Oliver Pillard model #4, New Britain Bank Lock Co., New Britain, Connecticut

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View of the movement with the case door and two side panels removed.



The Pillard movement is one of the more complex in terms of the number of wheels and its double frame construction. The rear view shows the interconnected set of functions that are set when the operator winds up the main spring.


One can see in the first photo the layering of the wheel trains.

These three photos show the Pillard movement's double frame construction. Conventional movements are single frame, that means all the wheel works are supported between two parallel plates held together by pillars, also known as a plate and spacer configuration. A double frame contains an additional movement plate either between the main plates, as is the case here (see white arrows), or above or below the main plates. Notice too the nicely turned pillars that hold the extra plate in place. The last photo shows part of the upper portion of the third plate within the circled are and sandwiched between the two outer plates. The additional plate holds the escapements: the two balance wheels, lever escapements and escape wheels. This is the only time lock movement this author has seen which uses lantern type pinions rather than conventional solid pinions common in clockwork made at this time. The movement is only jeweled at the balance wheel pivots with the balance wheels themselves being a solid brass ring with no temperature compensation or poising screws. These features were commonly found in the pocket watch industry which is why one found extensive jewelling and higher-grade balance wheels in time locks that had movements supplied by E. Howard and other watch makers. In reality it is questionable whether these features were really needed in a time lock which did not have the environmental challenges of a pocket watch.

Later patent dated for a similar model.


The Pillard time lock was not an easy one to operate. Beginning with the safe open, one winds and sets the time lock. Then with the door still open the bolt work is thrown shut, the power reserve catch on the side is raised until it holds, the bolt work is reopened, the safe door closed, and the bolt work thrown shut. If the minimum twenty-four hour power reserve is met, the reserve catch falls to rest on the release slide, blocking the bolt. Since the safe might seem locked at this point but is not time locked due to insufficient winding, some Pillards, as does this one, have a notice embossed on the door to wind the lock every day. (1)

Pillard model #4, c. 1875. New Britain Bank Lock introduced their Oliver Pillard-designed time lock in 1875, the model #1. Based on two forty-eight hour (this example) or fifty six hour high quality un-jeweled movements made by Laporte Hubbell, Forestville, Connecticut. Shortly after the introduction of their first model, three subsequent models were introduced nearly simultaneously. Those models all used a second style of clock movement than that used in the first model but was also made by Laporte Hubbell. While using the same movement each subsequent model had slightly differing bolt dogging configurations and case designs. The Pillard was the first to feature power reserve indicators that would prevent the lock from closing with less than twenty-four hours power remaining. Such a power reserve indicator  (albeit without low-power anti-locking) wouldn't be seen again until Yale's B, C, D and E models of 1888. The unusually elaborate scroll engraving was expensive, even for the time, and is similar to that found on high grade Parker Brothers shotguns from the same period. Parker shotguns of the late 1870's were made in Meridian, Connecticut, less than ten miles south of New Britain, and it is quite possible that the same craftsmen decorated this time lock.

New Britain's Pillard lock was quite successful and some 170 were made and installed by 1877. This success made them a prime target for patent litigation from the Yale Lock Manufacturing Company. At this time many makers had issued letters and flyers claiming patent rights and identifying other time lock makers as selling infringing designs, but none had ever brought suit. In response makers commonly offered to repurchase their time locks and indemnify banks for any costs, should their time locks be ruled infringing. A landmark decision involving Yale and the City National Bank of Bridgeport in 1877 favored Yale and issued a permanent injunction against New Britain Bank Lock from producing its time lock, the firm was forced to reimburse City national Bank for the Pillard time lock. Although this single decision was small, both Yale and Fredric North, the owner of New Britain, realized its sweeping consequences: any bank that Yale could locate with a Pillard time lock could be forced to remove the lock. As part of an aggressive campaign, Yale offered to sell these banks their Yale Double Pin Dial locks at a reduced price if they surrendered their "infringing" Pillard time locks to Yale. Many banks accepted these terms and Yale promptly melted down the the Pillard time locks they received, making the Pillard among the rarest time locks today. North and new Britain continued for a while, but with New Britain  not being incorporated, the mounting losses were being passed directly to North, and he was soon forces to close his doors. (1) A model example of how Yale and Sargent and Greenleaf used litigation to crush competitiors.

There are eight Pillard time locks known to exist. One other gold-plated example of the model #4 survives in the Science Museum, London and three other examples of the model #4 with the polished nickel surface are in the Harry Miller Collection, (see first photo below), the LIPS lock maker collection, Amsterdam and one in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Two examples of the model #3, a gold plated plated one is in the Mossman collection located in the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesman Museum, New York City and a nickel plated version in a private collection. One example of a model #2 is known and is located in the Lock Museum of America (see second photo below), and one model #1 is known and is in this author's collection. The model #4 illustrated on this page is the same lock as illustrated in the American Genius Nineteenth Century Bank Locks and Time Locks, pp. 188-189. 6"h x 9"w x 2 5/8"d, case #170, movement unnumbered. file 183

The Pillard model #3 was a low profile model designed for use in safes with tighter bolt works. Possibly a special order design, only a single salesman's sample of a Pillard model #3 with gold plated finish remains today as part of the collection at the Lock Museum of America, Terryville, Connecticut, second photo. This looks to be a salesman sample in a wood case. (see below). (1)


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(1) American Genius Nineteenth Century Bank Locks and Time Locks, David Erroll & John Erroll, pp. 186-189