Vintage alarm clocks are interesting pieces to have in a bedroom. Their design and operation are always found to be its most unique features. After all, it is not everyday that anyone can encounter an alarm clock that does not require any batteries and can run perfectly fine being wound up regularly. And the clanging bell that is the classic picture of vintage alarm clocks will surely wake even the deepest of sleepers immediately!
There are many things you need to understand about vintage clocks if you are to get the most out of them. First off, since vintage alarm clocks typically require winding, just like most antique wall clocks, you need to know how to wind them properly. You will need to use a key that fits snugly, and wind it up just to the point of resistance. Remember to wind it up regularly, preferably at about the same time each day.
Next, be informed about care and cleaning for your alarm clock. Many vintage alarm clocks come with a luminous dial. This allows you to see the time even in the dark, even if the clock does not come with batteries or a backlight like modern clocks sometimes have. You need to understand that the paint used for this luminous effect, especially in old times, was slightly radioactive. It usually came as a form of radioactive cobalt or radium and was combined with phosphorescent paint. The material glows when electrons strike it. Of course, more recent clocks have since stopped using radium and instead turned to an acrylic material that was made of a phosphorescent material that was sensitive to light.
Studies show that workers who tended to use their mouths in pointing up their brushes when painting the dials of vintage alarm clocks wound up having cancer on the tongue, lips, and throat. The good news is that there does not seem to be any health risk associated with using these clocks with the radioactive luminous dials, at least in normal use. And while you may think that the radioactive material is no longer there after many years, you need to understand that the half-life of radium is several hundred years! With this in mind, part of the way you handle your vintage alarm clock should be to avoid scraping off or touching the luminous dial, whether the hands or the markers on your clock. Whereas the phosphorescent material may die off, the radium doesn’t and may still be in place hundreds of year later.
So how do you repair the luminous paint on the hands of a vintage alarm clock? While many people believe it is possible to do it as a do-it-yourself project, you need to bear in mind the issue of the radioactive paint. As such, it will not be advisable to open up the clock and leave bits of the radium lying around on your kitchen table! You will need special equipment to strip off the old luminous material. Remember, just because the clock face doesn’t glow anymore does not mean the radioactive material is no longer there; it could be that only the phosphorescent material has worn off, but the radium is still active. Your best bet if you have a vintage alarm clock with luminous hands that need to be repaired is to send it to an antique clockmaker for repair.
Overall, a vintage alarm clock is a great timepiece to add to any collection. But considering the risks of the luminous dials, it may be a good idea to look for one without luminous paint, as it is hardly possible to tell what sort of material has been used in the first place. Alternatively, you can also find a modern version of an alarm clock made in a vintage design. Many of these clocks already make use of digital technology while still offering you the looks you are after. For example, the Seiko Desk and Table Alarm Carriage Clock will definitely look vintage, but you get to have it run on batteries and you obviously will not have to worry about radioactive materials in it. That way you actually get the best of both worlds, allowing you to enjoy a classic look minus the headache of actually maintaining a classic piece!