Which Nixie tube clocks are best?
Recently, using clocks that tell time using old-fashioned vacuum tubes (Nixie tubes) has become more popular. For anyone who loves to see the guts of technology, a Nixie clock makes a perfect present. With a handsome and reliable unit like the Good Wood Handmade Vintage Retro Nixie Tube IN-14 Table Clock as part of your home, keeping the correct time has never looked so attractive.
What to know before you buy a Nixie tube clock
How they work
Nixie tube clocks use a cathode composed of fine tungsten wires and a phosphorus anode. This creates light when heated by an electrical current. However, to safely do so, the cathode tube and anode must be contained within a glass tube and held under high vacuum pressure.
While modern versions of Nixie tubes are fully safe to hold and handle, older models were not. These were prone to imploding, shocking users and even emitting harmful radiation. Even though the risks of injuries from Nixie tubes have been significantly reduced, you should always exercise caution.
Demand is high
Previously, those interested in using Nixie tube technology were forced to throw themselves on the mercy of flea markets, antique auctions, eBay and networks of fellow enthusiasts. One of the only reliable sources of working Nixie tubes for decades was Eastern European nations like Russia. However, manufacturers ceased production during the 1990s. This further reduced availability and greatly increased the prices.
Dedicated electrical workers and craftsmen have slowly started producing modern versions of Nixie tubes. While they’re more efficient, they’re not less expensive. For example, the only modern company to manufacture modern Nixie tubes is Dalibor Farny in the Czech Republic. A single R|Z568M Nixie tube from Dalibor Farny can cost up to $200. While there are other models of Nixie tube available for some less money, no one should walk into this particular hobby without being aware of the costs.
What to look for in a quality Nixie tube clock
DIY vs. premanufactured clocks
It is always worth considering just how much effort you want to put into something that is meant to tell the time at a glance. Nixie tube clocks tend to either come as completed units with no assembly needed or as full DIY kits.
Any hobby or project that involves live electricity carries a certain amount of inherent risk. If you feel that your skills are lacking, it’s best to purchase an entire clock. On the other hand, if you possess the skill to meddle with electrical currents, a Nixie tube clock makes a fantastic DIY project.
Modern clock functions
If you want to wake up every morning as if your bedroom was stuck in the 1950s or 1960s, being the proud owner of a Nixie tube clock is an excellent means of doing so. However, creating a certain visual aesthetic does not mean that you need to sacrifice modern features.
While Nixie tube clocks are retro, they possess an impressive suite of modern display options and technical abilities. Such features include displaying the calendar date, displaying the indoor temperature and more.
If you thought getting into Nixie tube clocks could be expensive, just wait until you have to track down replacement bulbs. Specific models of Nixie tubes can be shockingly expensive to acquire.
For example, a set of six Nixie NEON IN-14 replacement bulbs can easily cost almost $180. Even though there are ways to preserve your Nixie tubes, any bulb failing could potentially blow a hole right through your hobby budget.
How much you can expect to spend on a Nixie tube clock
Depending on the desired features as well as any budgetary considerations, a quality Nixie tube clock can cost anywhere from $58-$199, and sometimes much more.
Nixie tube clock FAQ
Why were Nixie tubes made obsolete in the first place?
A. They were replaced by the Light Emitting Diode (LED). This had the advantages of being far more flexible to use and much cheaper to manufacture. If not for collectors and dedicated hobbyists, Nixie tubes might well have remained in the dustbin of history.
How does a Nixie tube clock work?
A. Each Nixie tube contains 10 metal cathodes that are shaped to resemble the numbers 0-9 and a small amount of neon gas. These are covered by a metal screen anode and contained in a glass tube. When a specific cathode is heated with roughly 180 volts, the neon is excited by electrons, resulting in a visible electrical field (usually orange-colored) and is controlled via a set of chips.
What are the best Nixie tube clocks to buy?
Top Nixie tube clock
What you need to know: This handsome and reliable Nixie tube clock combines vintage looks with modern functions
What you’ll love: It features the ability to display time in either a 12 or 24-hour format. It also includes training lamps, a backup coin battery, a date indicator, a night mode and a handmade wooden exterior.
What you should consider: Some users have reported issues with the unit appearing larger than it is and replacement bulbs being expensive.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top Nixie tube clock for the money
What you need to know: This is an affordable Nixie tube clock ideal for those who love industrial designs.
What you’ll love: This unit features a modular design that is easy to put together, program and operate. It also has low power consumption.
What you should consider: Some users have reported issues with missing pieces and instruction manuals.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This attractive Nixie tube clock offers several modern options for customization
What you’ll love: In addition to displaying the time, this clock displays the date and temperature in both Fahrenheit and Celsius.
What you should consider: Some users have reported issues with properly changing the clock’s settings.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Daniel Martin writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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