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A Thing That Works

In this disposable society in which we live, a product is no longer expected to last beyond its warranty period, if that long. Products such as the manual can opener, which really can’t be improved, are rare. Oh, there are a few marvels of engineering and manufacture: the spoon, dental floss, and the cutting board, to name a few. But most products are poorly designed and made.

One of the marvels of the twentieth century is the electric alarm clock. I plug it in, set it, and as long as there is electricity flowing through power lines, it will run forever it seems. I have a no frills model–the Spartus Sonic, model #1108. I have had this clock for twenty years. The ubiquitous red L.E.D. display tells the time. Time is set by manually scrolling through the hours and minutes via the switches on top. A 9v battery can be installed in the bottom of the clock to sound the alarm should the power go out.

Curious about the Spartus Corporation, which is now owned by Salton, Inc., a little research on the web revealed its origins in the nineteenth century. W.L. Gilbert and Company, which began in 1841, became the William L. Gilbert Clock Corporation which manufactured paper mache alarm clocks during WWII. In 1947-1948 the company made the famous KUM-PET dog feeder alarm clock. The corporation was sold to the Spartus Corporation of Louisville, Mississippi in 1964.

The alarm is considerably annoying. What could be more desirable in an alarm? You don’t want it playing “Brahm’s Lullaby.” It has a snooze bar which repeatedly adds nine minutes of bliss to your sleeping time.

It sits in my room, as accurate and humble as the day I wrenched it out of its blister pack. No oiling is needed, a little dusting once in a while keeps it looking new, there is no remote, it contains no radio. It tells the time.

About Neal Gardner

  • Ron

    I have had my plain sparrow ala clock for over 30 years and used it everyday.. I bet if I dusted it off it could look brand new.. It’s amazing

  • G. Budd

    We have a dining room that we try to keep “China-free”, filled with vintage stuff that will last forever, more or less. Have a “Moonbeam” clock, but no Spartus. That’s in the office.

  • Joseph

    All that I am able to remember is that every year my school made me sell boxes of chocolate. I have had the Spartus Sonic Model # 1108 OX xcmhsm, listed clock 526N since at least the 2nd Grade, maybe as long as Kindergarder. That being said, the minimum is a 22 year ownership possibly longer. I can still remember going to the princepal’s office to choose my prize. I can remember telling her that my mother said I needed an alarm clock. Well this has been fun. Okies Laters.

  • rob

    I just got one of the Spartus dual alarm clocks at Goodwill (it says “Jupiter II” and “526N” on the bottom) but the buttons on the top are unlabeled. Can someone who owns one help me out?

  • Fred Payton, Jr.

    I have a Spartus Quartz LCD alarm clock that I bought somewhere around 1981 or ’82, and I must say it is somewhat of a miracle. First 1.5V battery I put in lasted about two years. The second lasted five. the third battery is still in the clock and going strong. I don’t know if it’s the clock or the battery but the Duracell Jan. ’92 AA battery is still working. I can’t get any numbers off the clock because I don’t want to remove the battery ,yet and maybe cause bad luck. Best clock I ever had.

  • Lucas

    Another 1108 owner here, mine has been through enough abuse that the buttons on it actually are starting to wear out and I have to press down pretty hard on the TIME button for it to function. It also seems to run faster than normal if I plug it into certain outlets, probably something with the voltage. However, it’s the only alarm I’ve ever used that WILL wake me up, every time, within seconds. I’ve actually become conditioned to wake up about a minute before the alarm (regardless what time I set it to) just so I can turn it off and not have to hear it. A true success in engineering the most horrific sound known to mankind.

  • robert

    i have a spartus model 1261 that runs fast. the display has about 3″ numbers. i would like to get it repaired or replaced. any suggestions? thank you,rb

  • Dennis

    I have a Spartus Model 1819 and cannot figure how to change the time to account for Daylight Savings Time. Can anyone help? Thanks

  • cesar

    Hi, that model its like model 1147? how do you set the alarm? i have the 1147 but i dont know the way to set the time of the alarm, thanks.