What You Don’t Know About . . .

Who Winds the Clock?

And other stories from a Stanford landmark.

By Sam Scott
Photography by Eli Goodman, ’21

Michael Hazard, '19, adjusts the mechanism that operates the clock.

TAKES A LICKIN’ . . .

The work places Hazard in a history that began in 1899, when Jane Stanford commissioned the clock from the Seth Thomas Clock Company. At first it was installed in pride of place, a tower rising above Memorial Church. “The clock is the finest built and best-operated machine on the Coast,” the Daily crowed in 1902 after the bells were brought to pitch.

THE PULSE OF STANFORD

If the chimes sound familiar, they should. The four bronze bells toll the Westminster Quarters, the melody that’s been ringing from London’s Big Ben for 160 years. Indeed, the Quarters — thought to be inspired by Handel’s Messiah — are likely the most popular clock chimes in the world.

Video: Erin Attkisson and Dilys Ong

SAME AS IT EVER WAS

Even in more modern times the clock stirs passions. If the chimes are off, the calls come in, says Kathleen Baldwin, a facilities manager who oversees the clock. In 1994, a clockmaker turned engineering doctoral student named Rob Bernier grew so agitated by its inaccuracy that he threw himself into fixing it, beginning a seven-year stint as clock custodian. “It hurt me that such a beautiful clock movement wasn’t working,” he told the Stanford Report toward the end of his tenure.

The clock’s winders have logged their visits in this book since the 1980s.

TIME MACHINE

Twice a week, winders raise the falling weights that power the clock and measure its accuracy. Occasionally, they make tweaks like adding (or removing) coin-size weights from the pendulum to change the speed of its swing. (Each visit, which typically takes around 15 minutes, is recorded in a yellowing log dating to the 1980s.)

Highlights and extras from Stanford's alumni magazine.