I received a tip many moons ago from regular readers Matthew Morrison and Mike Goode about a rather special shop on Camden Road (it's actually half in Quarry Road) which apparently had one of the most accurate clocks in the world inside. It turned out to contain a lot more than that.
Time to Remember is owned by Andrew, who you can see in the photo above, and his shop is a horologists dream.
Within a few seconds of saying hello we excitedly got onto the subject of clocks, obviously, and I had to ask straight off the bat "where's the most accurate clock in the world?"
Now, if you had to choose from the hundreds that surrounded you in this shop I guarantee that this one would have been very far from the top of your list because there, sitting high above a door frame, was a simple tiny little clock about four inches across.
"Is it really the most accurate clock in the world?" I hear you ask. Well, nearly, it's definitely the most accurate in Tunbridge Wells that's for sure, and it owes this accuracy to the NPL-CsF2 atomic clock at the National Physical Laboratory from which it receives a time signal every day. Astonishingly it is accurate to within 1 second every 138 million years. So yes whilst it is one of the most accurate clocks in the world, it just so happens there are many more like it. There is a rather nice video of it where you can hear it's thunderous ticking.
Now, what there isn't many more of is the much more interesting clock below. This one is rather special indeed.
The clock you see above is called the Shortt-Synchronome Clock No.3 and it is a part of one of the most important developments in timekeeping since the invention of the pendulum clock two hundred years before it. This clock is directly responsible for detecting that planet Earth had a slight wobble. That's right, this clock sitting on a wall in a shop in Camden Road helped discover that our planet wobbled on its axis. How amazing is that?
This clock began its life in Greenwich, the home of time, in 1921. It was the third clock made by English engineer WH Shortt who perfected the free-pendulum idea. In an ordinary pendulum clock the free swinging of the pendulum, on which timekeeping accuracy depends, is interfered with by the need to sustain the pendulums motion and to count the swings to tell the time. In Shortt's free-pendulum clock, these two functions are carried out by a subsidiary ‘slave clock’, therefore allowing the master pendulum to swing freely except for a fraction of a second each half-minute, when it receives an impulse from the slave. This enables the clock to have amazing accuracy.
This clock, when installed in Greenwich, was used to help keep GMT, and during its first year it was accurate to within 0.01 seconds. Three years later in 1924 the clock was moved to other duties as more accurate clocks were being produced by Shortt. It became the standard time bearer for what is known as Sidereal Time, that is the time the earth takes to revolve once on its axis, which is not exactly 24hrs but 24hrs and 4 minutes. This is used by astronomers to keep their telescope trained on a specific spot in the sky.
How about that? Amazing eh? There it is now keeping perfect time sitting unassumingly on a wall in Camden Road, and do you want to know something even more amazing about this amazing (too many amazings?) timepiece? It was found in a junk shop! One of Andrew's friends who happened to work at the Greenwich Museum discovered it one day whilst browsing and passed it onto Andrew.
I really recommend you pop by and say hello to Andrew and take a look at these clocks because they are masterpieces.
There are just far too many wonderful clocks in this aladdin's cave to go into detail about them all here but here are a few of the more interesting examples in Andrew's ever-changing display.
This clock above is made by local Tunbridge Wells maker called William Ruffell. He operated around 1874 from, and here's the spooky bit, a shop in Camden Road! It's a rather wonderful balloon clock and would look superb on any mantle. Alas I couldn't find enough money in Mrs Anke's purse to buy it right there and then. Andrew says that clocks from local makers fly out the door in no time (first clock joke), so if you buy this clock I want words with you.
This small odd-shaped clock is given to recipients of the Order of the Garter. It therefore could've been owned by royalty yet here it sits in a shop on Camden Road. Amazing!
This is a GPO clock and would've graced the walls of a telephone exchange. The red diamonds marking the 15 minute intervals generate the call timing pulses necessary to charge telephone subscribers for their calls. Callers in those days would've paid for 15 minutes at a time rather than today's per second charging.
This clock is on the outside of the shop and it's another of the "most accurate in the world" clocks so this is the one to set your watch to when you pass by. The interesting thing about this one is that it was made by Andrew himself and it's a direct replica of the clock onboard the Astoria studio that belongs to Pink Floyd. Cool eh?
Now, if you do visit Andrew's shop the first thing that strikes you (second clock joke) is the sound. It envelopes you. Tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick...well you get the message. It's rather lovely and actually quite restful after a while. We made a few audio recordings whilst we were in the shop, and Andrew was kind enough to set lots of the clocks of chiming. Take a listen below.
If you'd like to learn more about Andrew and his shop then head on over to Mrs Anke's blog where she has written a lovely piece. We'd both like to say a huge thank you to Andrew for taking the time to chat to us and for our lovely readers for dropping us the tip. Thank you all.