it chime. Now the clock does not chime at all. Is there an easy fix to this or do I need to take it in for a clock repair?
September 25, 2020 at 1:40 pm
I inherited my Father’s ship’s bell in 2002. My Father inherited it from his paternal uncle in 1953, who was the original purchaser in ~1914.
It has kept us company now for 100+ years. On my passing it will go to my son, then to his son.
This clock has been a gift to my family for four generations. Thank you.
October 18, 2020 at 9:18 pm
I have a Chelsea 12”, Serial number 131818
Can anyone tel me how old the clock is?
My grandfather had the clock in his office circa 1945
March 27, 2021 at 4:56 pm
my Chelsea ship’s bell clock came from the ship that my dad served on when he was in the Merchant Marine in the 1930s & 40s. after the war the ship was scrapped, and my father, then working at Sparrows Point, was given the clock and the 48 star flag by a ship’s officer who remembered him. I can wake up at any time during the night and know what time it is, even though I am now deaf–I hear the bells in my head after more than 80 years of living with my most prized possession.
June 7, 2021 at 10:27 am
My ships bell clock is half an hour out of step, chiming 1 at the BEGINNING of each watch and 2, 4, 6 and 8 on the half hours. Is there an easy fix?
July 15, 2022 at 1:59 pm
I have a ship’s bell mechanical clock. The clock has been fine for the past 5 years however now on the hour the bell strikes correctly but on the half hour instead of the single additional strike, now it strikes twice. I have been in touch with your service department and a lady was trying to assist me in resolving the issue however we were not able to resolve it. She indicated that she would come back to me however about a month has gone by and I have not received any calls or comments. thanks
October 3, 2022 at 3:35 pm
I want to insure my 1902 4.5 inch Ship’s bell clock. How do I find out the value?
October 18, 2022 at 9:05 pm
I’m interested in getting a ship’s bell clock do you have any that is not so expensive
February 27, 2023 at 11:45 am
February 27, 2023 at 11:49 am
I’ve got a ships clock, made by Seth Thomas, are the the same clock as Chelsea clock.