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Widget Of The Week

Estyma Travel Clock Radio, 1965

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the way components used in the manufacture of cars, consumer goods, industrial products and so on made in this country are sourced from many different countries. The dreaded Brexit has highlighted just how much companies depend on the free flow of goods across borders but this is by no means a new development. It has been going on for decades if not centuries, and certainly long before the mid nineteen sixties when this Estyma travel clock-radio was assembled from parts made in Germany, Hong Kong and probably several other countries. The travel clock-radio sub-genre of timekeeping and technology has not been well documented but it’s a fair bet that it was one of the very first fully portable transistorised travel clock radios but as always, clarifications and corrections are welcomed in the dustygizmos email box.


There are three quite distinct parts to this little neat little device, namely the case, the clock and the radio. The case comprises the outer protective hinged ‘clamshell’ and an inner fascia plate, also hinged, on which the radio and the clock modules are mounted. It’s a really sturdy design, as befits something that’s going to suffer a lot of rough handling. The frame and facia are made of steel and outer shell is plastic, but it doesn’t end there; the whole caboodle is encased in a lively shade of orange dyed leather. It’s a quality item, showing the same kind of workmanship found on classy jewellery cases. The clock is another fine example of German craftsmanship, almost certainly made by a company called Blessing-Werke and handily date-stamped 1965. It’s a simple but sturdy 24-hour clockwork movement with a balance wheel escapement and 12-hour alarm function. This is linked to a small switch that can be set to turn the radio on at the desired time. A small two-position slide switch on the fascia selects always on or ‘Manu’ (Manual) operation or Auto, which is the alarm setting.


One unexpected feature on the clock is the luminous hands and dial. Of course this isn’t unusual but the vast majority of clocks and watches with luminous dials made from the late 50s onwards the glow in the dark paint would typically be of the phosphorescent type. This glows for few hours, but only after it has been exposed to a fairly bright light, to charge it up, as it were. The Estyma clock is different because it uses radioluminescent paint. The radio bit is short for radioactive and this time the glow is created by a radioactive isotope (Radium). Tiny amount of Radium are mixed with phosphor based chemicals and the particles emitted by the Radium cause the phosphor to glow. On the plus side it glows all the time, often for several decades. The downside is the paint can remain radioactive for several thousand of years. It’s not a huge problem when safely sealed inside the clock’s dial face but over time it can turn into a fine dust. If the face breaks or the clock is smashed up or dismantled the dust can escape and potentially inhaled or digested. In short it’s nasty stuff and not something you ever want to get inside your body. Radioactive luminous paint was widely banned on consumer products in the mid 1950s so it was quite surprising to discover that it was still being used on a clock made a decade or so later.       


And so to the radio, which is a two-waveband receiver (Medium and Long Wave) using six Germanium transistors. Apart from the small size it’s a relatively common design and no doubt it, or something very similar, has been used in countless other small radios made in Hong Kong (or the ‘Empire’ as it is referred to on the back panel) during the 1960s. Power comes from a standard 9 bolt PP3 battery that lives alongside the circuit board inside the clock and radio module’s removable back cover. The speaker is a common 50mm type, mounted behind the gold coloured grille on the fascia panel.


There’s almost no need for an instruction manual. To set the alarm simply press the button on the front of the case to open it. Using a knob on the back of the clock turn the short gold coloured hand to the chosen time, wind up the clock (it runs for around 30 hours) then tune the radio to your favourite Medium or Long wave station and set the slide switch on the front to ‘Auto’. You can also listen to the radio by leaving the switch in the ‘Manu’ position. The case can be either closed, or left open by propping the fascia up against the lower clamshell.


This Estyma was very clean and looked like it been well looked after. However, when pressed the stallholder at the antiques fair where I found it admitted that the clock and the radio probably didn’t work, hence his ‘bargain’ price of £10. That sounded a bit steep and after a shot discussion, where I pointed out that it might need a lot of work and spare parts for old timers like this were hard to come by, we settled on a fiver. Luckily just one commonplace new part was needed and the remaining problems were relatively minor in nature. The clock had been over wound and clearly hadn’t been lubricated for decades. A good clean up and a few drops of clock oil were all that was needed to get it ticking. The radio was a bit more challenging. It was completely dead and that was traced back to an open circuit battery connector, which only took a few minutes to replace. Afterwards there was a quiet pop from the speaker when it was switched on but nothing else, not even a hiss. Tracing that fault took a little longer. Using a simple signal injector it was possible to establish that the speaker, output stage and first two IF stages were all okay. Isolating the faulty component(s) can be very time consuming, so I took a gamble and swapped the two electrolytic capacitors in the vicinity of the disappearing signal. Old sixties capacitors are notoriously flaky and the second one turned out to be the culprit, having gone completely open circuit. As a precautionary measure I also replaced the other two electrolytics, as they were also a very long way past their popping their clogs date.


The radio is now just about loud enough to be useful as an alarm clock, providing you don’t mind the very limited choice of stations to wake up to. However tuning up and down the bands I discovered even louder and more irritating sounds produced, I suspect, by a mixture of mis-alignment, interference and the mysterious data transmissions dotted around the broadcast bands.


What Happened To It?

Surprisingly little is known about the Estyma brand; at least I was unable to find out much after a fairly extensive internet trawl other than it is German in origin and seems to have disappeared from view in the mid 1970s. Once again if anyone can tell me more please get in touch. Although Estyma has a very small web presence there is no shortage of small clocks bearing the name on ebay. They range from travel alarms, with and without radios. There’s a similar model to this one with a mechanical alarm and a miniature barometer and thermometer, instead of the radio. They were also responsible for a lot of conventional alarm clocks, fake carriage clocks, anniversary clocks and quite a few novelty clocks. The one thing most of them have in common is that they are cheap to buy on auction sites like ebay. Most are priced at between £5 and £25, even mint examples. There are some exceptions and they include radio-alarms like this one, which fetch a little more and in good order can go for as much as £50. The point is most Estyma clocks you’ll see are now more than 50 years old and so very typical of the periods in which they were made. Clearly the brand wasn’t in the premiere league and doesn’t do much for today’s collectors but that’s an opportunity not to be missed. Estyma and some of the more outlandish clock designs are long overdue a place in the limelight, and it could happen sooner rather than later. My advice is to start hoarding or expect to be rather annoyed in a few years time when you’ll see an Estyma clock on the Antiques Road Show being valued for an eye-watering amount.  


First Seen:           1965

Original Price:     £?

Value Today:       £30.00  (0219)

Features              Medium & Long Wave 6-transistor superhetrodyne receiver, 50mm speaker, rotary on/off volume & tuning controls, spring-driven clock with alarm operated switch, luminous (radium painted) dial and hands, folding leather covered carry case & stand

Power req.                      1 x 9 volt PP3 battery

Dimensions:                    180 x 100 x 40mm

Weight:                           500g

Made (assembled) in:     Hong Kong (radio) & Germany (clock movement & case)

Hen's Teeth (10 rarest)   5



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