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Retro Friday: Flip Clocks

flip_clockThe flip clock was a mechanical style of clocks and clockradios in homes for many years. Instead of the traditional dial or digital, small flaps would literally flip vertically to display the time.

This style of clock is so popular that it made its way into most smartphones as an app that shows a graphical representation of the old flip-style method of telling time.

One of the more storied brands of flip clocks were made by General Electric, seen at right. An original GE flip clockradio commands a pretty good penny these days to many collectors, so if you have one that’s in decent condition and still keeps the time relatively well, it’s an easy way to make a few bucks; some vintage GE flip clocks command well over $100.

The reason flip clocks fell out of favor was for two reasons. The first and obvious is that these clocks would routinely run too slow and have to be adjusted about once a week. The second is that it’s much cheaper for clock manufacturers to produce digital over flip. If you’ve ever seen the inner mechanisms of a flip clock, you know that compared to a digital it’s prohibitively expensive to make.

Are new flip clocks still made today?

Yes. You can find flip clocks ready-to-buy at or by searching Amazon for ‘flip clock’. Many shapes and sizes are available.

Note that modern flip clocks don’t exhibit the problems the original ones did with having to be adjusted for slow time frequently.

Want a freebie flip clock screen saver?

Got you covered.

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2 thoughts on “Retro Friday: Flip Clocks”

MikeB says:
I bought a Sony flip clock in 1970 while stationed in Viet Nam. It keeps perfect time and has run steady for most of the past 40 years. Just looked on eBay and someone has one listed in Great Britain for about $184.
Brian says:
Wonder why they ran slow? A clock plugged into an outlet should keep essentially perfect time because the power companies make adjustments to keep the the power at exactly 60 Hz.

My brother and I had a cheapo one in an orange plastic case.

Rich says:
It was for a mechanical reasons, mainly. Over time the flipper mechanism would dry out and lose lubrication and/or a gear’s teeth would strip causing ‘missed’ minutes, etc.

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Feb 11, 2011

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