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A Thing That Works

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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.

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About Neal Gardner

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    I know what you mean, Neal – I have a dual-radio-station alarm clock which I bought just before I was married, 34 years ago now. Though the speakers have developed a buzz (tolerable as long as I keep a stack of previously-read paperbacks on top of it), and one of the two alarms can no longer be turned on, it still works.

    I’ll replace it only when I find a clock that lets me set the radio alarm to two different stations as well as two different times, allows time and station settings to be rolled back as well as forward, and gives me at least four programmable station buttons (a la a car radio) that can be set to either FM or AM stations.

    Or when it finally gives up the ghost.

  • Linda

    As I set my clock up an hour, I once again think of reliable my Spartus alarm clock has been. I have model #1108 and have been meaning to write the company. I purchased this clock when I was 17 years old to take to college with me. I am now 38 years old. This clock has outlived friends, boyfriends, residences, and even the store in which it was purchased. I have never written a testimonial, but I am ever so pleased and the Spartan Corporation is ever so deserving.

    Sincerely,

    Linda Bailey

  • Greg

    I have had a Spartus #1818 portable alarm clock for 16 years. I use it every day, and I have dropped it hundreds of times and traveled with it all over the country. It goes forever on a single AA battery. If I could find anymore of them, I would buy 3 or 4 and figure I was covered for the rest of my life.

  • Rosemary

    I have been looking for a way to contact the company that own Spartus now. I recently acquired a Spartus wallclock, model #5090, at an estate sale. The clock is in wonderful condition, however, it needs a few parts. I have looked at craft stores, but they do not have the pieces I need for this clock. It needs the little screw that holds on the clock hands, and it needs the pendulum disk. Can anyone give me a contact to reach for these parts?? Thanks.

  • Mark

    I also have a Spartus model #1108. The snooze bar stopped springing up just yesterday. My clock is broken. I cannot even remember how long ago I bought it. Do they even sell clocks anymore? I have forgotten how to shop for a clock. Does anyone sell Spartus clocks? I hope so. I couldn’t ever buy another brand. I am going to have to use my broken Spartus clock until I find a suitable Spartus replacement. I want all the features. You know, LED display, hour button, minute button, time button, alarm button, alarm on/off button and snooze bar.

  • dorann

    I have owned a Spartus His/Her alarm clock since 1978 (28 years). It still works great and I love it however the buttons are worn and it’s difficult to reset the clock every time we have a power outage. I would like to purchase the same exact clock and would only consider this brand. They produce a fantastic product

  • Tom

    Ditto, ditto, ditto. I have a portable Spartus that runs on one battery, and runs, and runs, and runs, and runs. Sometimes I think of it as magic! Seriously. I can’t remember ever changing the battery, and it runs flawlessly every day, hour, minute, second. A true gem.

  • James

    I have the exact same clock, Spartus model number 1108. It has been running for at least 20 years. And on top of that, I haven’t exactly been nice to it in the past 20 years. Every time it goes off, in my stupor of half sleep I smack it pretty hard. I lost the cover to the battery compartment a long time ago, but other than that, it works as well as it did when I first got it.

  • Clyde

    My Spartus is the small square 1727-Y4 travel clock, a simple, unpretentious product that has functioned perfectly for over 19 years. A new alkaline AA cell typically lasts a bit over 4 years in it, while a good carbon-zinc battery will go over one year (although the instructions claim that an alkaline is required). It loses about one whole second per week. Besides being reliable, accurate, and efficient, it has the advantage—especially compared to digital clocks—that changing the alarm time is very quick and easy, even if changing to an earlier time. My mother has a similar, slightly fancier, older one. Recently, a store gave her a “gift” of a cheap Chinese clock that is an obvious knock-off of the old Spartus. That counterfeit is grossly inaccurate, and ticks so loudly that sleeping in the same room would be difficult. I’d bet it can’t match the Spartus in longevity or in battery life, either!

  • Pam

    We also have a Spartus his/her alarm clock and just recently had to replace it because the alarms no longer work. The clock still keeps accurate time. My husband had this before we became a couple. I have been with him for 26 yrs. The date on the bottom of the clock says Jan.
    1978. If anyone has a replacement clock that keeps on ticking like this please let us know.

  • Scott Morrison

    I ran across this blog searching for another Spartus alarm clock that would rival my Spartus #1150 in design and dependability but also have dual alarms. Not that the 1150 isn’t still working perfectly every morning since 1984 (22 years at this writing). It is still just as good as the day I bought it. Amazing! They just did not have the dual alarm feature years ago. When I came up empty in my web search for Spartus I was chagrined that a company that made such a good product would not still be around. Guess I will check out Salton. Maybe some of that Spartus know-how survived.

  • Caryl

    I am so happy I found this blog! I have a Spartus Model 1819 portable alarm clock that I have had for at least 20 years, and I have to tell someone who would believe it & appreciate it! Like others wrote, a single battery lasts for years, & years of humidity in the bathroom had not affected it. But to my GREAT dismay, its front panel gave out the other day…though the hour remains correct, the screen shows times like 9:77, 5:92, 10:88 and so on. So in a sad, solemn ceremony, I removed the still-functioning battery to end its life. I was looking for the Spartus web site to send the company a wonderful letter & found this page. If only other things were as reliable as this!

  • Peter T

    I too have a Spartus alarm clock. Mine is a dual alarm which I really like because I start work at either 6:00 or 7:30 AM. I’ve been trying to find a new dual alarm clock like the one I have, but I’m not having much success. When I find one I like it has stuff I don’t want like a radio, MP3 player, etc. Either that or they are unreasonably expensive. If Startus clocks are still made I’d buy one (or more) in a heart beat.

  • Eric L.

    I have the Spartus model#1121 and model#1146. My mother bought the model 1121 for me when I started the fourth grade at 7 years old. I am now 31 and the clock works as good as the day it was new. I bought the other #1146 after I had had the first one for about ten or eleven years. It also still works like new! I thought that I had just gotten lucky but from the other comments that I have read, these truly are quality products! It kind of makes me wonder just how long they will last, and if my two little electric alarm clocks will still be around keeping time for my family long after I am gone.

  • Simon

    I am another happy Spartus owner. I have the model 1166-C1 which I purchased in 1984. Everything works. I get teased about it sometimes but I think they’re all envious.

  • Tom

    Last week after a power outage my Spartus 1181-61 that I inherited frm my Mother lost a few minutes time due to a weak battery backup (my fault). The time reset button has been “fussy” for the last few years but now it is dead. I have 3 other clocks that are not worth a dang. My Spartus had 2″ tall bright red display I could read from across the room without putting on my specs. I am alway scouring Ebay and yard sales for another! S000 simple! So Functional!

  • Greg

    I got my Spartus Starbust digital alam clock model 1119-61 for my birthday in Novemeber of 1982. It is July 2007, so the clock is approcahing 25 years years old, has moved with me 8 times in 3 states, and works great! The battery backup stopped working awhile ago, but has never been an issue. Now only if eveything else lasted that long…

  • Byron Vocelka

    My in-laws had this Spartus Electric wall clock in their kitchen for many years. They have passed away and looks like this clock has done the same. It was an accurate running clock. Any idea where I can get another? It’s difficult to read the Model No. Looks like 6676. There is another set of numbers – 281 XAXANT. Not sure what these are for.

    Thank you for your service.

  • http://www.cronkhitelawfirm.com Carolyn

    I have had my Spartus alarm clock Model 21-3009-190 since 1979. My brother gave it to me for Christmas because he was tired of having to wake me up. After 28 years, the LED lights have finally faded away so I can’t read the time anymore. The alarm still works and is still the most annoying sound in the world but it gets you out of bed. I replaced it with another alarm clock but it just isn’t the same. If I could replace the lights I would use it forever!

  • Jennie Lynn Waters

    I have a little tiger wall clock that needs repair. The tail is a pendilum, and the little eyes open and close – both seem to act like a second-hand. The clock aparatus broke, and the tail and eyes no longer work. Where can I get a new clock aparatus that will allow the tail to wag and the eyes to open and close? I live in New Orleans, Louisiana and the Clock and Watch Shop here can “fix” the clock for me for about $56.00 – but only the clock part will work – not the eyes and tail. I want the little clock to work like it used to. Please advise where I can get the proper clock aparatus for this little wall clock. I want to repair this little clock as a gift for my 38 year old son. His grandmother gave it to him when he was about two years old, and he used that little clock until he moved away for college at which time,I put it in the attic where it “expired” as a result of the heat and humidity of our city, I’m sure.

    Thanks-a-million for any assistance you can give me.

    Jennie Lynn Waters
    New Orleans, Louisiana

  • George Wilson

    Model 1818 is a perpetual motion machine. I bought this thing back in 1990, travelled heavily and used the alarm clock feature daily. Finally in 2001, out of respect for this aging clock, I retired it to desktop activity (no travel alarm) and to my surprise (2007) it is still running on the original battery. Wow.

  • Bruce C.

    I too have a Spartus Model #1108. My girlfriend bought it for me for my birthday in 1987. I’ve used it almost every day since then. I’ve taken it all across the world and it has endured countless baggage checkers in dozens of airports.

  • Billy

    I bought my Spartus digital alarm clock at the PX in Ft. Knox Ky in 1985. I moved with it to several countries and throughout the US. It’s still like new, has never stopped working. I love it!

  • walter

    Does anyone know where to get old partus clock parts ? or is this blog a black hole? Where questions go in and answers never come out.

  • walter

    forgive me , I was asking for Spartus parts.

  • Tom L

    I have a Spartus model 1182. That is the one with a high-intensity lamp lamp attached and a couple holes for pens. this thing has lasted forever but the buttons are getting funky. what am i going to do when this dies?!

  • Mike

    I too have the 21-3009-190 and (knock wood) it still works perfectly. I’ve had it since I was a child. The molded plastic case says (c) January 1979, so it’s about to turn 30!

  • Mark L

    I too found this blog while searching for a new Spartus alarm clock. I have owned the travel alarm model #1819 and have used it daily without a hiccup. It is white, although turning yellow with age! I couldn’t remember the last time I changed the single AA battery so I took the cover off and discovered that the Duracell battery had a best used date if Nov 1994!!! It is STILL running on the same battery since 1994. This company HAS to be out of business for building such a reliable clock…they NEVER break!!

  • John DeSellem

    I have owned a Spartus model 1108 since the mid nineties. I purchased this clock after I divorced my first wife (I am on #3 wife now)and it has been nothing but excellent. A modern marvel of
    craftmanship.

  • Erin

    I have Spartus alarm clock 66702 which was the first clock I bought when I moved from home when I was 18…now being 37 I’m amazed at how reliable it still is after all these years! The battery backup has been a trustworthy savior many times and i can’t even tell you when I changed the battery last….Spartus + Duracell=100% reliability! Glad to hear of so many others with a clock they’ve had for decades…now that’s a well built product!

  • Rick

    found this on the net–thought you might be interested

    2001 Style 10 Big Ben and Baby Ben introduced. Reproduction Moonbeam introduced.

    June: General Time Corporation announced it was closing its entire operation. Facilities in the United States were the headquarters in Norcross, Georgia and the factory in Athens, Georgia. The distribution centers in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Hong Kong were closed as well.

    August: Salton, Inc. announced the acquisition of the Westclox, Big Ben and Spartus brands from the bankrupt General Time Corporation,which had been the largest producer and marketer of alarm, wall and occasional clocks in North America.

    2002 October: Westclox products are available online from Salton .
    2007 On July 18, 2007 Salton, Inc. (“Seller”) and NYL Holdings LLC (“Buyer”) entered into an Asset Purchase Agreement as amended on August 23, 2007 (“Agreement”). The terms of the Agreement provided for Buyer to purchase Seller’s clock inventory and certain time products related trademarks and tooling and molds. The closing occurred in October 2007, when all inventory was transferred to Buyer.

  • DHiGGZ

    I have a Spartus Gemini II No. 1068.. Got it from my grandpa and though he passed away of cancer, the red led display still shines on brilliantly crsip, and the noise is still loud as ($&*@.

  • dot5ch

    The Spartus Talking Alarm Clock is wonderful for the blind and visually impaired. My wife has two of them and is looking for more (for other rooms in the house) BUT she wants the kind that will chime and/or talk every 15 minutes.
    I have not seen one lately either on the web or in any stores. The last one we got was at Radio Shack.
    Can anybody help me?
    Thanks.

  • Joshua Connors

    I am 15 years old and have the same 1108 model. It was my mom’s when she went to college. It’s so funny to see that so many have lasted so long! Must be a really good clock. =]

  • Greg B.

    I have a Spartus model 1156 digital alarm clock that I bought at K-Mart in the late 1980s. It still works great, but last month my cat knocked it off the night table and the snooze bar broke off. I would love to find another of these clocks. You see them occasionally on ebay but they get pretty pricey with shipping. I wish they still made them new.

  • sid

    I HAVE A SPARTUS METRO MODEL # 1745-C1 WHICH HAD BEEN WORKING FOR YEARS, YEARS ETC. I RECENTLY DROPPED THE CLOCK AND I FOUND THAT A NEW BATTERY LAST ONLY ONE (1) DAY. I WOULD LOVE TO HAVE IT REPAIRED
    . CAN ANY ONE HELP?

  • Peggy

    I received a Spartus clock for my wedding shower in 1981. It has been in my different kitchens over the years and now is in my office at work. It has never failed to efficiently keep perfect time and like others stated prior to my comment – each battery lasts for literally years on end!! Just today I decided to see who the manufacturer was and low and behold it’s Spartus! What a great product – one “made in America” we can all be proud to buy, but where are these great clocks now? Sad if they truly are gone.

  • Grey

    got an 1182 back in 1987… only used 3 light bulbs since then and i would probably lose my job without this alarm clock flashing in my face every morning.. where can i get another one incase this one retires with dignity?

  • Trent

    I too have a Spartus #1108, which I bought at a thrift store for $1 today. The only problem with it was the alarm did not work, but I fixed that by opening the clock and taping a loose wire back on the buzzer. From what I have read in the comments above me, I think this clock will last me a long time!

    Here is the most interesting part: this clock is 20-25 years old now (as of 2009), but I have an “Equity” brand alarm clock I bought brand-new just last year (2008), and the Equity brand clock is exactly like the Spartus clock! These clocks have more than 20 years between them, yet they look and function exactly the same! The only differences between them are a slightly different battery cover and slightly different button shapes. What are the chances?

    So, if anyone is ever looking for a Spartus 1108, or would like a newer version of it, keep an eye open for the Equity 1016.

  • Dede

    I would like to know if this company has a phone number or an email. Does anyone answer these things?

  • Trent

    To Dede, the General Time Corporation, manufacturer of Spartus alarm clocks, is no longer in business.

    It is unfortunate.

  • Armond

    I have a Spartus 1106 that has started to show its age. The clock is not keeping consistent time anymore. Sometimes it is hours fast or hours slow. Not bad for a clock I have had since at least 1985 and has moved 11 times over the years. The LED is still bright and the alarm still works flawlessly. I wish I could write the company and thank them for making such an unbelievable clock. Quality clocks like this one are a dying trend. Sometimes a simple clock with the most annoying alarm sound ever is all that is needed. Does anyone know of a good replacement? I guess not everything last forever.

  • http://moonset.ca Ron

    I must have bought my Spartus 1106 between 1981 and 1983. $19.99 at The Bay in Victoria. Yesterday, January 1, 2010, it started gaining a few minutes every hour. I shall miss it, but my eyes have gotten so weak in the ensuing decades that I needed a bigger display anyway. It turns out that my wife inherited her father’s large display Radio Shack digital clock, so we dug it out, and now I have a useful timepiece again. I wonder how long it will last.

  • Trent

    To Armond, look for a clock called the Equity 1016. It’s an exact remake of the Spartus 1108 that is made today. I own one, almost no difference from the original Spartus clock.

  • Jennifer

    I have had my Spartus alarm clock since I started high school in 1985. I love it. It has been my constant companion for 25 years. It is one thing I would save in a fire.

  • Steven

    I have my spartus alarm clock model 1148 for more than 25 years. I bought it in Century 21 in Lower Manhattan for about $10.00 and it was one of the best investments I ever made. Still works beautifully and the LED display, still bright. Although mine is made in China, but the Spartus Corp is listed in Louisville, MS on the clock.

  • Susannah

    I have had my spartus alarm clock with night light since 1985. It has moved with me 15 times. I have NEVER had to change the light bulb in the nightlight! I am now heart broken because my clock has started to speed up and I feel it is on its last leg. I have been unable to find another with a nightlight.Thanks for the excellent product Spartus

  • GEofFReY BEndORf

    I am trying to find the value of a Spartus model 6092. It is a wall mounted clock/night light. It was made in 1967.

  • JoelM

    My Spartus digital alarm clock is the model 122361 (red digital display, it is equiped to take a 9-volt battery in the bottom), “made in China”, “Spartus Corporation, Louisville, MS.”. I’ve had it, I believe, since the early nineties when I retrieved it from my parents’ house. I internet-searched “Spartus model 122361″ with no results. I’m curious when it was manufactured. Keeps on working like new.

  • Neal

    Greg,
    I have model 1819, if you want it I can send it to you, let me know your contact number

  • 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

    Man,
    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.