Buying a Vintage Alarm Clock

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Buying a Vintage Alarm Clock

Reasons for buying

Welcome to the wonderful world of miniature design classics!

We all know that an item of furniture by Le Corbusier or Bauhaus for example, is a beautiful piece of modern design, but for most of us, It's pretty well impossible to collect in terms of space and budget.
Collecting Vintage Alarm Clocks however,offers you all the advantages of owning some of the 20th century's most stunning designs at a fraction of the cost.
They are excellent value for your money and collecting them will give you endless hours of pleasure.They don't take up a lot of space and actually they don't need a lot of maintenance if you buy them in good condition.
they are practical, fun to own and collect as well as good to look at!
They are also readily portable, by that I mean that they are pretty safe to transport  and don't require fiddly and often tedious 'setting up' in their new homes, This allows you to own, show, swap or trade much more easily!

Future investment?

Why not? Antique clocks have proven to be a very worthwhile alternative and they are much more fun to have around the house than a bunch of share certificates !
Buy carefully and 'with an eye to what someone else would buy' and likewise buy what you can live with. Quite soon you could accumulate some very attractive and tangiable assets.
 Antiques are generally considered a medium to long term investment.

What would suit me best?

Spend a little time thinking about whats important to you  ..... do you want to collect the different styles (Twenties, Art Deco, Modernist, 6o's Pop)? Different makes? Or clocks from different countries ..... clocks from specific eras, or clocks that represent a technological breakthrough.
Do you mind the ticking (not everybody does)? Because these clocks are mechanical  ..... If you think you might, or would like the clock next to you at night, then perhaps it maybe a good idea to look for a 'silent' example  ..... one that should run quieter. Often  some are as quiet as a wristwatch.
The finer jewelled movements are always quieter, but some more subdued models by design are: the JAZ Silentic or Silencieux and the Discreto for example ..... and German manufacturers Junghans produced a Silentic model as well.

You could collect clocks that would enhance your home or clocks to restore if you want to start a new hobby. You may want to a 'Classic Clock' simply because they look pretty cute or you might want a vintage clock to wake you up!
There's a whole world of different clocks out there on offer. There's bound to be one just right for you ..... and if you are not sure  ..... ask a reputable dealer! Most will be only too happy to help and guide you. In many cases they are often very knowledgeable and could often save you time and money.

What to look for

A picture speaks a thousand words so look carefully and it will tell you a great deal. Is the clock generally well photographed and from multiple angles? Does it have all its winders/knobs present? Is the glass, chrome plastic or paintwork in good shape? Price should reflect condition, age and rarity.
Do you want  to buy a restored clock? In fairness, most of the best clocks are in one way or another, you may be able to find one that’s been locked away for eighty years, but it may not necessarily be worth more than one that has been well restored.
Examine  the pictures closely, if you can, download them and 'blow' them up in a photo editor in order to study the detail more closely ..... if you don't have a photo editor there are a some good free ones out there to help you out. Are there any faults described? If so, are they significant to you?

The best makes to look for

If you are looking for a design classic, then look towards the French they have more choice than any other country. The big names to  look for are JAZ, probably the most prolific and certainly the most inventive in their designs. JAPY for some nice early Art Deco examples, the wonderful and original SMI  from the south of France and Blangy and Scout from the north. Bayard and Dep were also big players who produced some stunning Deco examples. From Germany, Junghans and Wherle are two good makers and from Czechoslovakia ..... look out for Kiple.
If you have the budget then the Swiss offer some very high quality alarms such as Jaeger Lecoultre, Cartier  and Cyma. There are other makers, too many to mention, but all the names here are premier league players!

Reliability and servicing

Reliability will obviously depend upon the condition of the clock, although it would be fair to expect a 'good timekeeper'. Most of the movements should run from between 24 to 30 hours, although there are a few 7 day examples around. Vintage alarm clocks are not going to achieve anywhere near quartz accuracy or that of a good wristwatch for example. Having said that, you can expect better than + or - 5 minutes over a day.
Remember, winding the clock used to be a bedtime ritual! The clock would be wound,re-adjusted(if required) and the alarm wound a set too!
All alarms have a form of regulation where it is possible to speed up or slow down the movement to get it just right for your conditions. On the back of the clock, you should find a slow/fast lever or an avance/retard on the older French models.
At the lower end of the market you should expect to buy your clock in 'as is' condition.This will almost always require servicing. The most common problems are dust and fluff blocking the mechanism or old oil that has gone dry and 'varnished', causing drag on  the movement. It's quite easy to blow the dust off, taking care not to damage the more delicate parts and the movement can be cleaned often very successfully with solvents or proprietary cleaning products. there are many guides available to hep you through  this.
It would be reasonable to expect a better higher priced clock to be cleaned checked and tested.


You may be tempted  to buy a 'non runner' in need of repair. often these are advertised as 'over wound' which means basically that it's stopped running. It is not possible to over wind this type of clock. Some times a gentle rocking can start the movement going and that may be all that is needed. There again, a little more may be required. The clock may need servicing or need a new part or two. Whatever the requirements, it will introduce you to a fascinating new hobby and there is a surprisingly helpful online community to get you started ..... good luck!

Buy from eBay with confidence

I think that you are already looking in the right place, eBay offers good purchase guarantees, as does Paypal.
Things do go wrong sometimes, and no good seller wants an unhappy buyer. If you are having problems be patient and contact the seller for  help and advice and I am sure that any difficulties will be resolved amicably.

Have fun buying your clock and carry on collecting!

Cherchez -Chic
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