Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Who needs a nixie clock?

Quite possibly built in the late 1930s here's the electro-mechanical digital clock I've just acquired.

It doesn't have a digital display, i.e. one with digits, instead it has 12 lamps for the hours, five for the tens of minutes, and another 10 for the minutes.  The lamps are switched by telephone exchange type uniselectors.  There are rotary switches on the side to set the alarm.

The calendar part is entirely mechanical, but it has a cam on the month wheel to set the number of days in each month.

I'd love to know if anyone has ever seen this clock or a similar one before, where it was used, who made it, or anything else.

Over the weekend I'll see if I can get it working.


Some nixie clocks have used Strowger (uniselector) switches.  See the gallery here (search for the Tomlin clock).    
Digital (display) clocks did exist in the 1930s - see


Unknown said...

That is one of the most fantastic things I've ever seen and I am supremely jealous.

Do let us know if you find out anything more about it's provenance as I want to track down one for myself.


ka1axy said...

So...where did you get it? Found on the side of the road? Cleaning out the attic of a new house?

The photos are great, and I can't believe the maker didn't sign it. If the date of 45/1 on the capacitors is to be believed, it must have been built shortly after the war. From surplus parts? Is there a Tommy Flowers connection?

Unknown said...

I bought it on ebay in December 2008. The seller was one of those house clearance folks selling items from a deceased chap who apparently dealt in early electronics. That's all the info I was able to get from the seller at the time.

As I paid less than £50 for it, I reckon it has to be a genuine item. If I was trying to fake something like this I'd need a lot more just to buy the parts.

None of the enquiries I've made of experts has revealed any similar clock. The Science Museum had never seen one before.

ChrisRuff said...

Impossibly Wonderful. It looks to me like this was the work of an individual with a lot of time on his(her) hands. The calendar section is the most interesting of all. I wonder if it came from some other manufactured item and all of the rest was built around the calendar. Do the gears show marks of hand measurement and hand cuts? I think you have the only one in the world. Awesome.