Antique Atmos Clocks

Learn more about Antique Atmos Clocks

What is an Atmos Clock?

The technological concept of the gas filled Atmos bellows is a remarkable one: inside a sealed capsule, a mixture of gas and liquid expands as the temperature rises and contracts as it falls, moving the capsule back and forth. This motion is used to constantly wind the mainspring thus enabling the clock to keep constant time.

A small temperature variation of just one degree, or even a very slight change in atmospheric pressure, is sufficient to power the clock for just over two days. Such variation occurs naturally in normal room temperature and thus, without any additional sources of energy, the Atmos clock will continue to run if left untouched, ‘forever’.

Atmos Clock Features

When and Where Were Atmos Clocks Made?

The first Atmos clock was designed by a young Parisian engineer called Jean-Leon Reutter, in the late 1920’s. He struggled to get his ideas for a perpetual motion clock into production but, after a chance meeting with the manager of the famous Swiss watchmaking firm ‘Le Coultre’, he was so impressed with his clock that he immediately bought himself one.

Later Jean-Leon Reutter sold his design to ‘Le Coultre’ who shortly after merged with the famous Parisian watch making firm ‘Ed Jaeger’, to become the now world renowned watch making company ‘Jaeger-Le Coultre’.

Jaeger & Le Coultre poured considerable investment, collective research and development into Reuters Atmos clock. One of the main changes being that the bellows that originally contained mercury were now filled with a special, more stable, saturated gas known as ‘Ethyl Chloride’.

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s both the Swiss and Austrian governments gave the Atmos clock as a gift for visiting dignitaries and celebrities. Very soon the Atmos clock became an iconic piece of design and engineering that everyone wanted to own! Celebrated owners of Atmos clocks include John F. Kennedy, Sir Winston Churchill, General Charles De Gaulle, President Ronald Reagan, Mick Jagger, Elton John and many others.

Atmos clocks are still in production to this day, with the standard model costing £6,000 and rising to £25,000 for the most unusual design. In 2003, to celebrate Atmos’ 75th anniversary, a complicated and very special Atmos clock was developed called the ‘Atmos Mysteriuse’ which sells for Euro 1.5 million!

Atmos Clocks for Sale

A large number of Atmos clocks have undergone a great deal of alteration over the years and as such prices of Atmos clocks are influenced by condition, originality and authenticity.  The best advice which applies to buying any Atmos clock is to be vigilant and go to a reputable experienced dealer.

Olde Time Atmos Clocks for Sale

We supply a wide range of Atmos clocks here at Olde Time. We have a huge choice with each Atmos clock more unique than the next.

Setting Up Your Atmos Clock

Locking the Pendulum

When you receive the clock with the pendulum locked, i.e. the locking lever under the base at the front of the clock is to the right, it should remain locked until you have read these instructions and are ready to set the clock in its permanent place. Moving the clock without locking the pendulum can cause damage to the movement.

Moving the lever to the right locks the pendulum, moving it to the left unlocks the pendulum. The proper time to lock the pendulum is when it reaches an extreme in the swing, ie. It stops moving. When this occurs, move the lever to the right straight away. Do not lock the clock whilst the pendulum is in mid-rotation.

Levelling the Clock

Atmos clocks are designed to work best when placed on a stable, level surface that does not suffer any jarring. Use the spirit level at the front of the base plate to level the clock. Rotate the two levelling screws up or down until the bubble is completely centred. These screws are located inside the case at the front of the base of the clock.

There is a third foot at the rear of the clock, but this is fixed. The screws raise or lower the base and, if they appear tight when lifting the clock, just raise the base slightly with one hand. If the clock will not level within the maximum adjustment of the screws, use a shim under the appropriate foot.

Setting the Time

On some models, the door has a small knob which enables you to open the door. On others, the whole glass frame has to be lifted off; first, release the two side pins, then remove upwards very carefully.

On some, the front door of the clock is removed by pushing down on its gold knob on the top of the glass door, moving it forwards a little to clear the casing and then lifting the whole glass door out of the case. This must be done very carefully because it is easy to catch the sides or drop the glass and do some damage. Also be careful when replacing the glass door because it is all too easy to chip the bottom corners if it is not put back squarely.

Set the clock to the correct time by using the minute hand only. The minute hand can only be moved in a clockwise direction and only when the pendulum is at, or about to reach, an extreme in its swing, or is locked. Do not touch the hour hand and never move the minute hand backwards on an Atmos clock. It is good practise to only move the minute hand when the clock is stopped.

When the time comes in the spring to change the clocks for British summer time, just stop the clock with the lever, when the pendulum stops moving, and move the minute hand forwards by an hour. In the autumn, it is easiest to stop the clock and restart it after an hour has passed.

Starting the Clock

Once the clock has been levelled and the hands set, the door can be closed or put back in (whichever is appropriate for your Atmos clock) and the locking lever moved to the left. The pendulum should start to rotate and then keep oscillating backwards and forwards.

It is good practise when starting the clock (i.e. when moving the locking lever to the left) to hold something soft against the pendulum (disc) whilst operating the lever, as doing this prevents the pendulum disc from oscillating too fast. If the disc rotates much too fast, this can cause damage to the movement of the clock. It is best to set the hands a minute or two in advance before the door is closed or put back in so that the lever can be released at the correct time.

If the clock was stopped abruptly or accidently jarred, do not spin the pendulum round by hand as this can damage the suspension spring and the escapement mechanism of the clock. To start the clock again, gently move the pendulum in either direction by about one half of a complete rotation (180 degrees) using something soft like the eraser on the end of a pencil.

Timing Adjustments

The Atmos clock is very sensitive and can react significantly to very minor adjustments. If the clock is running too fast or too slow, use the adjustment lever on the top of the frame inside the case. As with any antique clock, timekeeping may vary from summer to winter.

Moving the lever left towards the ‘S’ will slow the clock down or moving the lever to the right towards the ‘F’ will speed the clock up. Each graduation mark represents approximately 10 seconds per day, it is best to move the adjustment lever a little at a time and wait several days or a week for the clock to adjust.

Atmos Clocks Maintenance and Repair

In order to keep your Atmos clock looking as good as new, you should follow these maintenance guidelines.

  • Keep the clock out of direct sunlight and avoid excessive hot or cold temperatures.
  • When cleaning surrounding areas, avoid moving the clock. If the clock has to be moved, be very careful to lock the pendulum first before moving to avoid damage to the movement.
  • A weekly feather dusting or cleaning of the casework with a mild natural beeswax or crystalline wax will help to remove fingerprints and a build-up of dust from the case. Crystalline wax is a mixture of refined waxes, blended to a formula used by the British Museum to revive and protect valuable furniture, leather, paintings, metals, marble, etc. It is available to buy from Olde Time.
  • The gold plating and lacquer on the case of the clock is very thin, so never use household cleaners or abrasives of any kind.
  • Never oil! The Atmos clock runs almost friction free and only needs a minute amount of oil, and then only in special places. Leave this to a trained horologist who understands the Atmos clock.

An antique Atmos clock should only be cleaned and overhauled by a specialist Atmos clock restorer.  Never attempt to clean or repair an antique clock yourself.

Appreciate your Atmos timepiece, handle it gently and with care, then it will add life and character to your home.

Jaeger Le Coultre Atmos Clock c.1985

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