An interview with the man who owns more than 100 rare antique Chelsea Clocks.

Photo credit: Charlie Dunne

Meet Bill Sohne,

Bill Sohne has always been a collector. As a kid he collected comic books, movie posters and stamps, and mechanical devices that fascinated him long before he had the means to collect the vintage Edison phonographs, ship's clocks, and watches that hold his interest now. Bill has written several articles and is a forum moderator in the collecting community for the last 35 years. He is currently a moderator at and has a Facebook Group : Marine Clocks & Ships Clocks Collectors Group aka Things With Springs .

How did you come to know Chelsea Clock?

Since I was a little kid, I always loved " things with springs '' and used to read old watch and clock catalogs. I just loved the form and function of "tool " devices. Watches, clocks, etc. My parents didn't encourage me, but I did find lots of treasures when I was a little boy. A lot of old phonographs, but never clocks. When I finished University I was living in the DC area and was always going to the flea market in Georgetown, and that is where I started to come across them.....

What was the first Chelsea Clock you owned?

I still have my first Chelsea Clock, an early 4 1/2 dial Commander Ship's Bell.

When and why did you start collecting?

I was always a collector. Edison Cylinder machines, watches, and finally Marine Clocks and Chronometers. I started when I was a kid, but I did not get into Chelsea Clocks till the late 1980s.

How many Chelsea Clocks do you own?

It is impolite to count. I can say it is more than I should have according to my wife. You can judge for yourself by simply looking at a picture of my office.

What is your favorite thing about Chelsea Clocks?

My favorite thing about Chelsea Clock is that it was the clock of the Millionaire and the Workingman. You would find large dial clocks on a Millionaire's Yacht and in the Pilothouse of a Freighter, a clock with the same movement but in a smaller case. The Chelsea Ship's Bell in 1900 was the highest technology of its day, and as a result was an undisputed necessity on any ship.

What is your favorite piece that you own?

One of my favorite Chelsea Marine Clocks is not a rare or uncommon model or size. It's a typical (for me early direct train Ship's Bell. Movement) sold through John Bliss in NYC. In a Commander configuration with the screw bezel as it was actually used on the boat that sailed out of Brooklyn in 1909.

The inscription is what I love ….
It was awarded to the
"SEASON 1909

It always makes me smile when I see it.

What is the most unique piece that you own?

I have to say it's a 12-inch Marine Clock for Fore River Shipbuilders ca 1924 that is in an Aluminum marine case.

I also have the lowest serial number 12-inch Special Grand dial Chelsea clock ever produced, a 12-inch Special Grand Dial Commander. (My favorite Marine Chelsea Shelf Model) I wrote an article about it: "All Roads lead back to the Commander."


What is the oldest piece that you own?

That depends if you are asking about just Chelsea clocks or if we are including the Pre-Chelsea era Clocks (Harvard Clock Co., Boston Clock Co., Eastman Clock Co., and Chelsea Clock Co. ). It would be an 8-inch Harvard Clock Company Marine clock Serial number 12 from 1880. It was in the Mammoth Mine of Utah.

I also have the Ships Clock from the Screw-Sloop Of War USS Enterprise from approx. 1874 but that is an E Howard Marine Clock.

Some Special Chelsea Clocks…

A 1904 6 inch USS Revenue Cutter Ship's Bell 1 of 14 sold to the US government from Chelsea Clock Co.

1911 Chelsea 4 ½ inch Commander w Automatic Ship's Bell with Script Chelsea logo.

Do any of your clocks have an interesting history?

I love clocks that have ships' names on the dial, I have a few 4 1/2 that were from yachts in the Boston Yacht Club from about 1902-1908. You can find them out there and it's fun too! "Good hunting"
I just acquired this clock, might be my next favorite! It Is a special clock. This clock can stand on its own as a 1902 8 ½ Commander with the original surface dial. On top of that, it was an Award Clock that was won by "Yankee ", an NY70 ( 1 of 4 made in 1900, for members of the New York Yacht Club. ) designed N. G. Herreshoff ( American Cup fame ) and manufactured by Herreshoff Manufacturing Company in Bristol, RI. 100 plus years later the only thing we have to remember about these classic yachts are maybe a photo, a bell or if we are lucky a clock… In this case, it is a Chelsea 8 ½ inch Ship's Bell Commander!

Close up of the dedication… from Sept 12 , 1902

And a photo of the NY70 Yankee ca 1900.

I have a presentation piece that was given to Charles Hogan. Charles Hogan was the Engineer that piloted the Empire State Express 999 to break the " Century mark" the first manmade object that can carry a man to break 100 mph. The photo has a model of the Empire Express 999 in front of the clock.

What Chelsea Clock you would love to own but is not currently in your collection?

I would love to own a 6-inch Special Grand Wheeled Commander ( later called a Mariner).

Have you gifted any clocks, and if so which one?

I gave one to my Dad. He was in the US Army Air Corps in WWII and I gave him a US Army Message Center Clock. He had one like it on his desk in the Philippines.

Other Comments:

I also hate to use the term Rare.

Like one of the smallest commanders and the 1st Special Grade dial commanders but these are to high value and over-the-top Chelsea Clocks

One on the left is a 3 1/2 inch Time Only Commander and one on the right is the lowest serial number ( the first example produced, a 12-inch Special Grand Dial by Chelsea ) and it's a Commander my favorite Chelsea Shelf Marine Clock.

A story about TWO USLH Chelsea clocks United States lighthouse:

Chelsea Ship Clock ILDICO and US Life Savings Service. USLSS