Money saving time


The Time Savings Clock (image copyright British Museum)


There would be a knock at the door and my mother was busy. She would say “that will be the insurance man – answer the door and give him this money and tell him the number is 16251”.  Many of us remember these numbers rather in the same way that anyone who did national service or served in the regular armed forces will surely remember their ID number.

In 1954 the Time Savings Clock Company Limited and Metamec of Dereham applied for a patent for a clock which would only go when coins were placed in a slot in the top of the case. Two florins weekly it says on the coin slot in the case top. For people on insurance schemes with companies like the Co-operative in the 1950s, four shillings was quite a lot on money to put aside each week.  The idea of the clock was to help people hold on to their money to pay the premium each week.

The coin slot and a florin (image copyright British Museum)


The system was invented by William Arthur Pitt and the patent was granted to the Time Savings Clock Company of Manchester (no.772,762). The mechanism consisted of a series of levers and wheels which arrested the going of the clock to which it was fitted until coins were inserted to release it and thus allow the clock to run. These coins, after operating the levers  would fall into the space at the bottom of the clock case, covered by a wooden panel which fitted over a stud and was closed by a wire and lead seal applied by the insurance man. When he called he would cut the seal, empty out the money and re-seal the back until his next visit – simple. 


The clock movement with coin mechanism (image copyright British Museum)


A full account of these clocks and many more everyday clocks can be found in Clifford Bird’s book – Metamec Clock Maker Dereham published in 2003 by the Antiquarian Horological Society.


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4 Responses to Money saving time

  1. During the 70’s I was working as a computer engineer and often visited Time Assurance company in Oldham. One day while discussing with my contact how the company was formed I was taken down to the cellars to see huge stacks of these coin savings clocks no longer in use. I often wondered what happened to them all.

  2. Jane Scriven says:

    I have just acquired one of these fascinating clocks. I would like to know how often the money was collected. Also, what is the purpose of the flat section on the large cog wheel, does this indicate the money collection period?

    • Barry Dean says:

      Probably a bit late as these posts are 7 years old !!
      My Dad worked for Time Assurance Co. Ltd of Oldham, initially as a rep & then as an Area Manager. I think reps called about once a month & emptied the clocks & then re-sealed them. They ran around in Mini Vans.
      When he was promoted we moved from Newcastle to Suffolk to set up a new area & I remember having a truck load of clocks turning up & filling the garage!
      I guess that Bank Standing Orders probably sealed their fate & my Dad was made redundant, probably in 1968 or 1969.

  3. I too have one of these clocks and am on my third, having sold my first 2.

    In the book on Metamec it does show a diagram but is pretty indistinct and does not show what happens when a coin is dropped into the chute. What I would like to know is how does the coin mechanism ‘know’ when to lower the balance wheel ‘arrestor’ thus stopping the clock? I’ve had a go at experimenting, but there is no ‘rule’ as such in my findings. I can drop a £2 coin in, wind it each day, and it may run for just a few days. I may add another coin once it’s stopped and it’ll run for well over a week or 2.

    Does anyone out there have answers please?

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