John McClure asked an interesting question about the added value of
installing an Ampichron clock.
For those MMDers who don't know, the Ampichron could be installed in
the drawer of an Ampico B reproducing piano. The function of the
Ampichron is similar to a clock radio. The device could be set to come
on at a predetermined time or at timed intervals. Using the timed
interval feature, and a special chime roll, the gadget made the Ampico
B perform as a grandfather clock. Besides the hour strikes, a short
tune was also played. Blank space on the roll kept the piano silent at
night, that is, it played blank paper at each hour interval all night
Published research about the Ampichron suggests that it was offered
as a kit for dealer installation. Having installed one of these, I can
attest that it is no easy task, as the space available is limited. Two
components, the main valve blocks and the rewind brake, must be relocated
within the drawer left side. I have seen old installations where the
rewind brake mechanism was removed entirely.
Beside the electric clock frame and the timing controls contained on
the frame, several vacuum logic relays must also be installed. These
are generally mounted on the back of the drawer and clearance with the
normal tube harness or pedal lyre becomes a factor.
Within the clock frame are two glass enclosed mercury switches. Drawer
movement can have an effect of the operation of these switches. Once
the Chime roll is set and synchronized, the Ampico can be used for
nothing else, unless of course the chime roll is removed, and the clock
is set for manual play. The fast way to synchronize the roll is set it
up at 7 AM. At any other time, the roll must be partially played, keeping
track of the hours chimed, until the appropriate section of the roll is
cued. Once the silent evening section is entered, roll sync is a bit
elusive in that each hour section is identified by the elongated "0T"
trip off coding.
Once it is all set up and running flawlessly, the Ampichron is a lot
of fun. Some people might not sleep too soundly, though, knowing that
somewhere in the house this piano will turn on and off eight times and
rewind once, overnight, all without the benefit of overload or overheat
I like the Ampichron, but its value is only as a novelty. Adding it to
a piano will not hurt the value because it can always be removed, if
necessary. I see no significant increase in value unless the collector
is a "must have everything" type.
As an aside, and less practical in analysis, the Ampichron was an
early step in bringing automation to the home. Its place in history is
faint because of the numbers produced are too few to have any impact.
But conceptually, it really was the harbinger of things to come. The
Ampico B and its Ampichron are truly great works of art in the field of
mechanical music. Properly restored, the Ampico B has no equal.