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Rittenhouse Precedent

Rittenhouse Precedent Model 575

Rittenhouse Precedent ~1956

This innovative chime is an exercise in mid-century minimalism.  This chime was made possible by the then newly-developed Rittenhouse Master Model Controller which could be located discreetly and remotely from the chime. This allowed the designer,  Jean Otis Reinecke to streamline the solenoid unit at the top of the chime. For a bit of flare and additional utility, a mallet hangs from the side allowing users to signal other members of the household by playing a note or melody by manually striking the bells. Presumably, for ideas and inspiration, the instructions included a small selection of melodies that could be played. This signalling feature was shared with the Rittenhouse Prelude, also by Reinecke.

The chime was described in a trade publication:

Modern, functional, simplicity styled by Jean O. Reinecke, national leader of contemporary design. Automatically plays choice of 4 or 8 note signals for the front door, single note for the rear door. Felt mallet adds a new decorative note and may be used to play a variety of tunes for announcing dinner, or for other household signalling purposes. Chime tubes are of solid brushed brass, suspended from a hand burnished solid walnut block. Price includes felt mallet (chime may installed with or without mallet) adjustable volume control , life-time floating striker, famous Synchromatic Timer and heavy duty 24-volt chime transformer. 

The Precedent saw limited sales during its relatively short production run between 1956 and the early 1960s.  Consumers may have been put off by it’s somewhat radical design. Another factor may have been a relatively complex installation. Like other early long bell chimes a recess had to be created in the wall to accommodate the protruding solenoids to allow the head of the chime to lie flat against the wall.

A clever bell-hanging scheme is another, less cumbersome, feature  incorporated by Reinecke. The bell hanger cords are drawn through the decorative top of the solenoid head where they are looped around screws to suspend the bells. A dust cover is then set on top for a neat appearance from above.

Today, the Precedent is far less common, than the similarly featured   Prelude Resonator chime. Sadly, both chimes are often found without the Master Controller unit.

9 thoughts on “Rittenhouse Precedent”

  1. I , was looking up some chimes I got a few years back , and it brought me to your site , I have a pair of these chimes !? I’m so excited I salvaged them off of a Fabulous MD Modern 1950’s home in Houston, the house unfortunately was torn down !! Glad I saw these! Wow

  2. I recently purchased a George Franklin Barber Queen Anne home with a Rittenhouse Master Model 575-576 doorbell with Mallet, Master Controller and a transformer (in mostly working condition) installed. The “mostly working” part is that it isn’t able to strike the 4th chime in the 8 note chime sequence, due to the 4th strikers electromagnet unit being fried to a crisp. I was unsure of why that unit burned until today when I discovered that the (Master Controler) D-2 timer was wired for a rear door doorbell, that someone for whatever reason, must have removed but did not properly take care of the wiring. I assume they must have just stuffed the wiring in the hole in the wall and covered it up as I see no evidence near the back door of there being a doorbell. When I tested the rear door wiring I found it to be a dead short, which I am assuming is what fried the electromagnet, because it caused continuous power to the 4th striker instead of the required push pull stroke. So I have purchased a 24 volt 10mm stroke 5N push pull solenoid to see if I can retrofit it into the 4th striker solenoid spot and get the doorbell chimes to all function. Obviously, we have disconnected the faulty rear door wiring for now. If I can get the front door to do a full chime, I may try to reconnect the rear door with new wiring. Your information about this wonderful doorbell helped me immensely to figure out how to try to get this doorbell back working in full form. Thank you! Hopefully this will all come together. Keeping my fingers crossed!

    1. Good luck and thanks for the kind words. Contact Me if your retrofit doesn’t work. I may be able to help rewind your coil or replace it.

  3. Great website here! Thanks for sharing so much wonderful information. I have a Precedent model working great on the 8 note cycle to our front door. Is it really possible to play different melodies? Would you be able to tell us how?
    Best regards,
    Lancaster Pa.

    1. Hello, your chime most likely has a master controller where you can select either four or eight notes, however you can not select the alternate tones with the most common master controller.

  4. I recently restored the Precedent chime that was in disrepair when we purchased the home. I replaced the transformer and re-wired the chime and front door button. It is working great now on the 4-note sequence but I’d like to know how to change to the 8-note sequence. There are two screws on the side with an interconnecting saddle piece that I’m sure has something to do with switching from 4-note to 8-note but I haven’t figured out the right configuration yet for the 8-note. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Yes, the eight notes sequence is activated by connecting the two terminals with the “saddle” piece. You can also use a piece of wire. If the connection is electrically sound and you are not getting eight notes, the problem most likely is from a fault in the commutator contacts.

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