Atmospheric Clock Problem

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Atmospheric Clock Problem

Post by rogerwimmer » Fri Oct 24, 2014 10:14 am

Doc: I know you have many clocks and have made clocks for years, so I thought I would ask you this question. We have an Atmos brand atmospheric clock and it stopped the other day. We have had the clock for many years and haven’t had any problem with it. Before I take it to a clock repair shop and possibly put out a lot of money, do you have any idea why it stopped? I would like to do what I can to see if I can get it working again without great expense. Thanks in advance. - Anonymous

Anon: I have a suggestion for you because we have an Atmos clock, but before that, I think some readers might need to know a little about atmospheric clocks.

For readers who don’t know about atmospheric clocks, I took this explanation of an Atmos clock from Wikipedia (some editing on my part):

“Its power source is an internal hermetically sealed capsule containing a mixture of gaseous and liquid ethyl chloride, which expands into an expansion chamber as the temperature rises, compressing a spiral spring; with a fall in temperature the gas condenses and the spring slackens. This motion constantly winds the mainspring. A temperature variation of only one degree . . .is sufficient for two days' operation.

In order to run the clock on this small amount of energy, everything inside the Atmos has to work in as friction-free a manner as possible. For timekeeping it uses a torsion pendulum, which consumes less energy than an ordinary pendulum. The torsion pendulum executes only two torsional oscillations per minute, which is 1/30th the rate of the pendulum in a grandfather clock.”


There is a lot of information and many photos on the Internet about atmospheric clocks. If you’re interested, click here.

OK, on to my suggestion. As you probably know, the information about Atmos clocks says that the clock will (I love this) usually require routine maintenance by a professional every 100 years. OK, sure. But, this means that there is probably something simple causing the problem.

The reason I have a suggestion is that our Atmos clock stopped about a year ago and here is what I learned. The problem is probably related to one of two things: (1) Assuming you haven’t damaged the clock in any way, dust on the mechanism may have caused it to stop; or (2) The gas canister needs to be recharged.

Here is what I did and it worked. I put the clock in the “stop” setting by sliding the lever to the left and then removed the front glass door. Using a can of compressed air, I blew air all over the mechanism and glass housing. I did that three times. You don’t need to give the clock a hard blast. A gentle air stream is all that’s necessary. I then replaced the front glass door and pushed the stop/run lever to the right. The gas canister started rotating immediately, but it took about two hours to run normally. I think that’s related to the gas in the canister. The clock has been running perfectly for several months.

If that doesn’t work for you, the problem is probably related to the gas canister and you’ll need to go to a qualified Atmos clock repair shop to have that done.

Let me know if you have any other questions.

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Roger Wimmer is owner of Wimmer Research and senior author of Mass Media Research: An Introduction, 10th Edition.

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