Synchronome was established in 1895 by Frank Hope-Jones, the youngest of nine children born to William and Agnes Hope-Jones of Birkenhead, on the Wirral. Frank's older brother Robert Hope-Jones was a pioneer in the field of electric organs, and aided early experiments adapting clock movements with electricity. Another brother, Kenyon, derived the name Synchronome from ancient Greek: syn (with), chronos (time) and nomos (law) – in accordance with the law of time.
Frank Hope-Jones, 1867-1950
Early letterhead, showing multiple dials wired to a master clock
The Synchronome system enabled any number of wall clocks, known as slave dials, to be connected in series and synchronised via electrical impulses from a master clock. Suddenly, every clock in a factory, or school, or department store, could tell exactly the same time, all the time. Major installations in the public and private sectors up and down Britain saw Synchronome become a well-established firm, with an impressive client list.
Flagship clocks with Synchronome movements at Liberty (left) and Selfridges (right) in London
A display clock for the Sunderland Daily Echo
Frank Hope-Jones authored several books and delivered numerous lectures and radio broadcasts on the subject of timekeeping. He personally announced the first introduction of British Summer Time on BBC radio in 1923, counting down the last five seconds of the hour. Subsequently, he suggested that the BBC collaborate with the Royal Observatory, Greenwich to regularly transmit accurate time signals, which led to the famous six 'pips.'
The BBC's iconic six 'pips' time signal originated with an idea proposed by Frank Hope-Jones
Highly eccentric and tirelessly self-promoting, Frank was a familiar figure in horological circles and beyond. He often referred to himself as Old Father Time, creating a company logo that depicted this mythical character, whose origins date back to the Greek god Cronos.
After going through various iterations in the 20th century, the Synchronome brand was relaunched in the 21st by Mark Hope-Jones, Frank's great-great-great-nephew. The focus today is on individual, hand-crafted wall clocks that draw on Synchronome's history and recreate historic designs, but in modern, modular colourways and with easy-to-maintain quartz movements. Originally the wall dials were slaves to a master clock, but now they are their own masters - free, autonomous, and independent.