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    What to know when buying an Atmos...
  • If buying an Atmos online, photos are crucial.  Because the case of an Atmos is so reflective, pictures taken on patterned tablecloths, grained wood, or other 'busy' backgrounds can hide scratches, corrosion, and other surface defects in the case.  The best pictures are those taken on a well lit, solid colored surface, under white light.  Otherwise, you should be cautious that the case may not be as nice as it appears in the photos.
  • Speaking of buying an Atmos online - eBay is one place to look, but I recommend getting some knowledge before going there.  There are some nice clocks there, but there is a fair amount of problem clocks there, too, and you need some experience to be able to tell the difference.
  • Sometimes, an Atmos will have a "missing", "loose", or "removed" minute hand.  This is probably because someone was careless when setting the clock, and the very fine post to which the minute hand attaches was broken off.  This is most common with the Atmos models that require the case to be lifted off to set the time, including the Atmos II, 519/529, and 528-6, but can happen to ANY Atmos.  This is an expensive repair because the pin is part of one of the wheels in the movement, and the wheel must be replaced.  The wheel costs about $200, and the labor to replace it can be substantial.
  • The Atmos is powered by a chemical-filled bellows that contracts and expands with changes in air temperature.  This action winds the mainspring of the Atmos.  The bellows is the most common cause of Atmos failure.  Over time, the chemical (ethyl chloride) will actually permeate the metal and escape, or in some cases, the bellows will crack with age.  The bellows MUST be intact for the clock to run long-term.  If an ad says something like "runs for a while and then stops", this could be because the bellows is bad.  A new bellows is around $250 for parts alone.  Ed's Note:  A 'bellow' is a loud, deep sound.  A 'bellows' is a device that is capable of expanding and contracting, and that is what is in an Atmos, and what makes some clocks go 'cuckoo'.
  • With some work, it is possible to wind the Atmos by hand.  This manual winding may last for several months, and will temporarily hide a defective bellows.  However, the accuracy of the Atmos will suffer if the movement is not continuously wound by the bellows.  They typically run slow during this wind-down process, beyond the range of the regulator.  And of course, if the bellows is defective, the clock will eventually stop.  If you can see the regulator on top moved all the way over, this is a clue the bellows is dead or dying.  If the chain coming from the bellows is not wrapped at least partially around its pulley, the bellows is flat (or even missing) and will need service.
  • Atmos repairs can be quite expensive, and repairs requiring new parts can take a long time if these are out of stock with the U.S. supplier and must be imported from Switzerland.  Parts are available only through Jaeger-LeCoultre authorized repair shops (or occasionally, E-Bay!).  There are special tools for the Atmos, as basic as the hand puller, and not just any clock shop is prepared to service an Atmos.  The repair of an Atmos is unlike traditional clock repair, and it is easy for a clockmaker not experienced in the Atmos to make an expensive mistake.  There is a suspended torsion pendulum, coupled to a fine movement through a fork and roller pairing that is decidedly temperamental.  The whole thing is powered by a mainspring that is wound by the actions of a temperature sensitive bellows.  Not like any other clock in the world!
  • The "suspension wire" is a very delicate wire from which the rotating pendulum is suspended.  The Atmos provides a locking mechanism to lock the pendulum and take tension off the wire. If the Atmos is moved without locking the pendulum, the suspension wire can be broken; if the Atmos is shipped without locking the pendulum, it is a virtual certainty.  Suspension wires can lose tension, stretch, and even become twisted as the clock ages, and these conditions can cause inconsistent performance of the clock.  Replacement of the wire will require rebalancing the pendulum and a number of adjustments to set the timing.  Ed's Note:  The Atmos is a precision instrument, but it is still a mechanical clock, and not capable of quartz accuracy.  However, a properly timed Atmos can run to within 1 minute per month.  Initial timing is most accurately done with a laser timer, but may still need to be tweaked after setup in a new environment.
  • If you see an Atmos where the pendulum is resting on the platform, this is a clear indication that the suspension wire is broken.  In this case, you will want to check the roller and spring at the top of the pendulum and the end of the fork for damage.  If the clock is to be shipped, even though the spring is already broken, you will want to make sure the pendulum is raised to its normal position and placed in the locked position.  This will help prevent additional damage during shipping.
  • The original finish of an Atmos clock is NOT brass.  The cases of ALL metal-cased Atmos clocks were plated with a thin layer of 24K gold at the factory.  (The exception is the silver-colored Atmos, which is usually chrome, nickel, or rhodium-plated.)  Some had lacquer applied as a final finish.  NEVER USE BRASS POLISH! If the case is badly tarnished or spotted, it likely CANNOT be polished to a satisfactory finish.  Attempting to polish heavily will remove the lacquer, if present, and damage the gold plate, and result in a case with inconsistent color (there is brass or nickel beneath the gold).  A pitted case will require complete refinishing.
  • For several decades, the Atmos was popular as a service or retirement gift in corporate America.  Many of these clocks were presented with an award plaque attached to the front.  Some were glued on or stuck on with tape, and some were bolted on by drilling holes in the front base of the case.  Whether or not the plaque should be removed is personal choice.  Personally, I like the plaque when it is dated since it will provide some history of the clock, and validate its antiquity.  But you should know that if you want to remove the plaque, even if it can be removed without damage to the case, it is possible that the gold finish behind the plaque will not match the rest of the case due to aging or the inability to remove all residue.
  • Last update: 12/29/16