Uh, oh: it's an Atmos

Discussion in '400-Day & Atmos' started by kinsler33, Sep 27, 2015.

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  1. kinsler33

    kinsler33 Registered User

    Aug 17, 2014
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    "I've got this clock that runs on air," said the voice on the phone, and my heart sank. Sure enough, it was an Atmos, the clock that requires that you received the Legion d'Honneur from the Swiss government before you can breathe near it.

    Facts: It's from 1957. He paid a dollar for it at a church sale. It ran fine up until X months ago.

    So I brought it home to my ersatz clock hospital here, and discovered that, after I start it, it will run for precisely 1 hour before it quits. Moreover, it likes to stop at almost exactly 30 minutes past the hour, but the hands, are not jamming.

    So I've been looking at it for a few days while it sits glaring at me in all its gold and glass glory. I've figured out the winding mechanism and the escapement and read all the cautionary literature from the Web, and I could use some advice from my betters here:

    First off, if I was actually going to violate the dignity of LeCoultre and try fixing this thing, how would I go about letting down the tiny mainspring, given that there's no key? It looks like I could hang onto the click wheel to let it down, but I don't know how strong that mainspring actually is.

    Then, assuming that the difficulty is that the oil hardened up in the pivots, do I take the cap jewels out to clean everything thoroughly? And what do these like to be lubricated with? Watch oil or clock oil?

    Any advice, up to and including telling the owner that I received a court order from The Hague to not touch it, would be appreciated.

    Mark Kinsler
    I don't know how I manage to get into these situations.
     
  2. John Hubby

    John Hubby Senior Administrator Emeritus
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    Mark, the first check you need to make is see if the bellows is OK. Could be it has leaked and no longer working, in which case the clock stopped due to lack of winding. Post a photo of the left side of the movement, showing the winding chain on its sprocket. If you haven't touched it or tried manually winding the clock we will be able to see if there is a bellows problem.

    Regarding service of the clock, you "do" need some special tools especially the hand puller to remove the minute hand. Without it there is a high risk of snapping off the minute shaft.

    Regarding oil, "do not" oil the movement pivots. Oil is used only for mainspring lubrication and the first wheel (non-jeweled) pivots.

    You can read about tools, servicing, and a lot of other hints and tips on Mike Murray's site at www.atmosman.com.
     
  3. Jay Fortner

    Jay Fortner Registered User

    Feb 5, 2011
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    All the parts in that clock are very fragle and VERY expensive. It stalling with the minute hand at the bottom tells me it is down on power. The first thing to check is the bellows. They are filled with ethylene chloride gas which expands and contracts with small variations in temp. The clock needs to have at least a five degree change in temp. to stay wound so if your house is climate controlled it may be necessary to place it where sunlight hits it and warms the interior of the clock case at least once a day. If you have to let the MS down it is done by gently pushing the click feather away from the ratchet drum while holding your finger against the drum so the MS doesn't unwind to fast. Emphasis on handling everything very gently.
     
  4. kinsler33

    kinsler33 Registered User

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    I did figure out how to wind up the mainspring by pushing on the ratchet wheel, and it wound up about half of a turn. Our house is about as climate-controlled as we can get it, which isn't very good because this joint is older than the clocks I fix.
    So I assume, given that we're not supposed to lubricate the fine jeweled pivots, that the clock just needs cleaning.
    I have a couple of hand pullers in my arsenal: is the Atmos hand puller dramatically different?

    Thanks very much for your responses. Here are some photographs of the marvelous device:
    IMG_4042.jpg IMG_4037.jpg Thanks again. Mark Kinsler
     
  5. Jay Fortner

    Jay Fortner Registered User

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    The puller for atmos hands has a much smaller plunger. Judging by the amount the return spring for the winding chain is compressed or actually not extended makes me think the bellows are OK. You can manually wind it by rotating the chain wheel but be careful that the chain doesn't fall off the roller in the rear frame and don't let the return spring come around too far on the chain wheel,give it just a few clicks at a time
     
  6. Dick Feldman

    Dick Feldman Registered User

    Sep 1, 2000
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    Mark,

    An Atmos hand puller is designed to do only that job. Generic pullers will probably break the minute arbor. If you break that, you are in deep. If you do not have the proper tool, and do not want to buy it, my advice is to give the clock back to the owner in the same condition you got it. (He won't want it back with the minute hand lying in the bottom of the case.)

    An Atmos clock from 1957, likely needs a bellows or bellow recharge. If you can manually wind the clock and it runs—look closely at the bellows for a problem. Many years ago, Atmos was bought out by Longenes (I think) and the market for genuine Atmos parts dried up. What is left are used parts unless you are an authorized Longenes dealer.

    Any/all parts are expensive. This fine clock deserves to be worked on by a trained and competent technician.

    Best Regards,

    Dick Feldman
     
  7. Jay Fortner

    Jay Fortner Registered User

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    Dick,I think you need to read the the OP!
     
  8. kinsler33

    kinsler33 Registered User

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    Sigh. I know.

    But it's likely to be discarded, for nobody within reach will look at it, and I don't blame them. I shall proceed with utmost caution and some considerable creativity.

    M Kinsler
     
  9. John Hubby

    John Hubby Senior Administrator Emeritus
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    #9 John Hubby, Sep 28, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 31, 2017
    Actually, Jaeger-LeCoultre (JLC) was bought out by the Richemont group in the year 2000 and are now a wholly-owned subsidiary. JLC has continued to be a "stand-alone" company with its own manufacturing and marketing even though owned by Richemont. It is true that parts supply started drying up not long after the Richemont takeover but the same was true for all of the companies purchased and now owned by Richemont including Dunhill, Baume & Mercier SA, Cartier, IWC International Watch Co. AG, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Montblanc, Piaget SA, Roger Dubuis SA, Vacheron Constantin SA, and Van Cleef & Arpels. Richemont continue to restrict parts supply and are presently under investigation by the FTC for restraint of trade.

    Longines-Wittnauer was the parent company of an American distribution company named Vacheron-LeCoultre, formed in 1932 due to the Smoot-Hawley tariff act that required all watches sold in the U.S. to be cased in American-made cases. Vacheron-LeCoultre sold watches with LeCoultre movements (1932-1937) and then Jaeger-LeCoultre movements (1937-1985) under the "LeCoultre" trademark in cases that were slightly different than those sold directly by JLC. That association ended in 1985, when JLC took over distribution of their own watches and clocks worldwide. Note that although Vacheron-LeCoultre also marketed Atmos clocks, the "American made" requirement did not apply to clocks so the cases of Atmos clocks were all made in Switzerland (but most of the metal cases were made by third parties under contract to JLC).

    Two other U.S. distributors of Atmos clocks are known, the first was Movado from 1932 to 1935 while Compagnie Génerale de Radiologie (CGR) still owned the Atmos business. The other was Gruen, who contracted with JLC to make a special design wood-case clock using their own names "Gruen Gulld" and "Cosmos". These clocks are based on the 526 caliber movement and apparently intended for exclusive sale to the U.S.

    Finally, JLC also made Atmos clocks for a number of retail companies who had their names placed on the dials or cases, including Tiffany & Co., Türler, Kirby Beard & Co., and others.
     
  10. Jay Fortner

    Jay Fortner Registered User

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    You're gonna get these boogey man stories. Only certified atmos technicians can buy atmos parts but that's not to say you have to be certified to repair the clock but you do need gentle hands,forethought and good mechanical knowledge. I think the stories stem from clockmakers that have tried and failed at repairing these clocks and figure if they can't fix it nobody can. Not knowing your skill level I would suggest locking the pend.,remove the dial and movement and leave it alone. Remove the bellows chamber and measure the height of the bellows to determine if it is within range. Remove the front frame to gain access to the main and second arbor. The holes and pivots can be cleaned manually. The MS can be spiraled out cleaned,oiled and in by hand with caution to not let it cone. You will have to remove the piece of bent wire from the chain so count how many links are loose beyond where it goes through and commit it to memory or write it down so you can put it back in the same link when reassembling. Oil the MS,main arbor,second arbor and chain guide roller with light clock oil. I use Moebius 8031. Avoid doing anything with the pend. assembly,that's a whole new can of worms.
    If it doesn't run after that and you still want to throw it away,throw it my way.
     
  11. new_hampster

    new_hampster Registered User

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    It does not appear the bellows is down, and if it was tight after only 1/2 turn, that may not be the problem. But on this caliber, you can remove and check the bellows without removing anything else. The 2 acorn nuts hold the bellows canister to the back frame. If you are satisfied that the clock is wound and it still won't run, whether or not the bellows is good, there is another issue.

    If you do decide to remove the movement, be sure to block the intermediate wheel so the mainspring doesn't unexpectedly let down on you and possible damage the teeth.
     
  12. Dave T

    Dave T Registered User
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    Interesting thread. Any updates on the progress?
     
  13. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    Atmos clocks are supposed to be incredibly sensitive and very efficient. One degree centigrade temp difference over two days or 3mm of Mercury.

    Even if your house maintains temperature within 1 degree, which would be quite something, it is very unlikely to be immune to barometric pressure changes.
     
  14. kinsler33

    kinsler33 Registered User

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    Essentially, it worked. I followed Mr Fortner's kind advice and, after running the thing for perhaps six weeks, returned it to the customer. I did dip the jeweled works into a plastic bag filled with 91% rubbing alcohol and then immersed that in my ultrasonic cleaner for, I think, twenty seconds. Then I dried it out, lubricated everything else that had to be lubricated, and got the fool thing re-assembled. I did have one moment of panic when the clock wouldn't run with any vigor at all, but then I realized that I hadn't given it an initial wind and thus the mainspring was completely run down.

    Concerns over the lack of a hand-puller proved unfounded, mainly because the minute hand fell off on its own and had to be secured with the slightest bit of low-strength Loc-tite. The screws that hold the dial on are insanely tiny, which is why I recruited Natalie, to whom I've been married for years and who has notably steady hands, to handle those.

    Again, thanks to Jay Fortner and everyone else for their help.

    Mark Kinsler
     
  15. Kevin W.

    Kevin W. Registered User
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    Glad it turned out well Mark, gives me more encouragement to work on mine.
     

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