Ever since the Grace Schmidt Room re-opened in the renovated Central Library, it had been missing something – our Pequegnat Leader grandfather clock. When I started at the Library in 2004, the clock had been a constant presence in the GSR – stately, solid and a wonderful touchstone to Kitchener’s rich manufacturing past. During the Central Library renovations, the clock was sent to off-site storage for safekeeping. It returned in the summer in 2014, but needed a bit of attention, so it remained in our archives.
After replacement of a small glass door pane by Dave Burns of Foiled Again Stained Glass Studio of St. Jacobs and a refurbishment of the clock mechanism by John Budimlic of European Watch and Clock Repair, our Leader Grandfather clock is now happily ticking and chiming away. The gentle chimes remind me of an earlier time, when life was a little slower, reflective and deeper. It is wonderful to hear the soft chimes marking the passage of time – so much more friendly than the silent, unblinking constant glare of a digital time signal.
I’ve been searching for the age of the clock and from what I can tell from our files, the Leader grandfather clock first appeared in the 1904, 1913 and 1918 Pequegnat catalogues.
The clock was manufactured by the Arthur Pequegnat Clock Company of Kitchener. Arthur Pequegnat, who had emigrated to Berlin from Switzerland in 1874 with his parents, was a watchmaker and jeweler, who operated jewelry and repair shops in Mildmay and Berlin. He became fascinated with bicycles and opened the Berlin and Racycle Manufacturing Company in 1897 with his brother, Paul. Together, they built bikes which were sold across Canada. By 1904, Arthur had started the production of clocks and timepieces at the back of the bike factory. With the rise of the automobile, bicycle manufacturing was phased eventually phased out by 1923 and clock production became their main business. The factory was located at 53-61 Frederick Street (east side of street), near the corner at Duke .
The Arthur Pequegnat Clock Company manufactured over 80 models of clocks for hall, mantlepieces, offices, schools, parlours and precision timepieces for railways. Arthur Pequegnat died in 1927 and the business was taken over by his son, Edmond. The business discontinued operations during the Second World War due to the shortage of brass and competition from mass-produced American clocks. A repair business and a wholesale business for Westclox augmented post-war clock production. Edmond Pequegnat died in 1963 and executors wound down the business in 1964. The Kitchener Water Commission office was built on the site of the plant in 1965.
Next time that you are in the GSR, remember to listen for the sweet sound of the hands of time!