Is there a Buyer's Guide for 400-Days?

Discussion in '400-Day & Atmos' started by SpaceCowboy850, Oct 31, 2019.

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  1. SpaceCowboy850

    SpaceCowboy850 Registered User

    Oct 29, 2019
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    I did a quick search and didn't turn up anything. At the most basic - I need a mantel clock.

    I got an Atmos (I love the idea behind the Atmos), but from where I sit, I can't read the damn thing. The hands disappear in the center hole. From 5 feet away or so it is perfectly visible, but further than that, it becomes a "fortune teller" clock - if you know what time it is, you can tell the time on it.

    I might return it or move it upstairs on my desk, because it is a beauty.

    So that leaves me without a mantel clock. I could just go get something cheap and electric off of Amazon, but the idea of a real mechanical clock appeals to me.

    With 400 day clocks, the rotating torsion is intersting to watch, and it reminds me of a quartz version that my mother had as a kid.

    But it seems I can only find these on ebay, which I consider that might be of questionable quality. What is the best way to buy a 400 days? Should I save money and get a used one and get the 400 day repair book and get it working myself? Just look at local clock shops? Anything to watch out for? (The atmos I bought I ended up buying from a local clock shop as I bought one off of ebay and it was non functioning so I was able to return it for a full refund, but its made me wary of buying these types of clocks on ebay).

    Is it reasonable to expect sub 15 second accuracy per day on a 400 day?
    Any better alternatives for a mantel clock - I'm not opposed to electric, but I generally like there to be something interesting about the clock (for instance we have an atomic clock in our bedroom that we love, but I like the idea that it is precisely the correct time all the time, I have a grandfather clock in the front room with a moonphase, and it's a grandfather clock).
     
  2. etmb61

    etmb61 Registered User
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    Oct 25, 2010
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    Well there is no buyer's guide but you've come to the right place to learn about 400 day clocks.

    First off, unless you find on in an original sealed unopened factory container, All mechanical 400 day clocks are used. The Boom for them was after WWII in the 1950s and 60s when millions of them were made and a good portion of those imported to the US. I believe the most common style is like this one:
    STD.JPG
    It's 12" tall and has a 4" enameled dial and brass base under a glass or plastic dome. I'm pretty sure every 400 day clock maker produced a model in this style. The bases on clocks like this one are about 7 1/2" diameter so your mantle needs to be at least that deep.

    ebay probably has the largest selection of 400 day clocks of any one place. That's where I got most of the 100+ that I own.

    Are there better alternatives? That depends on your taste in clocks.

    Eric
     
  3. KurtinSA

    KurtinSA Registered User
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    Nov 24, 2014
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    Welcome to the message board! Interesting dilemma and questions. I'm sure you'll get a range of responses.

    Atmos clocks are highly sought after...they are precision clocks which many jeweled bushings which equates to accuracy. Plus they have a self winding aspect which is attractive! But if you have it sitting far away, as with any clock that has a dial in the 4-6 inch range, you're going to be hard pressed to see if from a distance. Find a spot closer to your sitting area and enjoy.

    I guess the question is are you thinking about getting into mechanical clock repair or you just want one or two clocks? Plenty of mantel/wall clocks out there...bigger dials, they make noise, etc. Maybe they're easier to work on...I wouldn't know...my focus is 400-day. Weight driven clocks are going to be the most accurate I would guess...good old gravity! But other spring driven clocks can be accurate enough I suppose. I have been running a Gustav Becker wall clock that belonged to my mom...two train spring wind...amazing how accurate it is...note that it's an 8-day clock.

    As for 400 day clocks and accuracy, they can be good time keeper especially if you consider they're designed to run for a year to 400 days. They're a bit more finicky to set up and work on...they can be hard to ensure there's little friction which robs the clock of power. The accuracy tends to drift a bit. When fully wound with lots of spring power, they tend to run a bit fast...similarly near the end with lower power, they might be slow. But in the middle, once adjusted, they can be pretty accurate. I'd say getting to one minute per week or month are acceptable goals. While they only need to be wound once a year, the best bet is to wind them twice a year and keeping them in that middle power band.

    For sources, I don't tend to even look at ebay. I've gotten nearly all of mine at estate sales. I usually check the online listings once a week and if they're in my area, I check them out. Also antique stores, especially those that are "malls" with individual booths...they're worth checking every 2-3 months or so as inventory changes. You're in Texas...don't come into my shopping area!! :nutjob:

    I think most here on the forum are more interesting in the mechanical side of the clock and enjoy (might be too strong of a word!) bringing them back to life and admire them and how they work. If you just want something to tell the time, then any manner of quartz clock, even something that looks "old", might be the way to go.

    Kurt
     
  4. SpaceCowboy850

    SpaceCowboy850 Registered User

    Oct 29, 2019
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    Nah, I mean, I got into watches and I like both quartz and mechanical, but lean towards mechanical. Like I like my Casio G-Shock and my AmazFit, but most of my watches are mechanical - either hand wind or automatic.

    I don't mind setting an 8 day clock if it is off by a minute or two a week, since you have to wind it anyways. But it seems like the "sales pitch" of the 400 day is that you can wind it and leave it alone, even though that might not be the reality. Sounds like it is more "run for 3 or 4 months then wind and adjust". I guess given that, would a 1000 day clock be more accurate through the whole year?

    I very nearly bought a new 400 day clock on ebay a few days ago. It was still in box, but the seller wouldn't remove it to show the condition of the case or anything, so it was a difficult purchase for me.

    From what I can tell, if I get one on ebay I should expect to spend 200-400 servicing it before I can really expect it to run properly, then spend a few weeks dialing in the accuracy. Or I could buy the 400 day clock repair book and try to get a cheaper one and restore it. I'm just not sure what type of time commitment I'm looking at there buying and restoring it, and if in the end, after all the tools and parts I've bought if it would be cheaper. Though then, if it did break again, I would have the know-how to fix it and not be reliant on shops that may decide it's not worth the effort in the future.
     
  5. SpaceCowboy850

    SpaceCowboy850 Registered User

    Oct 29, 2019
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    And maybe this is "off topic" and should be in the "how much this is worth" - but what would be a good price range on a 400 day? <100 or less if it needs servicing? $300-$500 if it supposedly has been serviced and is keeping time?
     
  6. KurtinSA

    KurtinSA Registered User
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    Nov 24, 2014
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    Yeah, if you have a specific clock you're interested in, you would need to go to the other forum area to ask that question. But hearing that something "runs" on ebay has a wide range of meaning I'm guessing. If I bought something on ebay, unless I knew the person, I'd expect to have to overhaul it. I figure a dedicated clock repair person could overhaul a 400-day clock in 8-10 hours...go figure out what the hourly rate is for that. Be aware, though, that some clock repairman won't touch 400-day clocks. That's a "theme" I've run into before. The issue is they are finicky and the repairman needs to provide a warranty for the work. In my world, I could never do that...I'm just not that good. My father had a 400-day clock from the 1930s, we took it to a clock shop, he looked at it for 15 seconds and said it needed bushings. What he was saying was that he didn't want to work on it. 400-day clocks rarely need bushings. We ended up finding a excellent repair person and got the clock overhauled.

    You might be able to buy a 400-day clock cheap enough and you might be lucky that it runs as-is or you might also get lucky in that a simple disassembly, cleaning in some solutions (or ultrasonic cleaner), and put it back together to have it run. I've only been working on them for myself for 3 years or so. I've learned so much over that time...certainly bought books, tools, etc. Even after all that, I still have clocks that won't run but yet I look back on some of the first few I took apart and wonder how in the heck did I get that to run with so little knowledge/skill at the time? I guess even a blind pig finds an acorn once in a while.

    I don't worry about accuracy. I can look around my room and see all kinds of "times of the day". That's not what I wanted...I wanted to be proud of the clocks I have and the work I've done. I do wind clocks ever 3-4 days (not the same ones) and tweak/adjust a few whenever it's way off.

    So, I guess you have to figure out your motivation and maybe find something that appeals to your eye. Then you might get lucky or you might want to see what makes it tick! As mentioned, the Kundo or Schatz clocks from the 1950s to 1960s are good decent clocks that can be had for reasonable money. Then see where it takes you.

    Kurt
     
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  7. etmb61

    etmb61 Registered User
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    Oct 25, 2010
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    We didn't provide much of a buying guide in this thread. Let's start again.

    So you've decided to buy a 400 day clock, what should you look for? Here are some ideas to consider:

    1) Compete and original. The clock should have all its parts and they should all be from the same company that made the clock. Very often you will encounter clocks assembled from loose parts not originally sold together. These should generally be avoided. This will take some research to make sure you know what you are buying.

    2) Condition. The entire clock should be in the best condition you can find. Restoring a metal clock is tedious and time consuming. The more you have to refinish, the greater the chance of something getting lost or broken. Some parts like dials are extremely difficult even to clean without damaging them. The condition of some parts, like the mainspring, cannot be determined without physically examining the clock.

    3) Operational. The clock should work or require only minor repair (suspension spring or bottom block) to make it work.

    4) Case style. There are lots of different styles to choose from, some more desirable than others and their prices reflect this.

    5) Age. Older models tend to be more desirable to collectors than newer models. Parts for older clocks are difficult to find. There were a greater number of clocks made after WWII than before and most are still inexpensive.

    6) How much should you expect to spend? In 1951 the Schatz clock I pictured above sold for $39.50 through Remmington Rand. Adjusted for inflation that's $390 in 2019 dollars. I paid $30 for it in 2011. I believe there are still plenty of good clocks to be had near that price.

    There are no doubt other things to consider in your purchase but this is a start.

    Eric
     
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  8. SpaceCowboy850

    SpaceCowboy850 Registered User

    Oct 29, 2019
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    Okay, this is great info. Sounds like Ebay isn't a terrible place to find them, and the one $100 one I found might have been a bit high, so I can keep looking perhaps. Getting within a minutes accuracy a week should be achievable and perhaps even a minute for a month seems not out of the realm of possibility. I'll keep looking and post (in appropriate thread/forum) if I find something that looks interesting. Thanks for all the great feedback guys!
     
  9. Dells

    Dells Registered User

    Oct 18, 2019
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    Hi SpaceCowboy850
    I like you I am new to this clock fettish , I have always been interested in mechanical clocks, and I have had a few clocks for years but until recently have been a bit reluctant to strip clean and rebuild one until I found a Koma torsion clock (400 day) early 50’s in a junk shop all complete with glass dome but no key and non runner for £20, I offered them £15 approx $18 in your money and took it home .
    When I got home I checked the torsion spring and it looked as though it had been twisted into a coiled spring ,so I found out the correct torsion spring and ordered it, when it came I fitted it ( a bit fiddly to do ) although I could have purchased a spring already made up with top bottom and fork already fitted it Was 10 X the price of just the spring, and it run fine so it shows it can be something very simple to fix.
    But I had got the bug so I thought as it didn’t cost me much I thought I would strip clean and rebuild it, so after reading a couple of books ( how to repair 400 day clocks ) and ( Horolovar 400 day clock guide ) I did it and it looks and runs good now although it ran before but now it looks as it should.
    It just show that there are cheap ones about and they don’t always need a lot of work to get them running and it is nice to know that it is something I have done and it still working.
    Dell
     
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