black and white photograph of the Spilhaus clock

Spilhaus Clock Designed by Dr. Athelstan Spilhaus

The following appears in booklet 1300, "Lots of Time", published by Edmund Scientific Co., Barrington, New Jersey in 1964.

"Dr. Athelstan Spilhaus, Dean, Institute of Technology, University of Minnesota, is well known to scientists the world over. He is listed in "American Men of Science" as a meteorologist, an oceanographer, and as the inventor of the bathythermograph, an invention which contributed substantially to our submarine warfare success in WW II."

"Through his meteorological work, Dr. Spilhaus has long had a keen interest in astronomical clock, their history and function. Years ago he conceived the idea of a compact space clock utilizing modern materials not available to early clockmakers. Over a period of six years he developed the simple, unique gearing for the various discs of the space dial. He built several models, and finally produced a design for a clock that is considered by many to be a breakthrough in the art and science of clock making.

When Dr. Spilhaus gave Edmund Scientific Co. the opportunity to manufacture and market the clock, they eagerly accepted the privilege. Edmund Scientific Co. has for over 21 years been a well known source of supply for scientists, teachers, hobbyists, and amateur astronomers. In the manufacturing of this unique instrument, everything consistent with good engineering practice has been done."

Spilhaus clock

The Best Of J.E. Coleman: Clockmaker

The Best Of J.E. Coleman: Clockmaker is a book that answers many questions about clocks. It contained a wonderful description of the Spilhaus Space Clock from a gear train and construction perspective. However covered the Nylon gears and repair lightly if incorrectly.

My Clock

I first saw my Spilhaus clock while visiting my future grand-parents-in-law. Their clock was beautiful and I was entranced. I admired it and told my girlfriend how wonderful it was. Later, when my girlfriend became my wife, she presented the clock to me as a wedding present.

I found it suffered from broken gears. The gears are Nylon and are pressed over metal bushings. The Nylon, made long ago, shrinks, becomes brittle, and splits. The clock will no longer work.

I sent the clock to Edmunds Scientific for repair. They repaired the clock with the gears they have in stock and sent the clock back. Since the gears were made at the same time as the original gears in the clock, they soon split as well. Contacting Edmunds several years later, I found they were no longer willing to repair the clocks. They did send me several replacement parts and gears, and I was able to get my clock running again.

zodiac dial from Spilhaus clock

Spilhaus Space Clock For Sale

None at this time


Unfortunately, there are several things that can go wrong with the clock. The biggest problem is the failure of the plastic gears. There are eight gears that turn the display discs and these gears are made from Nylon around a metal bushing. As the plasticizer evaporates, the gears shrink slightly. Because the gears are formed around a metal bushing, they cannot shrink without cracking.

The correct lamps, the 48A telephone lamps, are getting difficult to find. The lamps are wired in series so if one burns out, they all stop working.

I also have added information on how to remove the works from the clock and how to package the clock for shipping.

I also have some information on obtaining replacement gears and lamps.

The Manual for the Clock, "Lots of Time"

The clock comes with a detailed instruction book called "Lots of Time." My daughter converted the manual to html format for publishing on the internet. She did an exceptional job, scanning in the pictures, writing html code without the aid of a graphical editor, and checking her results. Please refer to it when you want to learn more about your clock. The manual includes instructions on how to set the various dials and discs.

Clock Memories

Many people remember the old Edmunds Scientific catalogs. I enjoyed reading them as a kid, thinking of all the wonderful experiements I could perform with the items listed. Bruce remembers the clock and sends a note to his brother.

David's Spilhaus Clocks

David R. Webb has a series of pictures, both of dials and of the clocks themselves, showing the differences between a prototype, lighted and un-lighted models.

knob colors
Spilhaus clock front dials
number plate from Spilhaus clock
night light dial of Spilhaus clock
signed clock

I received this from Chuck Kichline. He found the signature in the back of the clock.