West Coast Clock And Watch Museum

West Coast Clock And Watch Museum The largest clock and watch museum on the west coast. It resides on the grounds of the Vista Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum.

Operating as usual

Nice day at our WCCWM Clock & Watch Mart. We're open tomorrow stop by and find a treasure.

Nice day at our WCCWM Clock & Watch Mart. We're open tomorrow stop by and find a treasure.


We're open. 10am to 4pm Wed - Sun. Docents available on weekends, by appointment on weekdays. Check in at the AGSEM office. $2 per person. Following Covid Guidelines are required.


Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, the West Coast Clock And Watch Museum is temporarily closed. Stay tuned here for updates.


Open this weekend 9am to 4pm.

Sadly, our NAWCC Chapter 180 "Friends of the West Coast Clock & Watch Museum" vice president, Ron Bechler past away last...

Sadly, our NAWCC Chapter 180 "Friends of the West Coast Clock & Watch Museum" vice president, Ron Bechler past away last weekend. He was deeply committed to preserving the history of horology and to growing the West Coast Clock & Watch Museum. He will be greatly missed by all.

The county clock in its resting place. Now the work begins on the movement itself to get it running again.

The county clock in its resting place. Now the work begins on the movement itself to get it running again.

West Coast Clock And Watch Museum's cover photo

West Coast Clock And Watch Museum's cover photo

On February 26, Andre Perreault, Rick Colman,Larry Octon, Frits Versteegh, John Visosky and I metat the courthouse lobby...

On February 26, Andre Perreault, Rick Colman,
Larry Octon, Frits Versteegh, John Visosky and I met
at the courthouse lobby to begin the clock’s transition
to its new home. Meticulous planning for the move
involving a 12-foot truck, two forklifts, innumerable
tools and associated equipment were essential, and
Andre’s preparations made sure that things ran
(It is now located inside the History of Local Ag main
exhibit hall which houses the WCCWM at the Vista Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum.)

The WCCWM acquired the tower clock that originally resided in the San Diego Courthouse through a
permanent loan from San Diego County. A team of museum members led by Andre Perrault moved the clock
from the lobby of the later 1981 courthouse to the museum. This story traces the clock’s evolution through its
subsequent stages.

Stage 1: The Original Courthouse

The first San Diego County Courthouse was built on land
donated by downtown founder Alonzo Horton on a block
bounded by Front, Union, Broadway and C Streets (now
occupied by the Western Region Detention Facility). The
cornerstone for the building was laid in August 1871.
Construction of the twelve-room structure costs $55,000.
Included within were five cells of the basement jail and a 1,000
foot deep well.
By 1889, the courthouse built in 1871 was no longer adequate. The construction of the replacement
courthouse was to be extremely complicated. The County Board of Supervisors realized that taxpayers would
never pass a bond issue to construct a new courthouse, so they undertook a subterfuge. They contracted with
the Comstock and Trotsche San Francisco architects to prepare plans for a “repair” of the building. These
“repairs” added east and west wings along with additional stories to the original building, but the original
building could not bear the extra weight. Consequently, the supervisors issued another “repair order” to
demolish the original structure and replace it with a new core between the two new wings.

A bell tower with a large clock was placed atop the new
building. In addition, statues of four presidents, and a 10-foot-tall
gilded statue of Justice holding a balance scale surmounted the
tower. (Total cost for all the artwork was $5,500.) As the above
diagram shows, typically the clock stood on a platform with the bell
mounted on a higher story. San Diego jeweler M. German
purchased the clock from Seth Thomas Clock Company of
Thomaston CT and was paid $100 a year by the county to regulate
and maintain the timepiece. The Seth Thomas order book listing
this sale still exists in the NAWCC archives. The total cost,
including accessories and painting, was $542.40 (equivalent to
$15,000 today). The clock was guaranteed against original and
mechanical defects for a period of five years.
Included in the April 1890 order, along with an hour-striking
No. 16 clock, were four 5 ½ foot diameter glass dials and a 40-
pound hammer for striking the bell. Seth Thomas’s specifications
called for a bell weighing about 2.800 pounds with a 52-inch
diameter, which was sold separately. The clock stands 58 inches
high and, with its
shipping crate,
weighed 1,500
pounds. The
original pendulum
ball alone weighed between 135 and 175 pounds. Returning to
the diagram, we can see the weights for the timing train
running from the clock through a pulley system on the right
and those for the strike train on the left.
To keep the clock running for eight days without
winding, Seth Thomas recommended a drop of 45 feet for the
time weight and 120 feet for the strike weight. (The clock
order included 100 feet of wire rope for time and 200 feet for
strike.) Because these distances exceeded the height of the
courthouse, a pulley system that reduced the fall by a half or a
third was necessary. Pulley systems of this type provide a
mechanical advantage. For example, a two-pulley system
reduces the force by half, so twice the weight of a straight drop
would be necessary. Specifications call for a 90-pound weight
for the time side and a 225-pound weight for the strike, so these
weights would have to be increased proportionally to the
mechanical advantage. Cast iron blocks slotted to fit onto iron rods were the recommend configuration for the
weights. Only one coil of the wire rope around the timing train cylinder ran the clock for 8 days. The striking
train required two coils.
The leading-off works are sited above the clock. A leading-off rod runs from the timing side of the
clock to the bevel gear array above. Four other rods go from the array to the motion works, that drive the
minute and hour hand, on the back of each dial. A separate rod goes from the clock to the hammer, which
strikes the bell.

The clock nameplate reads, “Made by Seth Thomas
Clock Co., Thomaston Conn. U.S.A., April 10 1890, 568,
A.S. Hotchkiss.” The serial number of the clock is 568, but
who is A.S. Hotchkiss? In 1870, Seth Thomas decided to
expand its business into the manufacturing of tower and street
clocks. They purchased the works of the Andrew S.
Hotchkiss Tower Clock Company of Williamsburg, NY. Part
of the deal included Hotchkiss working for Seth Thomas for
several years and having his name inscribed on every tower
clock built during his tenure. This practice ended with his
death in 1904.
Despite the Board of Supervisors’ crafty moves, all was not well with the installation. Following the
San Francisco earthquake in 1906, the statues were removed. In 1919, responding to numerous complaints
from courthouse residents and visitors in neighboring hotel and confusion with the fire alarm, the bell was
silenced. Then in 1939, the weight of the clock was causing the roof to sag, so it was removed and placed in
county storage. The entire cupola was also eliminated at the time. The climax of this stage was announced in
the November 3, 1959 San Diego Union, “Old courthouse crumbles under wreckers’ blows.”
The clock uses a deadbeat escapement movement,
which is among the most accurate for timekeeping. All the
wheels are brass with steel pinions. The timing train is a
traditional design with all parts beefed up to handle the
stress of the clock size. Seth Thomas recommended that the
clock be wound once a week. The wire rope was to be
marked to indicate where to stop winding.
Setting the time required that the hands on the
tower dials be adjusted to the correct time. Facilitating
this activity, the clock was equipped with a small dial
on the movement that showed the same time as the
exterior dial, provided that the clock had been
correctly installed. The hour wheel shaft has a worm
wheel with 60 teeth fitted to a screw carried by a
sleeve on the same shaft. This screw can be turned by
a small key. One turn of the screw moves the hands
on the small dial and on the tower forward one minute.

Stage 2: Restoration and Display
In 1980, the clock was taken out of storage to be
refurbished by members of NAWCC Chapters 59 under an
agreement made with the San Diego Bar Association Auxiliary.
In June the crated movement arrived at Dick Marsh’s clock
shop in El Cajon. Not only did the movement require an
overhaul but also a number of components were missing or
unusable and had to be refabricated.
Among these were the weights; pendulum rod, bob and
suspension assembly; winding crank and parts of the strike train
and motion work gears. The replacement pendulum is shown
above being carried by Larry Octon during the moving of the
clock to the WCCWM. Joe Kunkler machined the graceful, but
strong, pendulum rod from a wood support of a shipping pallet,
and the pendulum suspension blocks, spring and the bob
(salvaged from an incinerator counterweight). Although the
new bob is heavy, it is much lighter than the original. Gary
Horton performed the lathe work needed to shape and form the
remainder of the pendulum assembly and obtained a new 63-
pound weight to power the timing train. The clock was
repainted to match the original Seth Thomas color scheme. The
three dials for the enclosure were made by Gwen Ballairs and
the hands by Neil Eskew.
An automatic electrical system designed
by Sears Carpenter and Joe Kunkler eliminates
the need to manually rewind the clock. Because
of the small distance the weight can drop in its
new configuration, the clock must be rewound
much more frequently than it when it was in the
tower, so manual winding would no longer be
practical. A ¼ horsepower electric motor does
the work. The electrical system can be easily
removed should it be desired to restore the
movement to its original design.

Upon completion, the clock was installed in the lobby of the county
courthouse protected by a custom-built mahogany and glass
housing. A San Diego Union article estimated the housing cost at
$9,600. The restored clock was rededicated on May 14, 1981.
Since that time, Chapter 59 members have maintained the clock.
One of its most frequent problems with operation has been power
interruptions, which required a manual restart after the power was
restored. In July 2009, Rick Coleman, Joe Kunkler, Verlyn
Kuhlmann and Walt Yahn cleaned and lubricated the movement,
which had been stopping frequently.

Other clock components found a new home also.
The tower clock at the County Sherriff Museum in Old
Town displays a pair of wooden hands that graced the
courthouse tower. Another set of hands can be seen on a
nearby museum bulletin board. The fact that the present dial
is much smaller than the original courthouse dials is evident
from the minute hand extending beyond the perimeter of the
dial. NAWCC Chapter 59 donated the electrically driven
clock to the museum and provided Joe Kunkler with funds
to maintain the clock. The clock was dedicated in 2001.
Mission San Luis Rey de Francia began its existence in 1798 in what is now Oceanside. The mission was
named for Louis IX, king of France. It was the eighteenth out of the twenty-one missions established in
California. In 1939 when the courthouse tower was removed, the Board of Supervisors loaned the clock bell to
the mission. I checked with the mission museum, and the whereabout of the bell is unknown today.

Ed Pasahow

This solid brass clock, made by the British UnitedClock Company, features an eight-day movement. Madeas a trophy for bik...

This solid brass clock, made by the British United
Clock Company, features an eight-day movement. Made
as a trophy for bike racing, the clock has a suitable
engraving plaque in the center of the base. The style of
the bike and the mustachioed rider reflect the origin date
of around 1900 to 1910. Before the car was invented,
bicycles were practical means of transportation.
Consequently, many of the riders had to discover who
had the fastest. Bike races became a popular activity and
the winners, naturally, had to receive recognition to
enable boasting rights.
The 1.75-inch dial has a porcelain chapter ring
printed with Arabic numerals marking hours, diamonds
designating five-minute intervals and dots denoting the intervening minutes. Black spade hands show the time.
A gilded medallion with scroll work fills the center of the dial. The front crystal glass is beveled.
The British United Clock Company originated in 1885 and it was one of the earliest British companies
to mass produce clocks. The Davies brothers, who gained clock making skills at the Ansonia Company in the
US, moved to the United Kingdom to start their own factory employing mass production processes learned from
the Americans. The factory was started in Birmingham, which toward the end of the 19th Century became
known as a major British manufacturing center. The brothers were successful in developing their own
movements and components instead of copying those of Ansonia. Numerous awards in 1880's recognized the
quality of their products. High quality allowed them to compete successfully against the Americans. Factory
employment grew to more than 250 and the plant covered 1250 square yards. By the beginning of the new
century, unfortunately, cheap German clocks began to flood England, and the company was not cost
competitive. The organization closed its doors in 1909.

Ed Pasahow

West Coast Clock And Watch Museum's cover photo

West Coast Clock And Watch Museum's cover photo


Open today 10/28 9am to 4pm.


WCCWM is open this 10/20-21 and 10/27-28 during the Fall Show. Come see us.

On Saturday 10/13 Tom Willcox, director of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors visited the museum. In...

On Saturday 10/13 Tom Willcox, director of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors visited the museum. In his weekly email to members he wrote:

"The West Coast Museum, located on site with the Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum, 2040 N. Santa Fe Ave., Vista, CA 92083 is a rare treat if you find yourself south of LA. Docent John Ginzler and Chapter 180 President (and former Ch. 136) Andre Perreault gave me a wonderful tour of the collection. Some real nice surprises and well- displayed artifacts, many courtesy of Ernie Lopez, founder of the Museum in early 2000. Below are some of its many treasures. A solid start for a fine institution if you can't make it east to Columbia!"


Please help by being a docent at the WCCWM gallery for two large events. Contact Rod Groenewold at [email protected] or call the museum office at 760-941-1791 if you can help for any of the following dates and times:

First event is a BBQ event at the museum being held from 12 p. m. to 7 p. m. on Saturday, July 14, 2018.

Second event: The 2018 SummerGrass Music Festival at the museum being held from Friday, August 17th through Sunday August 19th.

Again, please contact [email protected] or call the museum office at 760-941-1791 if you can help as a docent for any of the above dates and times.

Thank you very much!

Ernie Lopez and Marion Francis attended the 2018 Pacific Northwest Regional in Tacoma, WA. We had a Chapter 180 table th...

Ernie Lopez and Marion Francis attended the 2018 Pacific Northwest Regional in Tacoma, WA. We had a Chapter 180 table there. Here are some pictures from the Regional. Chapter 180 members Julia Mueller (not pictured) and Jim Marinello received Fellow Awards from NAWCC Representative, Jay Holloway.


Chapter 71 – Sacramento Valley May Meeting Notice

All members and Guests,

This is just a reminder of the upcoming meeting this Sunday, May 27th at the Shepard Garden and Arts Center in McKinley Park.

Doors open at 9:30 AM....

We will have our outstanding Mart, Silent Auction, Refreshments and our now popular Raffle...

Display will be "Ketch as Ketch Can" so bring your special item to show and brag!!!

During the informal session of the Meeting we will be continually projecting pictures of the West Coast Clock Museum in Vista, CA. If you have not seen this please sit a watch. It is wonderful!!!

Bring your items to sell - Tables are always FREE.

Bring something for Display to share with the membership.

See you there...

Contact: Vince Angell at [email protected]


2040 N. Santa Fe Avenue
Vista, CA

Opening Hours

Wednesday 10am - 4pm
Thursday 10am - 4pm
Friday 10am - 4pm
Saturday 10am - 4pm
Sunday 10am - 4pm


(760) 941-1791


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Visiting the West Coast Clock And Watch Museum at the Vista BBQ Classic!
Here are the donations
Here is a LA Times article about West Coast Clock & Watch Museum. As a result of this article running in the LA Times, the museum received a donation of fabulous grandfather clocks.
On Saturday, Nov 11, I was sent to Santa Monica to pick up a donation of 3 English grandfather clocks and a Venetian Regulator for WCCWM. One of the grandfather clocks was dated 1812 and a second one was 1814. They came with documentation. The third was a "Noah" clock. It didn't come with documentation. All three are in very good condition. The regulator was also nice.