Story in 500-ish

The Infamous “stopped” Watch of Windsor

by Michael DeStefano


  Windsor native Archibald Cummings, along with his more renowned future business partner Daniel Burnap, apprenticed with the celebrated Norwich, Connecticut watchmaker Thomas Harland. [Harland (1735-1807) was credited with making the very first watch in America.] Following Cummings and Burnap’s internship with Harland, these inventive watchmakers established a commercial shop of their own in East Windsor in 1790. While Burnap concentrated on clocks, Cummings honed his craft for smaller, more personal time pieces like pocket watches.
  Always an innovator, Cummings experimented with the crown-wheeled or verge escapement to make it more accurate. He also developed a more efficient marriage of mainspring and cone-pulley system for the Fusee movement in his watches.
  Cummings made his first watch (the infamous “stopped” watch of Windsor) in the small studio he set up in his home near present-day Palisado Avenue and Bissell Ferry Road. This watch incorporated the first improvement he used in his Fusee movements, a pierced balance table and a white enamel dial with Bregeut and Pomme hands.
  Archibald Cummings’ only love—besides watchmaking—was Adeline Porterfield. The inseparable pair were well-known childhood sweethearts. (It was long believed that the mutual devotion they felt for one another inspired the lyrics Richard H. Gerhard wrote in 1903 to the barbershop standard “Sweet Adeline,” but this was later proved to be unfounded.)
  In order to demonstrate her adoration for his work as well as Cummings himself, Adeline purchased the first watch he made and presented it to him as a special wedding present. As Adeline tenderly spoke into Archibald’s ear the very moment they were married, she whispered, “You are the time of my life!”
  At precisely four seconds after 2:36 am on the morning of their 25th wedding anniversary, Archibald Cummings passed away with Adeline by his side. Exactly 12 hours—to the second—later, Adeline Cummings followed him in death.
  But this story has a strange post-script.
  When their oldest daughter Amanda was going through their effects, she found the pocket watch Adeline had given her husband on their wedding day. It was stopped at 2:36 and four seconds, the exact hour both Archibald and Adeline died, only 12 hours apart on the same day.
  Amanda set the correct time and wound it to get the watch working again. But every time the hands arrived at 2:36 and four seconds, it stopped. Taking it back to Eli Terry who then ran the East Windsor shop, it was determined that the watch was in perfect working order.
  It is not known for which lover the watch actually stopped first. And why its movement never makes it beyond 2:36 and four seconds without stopping remains a mystery to this day.