Heathkit: Getting Closer This Time?

We’ve been following the Heathkit reboot for a while now, and it looks like the storied brand is finally getting a little closer to its glory days. I was thumbing through the new issue of QST magazine while I was listening in on a teleconference for the day job – hey, a guy can multitask, can’t he? – when I spied an ad for the Heathkit GC-1006 digital clock, which they brand the “Most Reliable Clock”. As soon as the meeting was over, I headed over to the Heathkit website to check out this latest offering.

I had cautiously high hopes. After the ridiculous, feature-poor, no-solder AM radio kit (although they sensibly followed up with a solder version of that kit) and an overpriced 2-meter ham antenna, I figured there was nowhere for Heathkit to go but up. And the fact that the new kit was a clock was encouraging. I have fond memories of Heathkit clocks from the 80s when I worked in a public service dispatch center; Heathkit clocks were about the only clocks you could get that would display 24-hour time. Could this actually be a kit worth building?

Alas, the advertisement was another one of those wall-of-text things that the new Heathkit seems so enamored of. And like the previous two kits offered, the ad copy is full of superlatives and cutesy little phrases that really turn me off. Then again, most advertising turns me off, so I’m probably not a good gauge of such things. Nor am I sure I’m in the target demographic for this product – in fact, I’m not even sure to whom this product is being marketed. Is it the younger crowd of the maker movement? Or is it the old-timers who want to relive the glory days of Heathkit builds? Given the $100 price, I’d have to say the nostalgia market is the most likely buyer of this one.

To be fair, $100 might not be that much to spend on a decent clock. I’m a bit of a clock snob, and I’ve gotten to the point where I can almost tell which chip is in a clock just by looking at the controls. The feature set of a modern digital clock has converged to a point where every clock has almost exactly the same deficiencies. The GC-1006 claims to address a few of my hot button issues, like not being able to set the time to the exact second – I hate that! An auto-dimming display is nice, as is a 12- or 24-hour display, a 10-minute timer (nice for hams, who are required to ID their station every 10 minutes), and a battery backup that claims to last for 4 weeks.

Is this worth buying? At this point, I’m on the fence. Looking at an unboxing video, it appears to be a high-quality kit, and it would be fun to build. But spending $100 on a clock might be a tough sell to my loan officer.

Still, I think I might take one for the team here so we have a first-hand report of what the new Heathkit is all about. And it would be nice to build another Heathkit product. I’ll let you know how it goes.

81 thoughts on “Heathkit: Getting Closer This Time?

  1. I bought one to relive my childhood. A few observations:

    1) The price is reasonable. Yes, it’s an expensive clock, but it’s not an expensive Heathkit. In the 1970s, a comparable Heathkit clock went for $70, so $100 today is not bad. You’re paying for the manual, the hobbyist-friendly design, and the kit-building experience.

    2) The manual is excellent and very similar to the HK manuals of old.

    3) I’m very impressed by the mechanical design. I’ve designed and built clocks and more complex electronics and to be honest, my approach to the finished project and enclosure is usually half-assed. In contrast, this kit has a sleek enclosure and well thought out mechanics.

    4) You know their motto, “we won’t let you fail”? Well, my assembled clock has a problem and after 3 weeks they haven’t even responded to my e-mail (beyond the automated response confirming they got it). One of my digits won’t light. I see on my oscilloscope that the common cathode isn’t being pulled all the way to zero volts – it’s only getting to 2.5V. Swapping LEDs doesn’t help, replacing the LED driver chip (I bought one from Digi-Key just for this) doesn’t help, and I haven’t been able to find any shorts. I know it’s real hard to debug something like this remotely, but it would’ve been nice if they at least responded to me.

    Despite my problem, I recommend this kit – I assume my problem is not widespread. I think it’s great for those who assembled Heathkits as a kid, even if you’ve since graduated to more advanced stuff. Whether this kit has a chance of diverting today’s teens, I just don’t know. Either they’re glued to their smartphones or they’re building robots in competitions: this kit is really a middle ground between the two.

    1. Have you put your scope on the input(s) of the LED driver chip? Just suggesting the next spot to check.

      Sorry to hear of the troubles, but your report on the kit is very helpful, I’m sure.

        1. I haven’t looked at the kit, but someone mentioned the MAX7219 as LED driver.
          I’ve used them a few years ago and found them to be pretty sensitive.

          Try checking the filter caps connected to the MAX7219 and maybe compare the values with the chip datasheet. Otherwise check the soldering of the driver. These drivers are little bi*c** in my opinion :(

          On the other hand, if the problem occur only on the first or last digit it could be a problem with the datachaining. Either software side or the connection between multiple MAX7219s.

          But I’m just shooting from the hip. As I said, didn’t really look at the kit itself ;)

        2. Hmmm. Well, if the cathode is not going all the way to ground, and the driver is good (you replaced it), then the problem is in the wiring somewhere. Check the sockets and reheat all your solder joints. Try running a single piece of wire-wrap wire direct from the LED cathode pin to the pin on the driver IC.

          Sockets and connectors are most likely to be trouble spots. As is your soldering…the joint may look good, but still be bad. Or, you may have a bad PCB (it happens). The direct wire will tell you.

          Good luck!

          1. Heathkit did finally come through. They sent me a replacement driver chip, and it worked. Why their driver chip worked and mine did not is an unsolved mystery (they’re the same part number).

    2. The problem I had with my finished clock is that one of the colon LEDs just stays on full brightness. I emailed them and within 48 hours I received an email saying that a package had been sent. When it arrived there was a replacement LED driver (that I haven’t yet made time to install).

      I had expected/hoped for a conversation with suggestions and I had also probed around with my scope and suspected the driver chip. I’d rate their customer service decently from the one experience based on how fast they sent out parts.

      I do hope they’ll continue taking the old name in new directions. The AM radio offerings were pretty sad. I’d love to see them embrace the generation of makers and bring some of them into amateur radio.

  2. Can anyone put scans of the manual somewhere?
    I am curious how it keeps 0.5 sec/day accuracy. My guess would be software compensation, as ATtiny84 has built-in temperature sensor.

      1. Ah, I suppose in long term that’s gonna be accurate. In Europe, the grids are interconnected and in the central control place they issue corrections for mains frequency.
        Using MAX7219 doesn’t really make sense to me. It’s expensive and not easy to find in mom-and-pop stores should it fail. I could come up with half a dozen or so of cheaper methods, using vanilla logic for instance, which incidentally would have more educational value.

          1. It works tremendously well in other clocks I have. It was also the method of choice with old mechanical electric clocks that simply used synchronous motors. As long as you had 60Hz, you kept good time.

      2. I’m among the many folks who have analyzed the stability of the line frequency as we get it here in North America.

        My conclusion is that it has excellent long term stability – exactly what you want in a clock. But the short term stability is so poor that you should not bother to put a seconds display on it. It will easily swing +/- 5 seconds intra-day.

        For $100 they could have easily made a GPS clock. I’m tempted to make one in response and sell it on Tindie, but I don’t know if it’s worth the bother.

        1. Well, with GPS the problem is putting the antenna in the right place, which is only a meter or so from windows.
          Using ESP8266 and NTP would be more reliable.
          Another thing that nobody has done yet is using RDS. There are dirt cheap RDA5807M modules on Aliexpress (40c each). However, some stations broadcast a time that is quite off, not to mention the timezone/DST confusion. But, I suppose checking several stations and weeding out outliers could be viable.

          1. The ESP and NTP would be a lot harder to configure and install, though, and would probably actually work in fewer places (GPS works inside in our house – though so does WiFi – and at 40°N, 150°W, where there is likely no WiFi).

            In principle, a GPS clock could even infer timezone and DST from physical location. In practice, it’d either be imprecise or require a TON of memory for the map data.

          2. Why would it need map data to work out it’s timezone? You just work out which one of the 24 segments you’re in. They’re generally spread evenly, with a few exceptions and half-hour zones, so you’d need to store those, but it wouldn’t need much memory, certainly not a map.

        2. “For $100 they could have easily made a GPS clock”: Could they? What’s their current BOM cost, including a 60+ page printed manual, solid wood panels, and other unique pieces of hardware? How many hours did they put into design and writing? What’s their expected sales? What’s their profit margin?

          Sure, for $100 a hobbyist can throw together a GPS-driven clock for $100. But that’s very different from producing a kit and trying to make some money from it.

          1. There are plenty of clock kits out there. What is there no market for? A clock kit with a spouse-friendly appearance? A clock kit with GPS (maybe so – even commercial clocks don’t use GPS for setting time)?

          2. “The point is that a clock that just “displays” the time it receives from somewhere, be it the government, wifi, GPS, whatever: it’s just a display,”

            Not really. None of the “atomic clocks” I have ever had that receive WWV are “just displays”. Signal comes and signal goes. Actually, as far from Colorado as I live the signal mostly goes! My clocks have to keep their own time. An occasional bit of skip or some propogation anomaly gives them a chance to correct themselves keeping any error permanently below my threshold of noticing. However.. if the transmitters turned off today I would still make it to work in the morning for a very long time.

        3. There is talk of reducing the accuracy of the power grid, since it isn’t used for timekeeping as much as it used to be, so this clock (and many others) may not be as accurate in the future.

        4. The entire point of a clock is to count time. If it can’t even do that on its own (and needs a GPS or wifi for this), it almost loses its entire reason to exist. Also suddenly you rely on a government to keep your time, rather than relying on a simple crystal. Unfortunately this particular clock relies on the line frequency, which isn’t much better, but it’s still a lot more elegant than the Rube Goldberg machine that is a GPS assisted, or wifi enabled clock. As an engineer you should strive for simplicity and elegance. If you need accuracy, just use a DS3231 or something similar and keep it local. It will then have a good chance to still work 50 years from now. Try that with wifi or GPS.

          1. maybe you don’t understand that the whole point in knowing what time it is is that everyone else knows what time it is too. relying on the government to keep time isn’t a bad thing if it means everyone has the same time.
            if everyone had a clock that had a different time then it would be utterly pointless.

          2. Pff.. I’m afraid you missed my point. The point is that a clock that just “displays” the time it receives from somewhere, be it the government, wifi, GPS, whatever: it’s just a display, and a very inelegant way to show time. If I build a clock myself, I want to build a clock… not a display. And it should count time, not just fetch time from somewhere and show it. And other than these “emotional” reasons, I also gave you more objective reasons, i.e., a clock that needs GPS or wifi may not work anymore 50 years from now or even 20 years from now. Not to mention the obvious drawbacks that it needs an antenna, and sit close to the window (in case of GPS) or have a cumbersome way to set the wifi details, maybe through some app that won’t be available anymore 5 years from now.

          3. “you rely on a government to keep your time, rather than relying on a simple crystal. Unfortunately this particular clock relies on the line frequency, which isn’t much better, but it’s still a lot more elegant than the Rube Goldberg machine that is a GPS assisted, or wifi enabled clock”

            I also am reluctant to trust government, but when you have your completely independent crystal based clock, how do you set it? You still go to the government (at some level) to get the standard time.

          4. To get the ACTUAL time, you do what we’ve always done. Look at the Sun. When it’s highest in the sky, it’s noon. You can bother with a sundial if you like, there was one on HAD years ago that was digital! It used light pipes, shadows, and some other stuff, to suck in sunlight from particular angles. Depending on exactly which, it displayed the time, I think accurage to 5 minutes.

            You can buy them now, the geek in question started a company. They’re not cheap, they’re corporate showoff-garden money. But the company will come out and install it for you exactly, which needs doing, since it’s setup depends on exactly where you are in the world. After that, I suppose it’s mainenance free forever, up until the Earth’s orbit decays enough to send it 5 minutes out of whack.

            With a compass, some maths, and some bits of cardboard with holes in, you could probably knock up a “noon detector” fairly easily”. You could average out the whole time the thing is illuminated, and assume the centre of that period is actual noon. Perhaps adjust it, whenever you like, to match local time from other sources. Once it’s set up, it can never drift. Well, except continental drift, that’ll put it off accuracy-wise as well.

          5. This goes all the way back to the 19th century. Back then, all time was local. Then came the railroads and the lack of coordinated time across large areas caused people to ACTUALLY DIE because trains would crash into each other because the clocks weren’t coordinated.

            I’m all in favor of small government, but there actually *are* appropriate jobs for government to do, and one of them is to define and promulgate coordinated time. Accuracy demands between various users will vary, certainly, but they still exist.

            If you don’t think so, then you’ll probably really have some head scratching to do when your boss fires you for being a half hour late to work every day.

          6. I don’t think you understand how a (reasonably well designed) GPS disciplined clock works. They are still capable of standalone operation but when a GPS signal is available they can lock onto that and use it to set themselves. The accuracy achievable is orders of magnitude better than a DS3231 on its own. You know what happens in 50 years when/if GPS is no longer available? The clock is back to being a standalone clock that you set manually, it still works, it isn’t reliant on the GPS, it is augmented by the GPS. The only way you could match the accuracy of a GPS disciplined clock is by having your own cesium standard. Do most people NEED a clock with sub-millisecond accuracy? Probably not, but this isn’t about need, it’s about cool geeky stuff and achieving something because it can be achieved.

            It’s not like adding the GPS adds a great deal of complexity either. Suitable GPS modules are around 5 bucks in single quantities and the microcontroller is already there in the clock, it’s just a bit of added firmware and you get to take full advantage of the extremely expensive infrastructure your tax dollars helped pay for.

  3. My recommendation to Heathkit would be to make a line of inexpensive test equipment kits, similar to the ones that they were famous for in their glory days. I understand that you can get decent Chinese test gear these days, but it doesn’t even come close to the feeling you get when you build it yourself.
    That is what I would like to see them do, but I doubt it will happen.

      1. I run a website and every now and then I discover that someone, in some forum somewhere, has written that I should change something or other on my site. And I wonder, why did they post that in a forum instead of telling me directly? I have a prominent link on my site to a Contact Us form.

        So if you have advice for Heathkit, don’t post it here. Go to their website or Facebook page and put it there.

  4. Lets us recall the way Heathkit started. We had a large number of electronic enthusiasts created by the transistor’s discovery, plus the war vets going into ham radio and the old way of point to point wiring by hand that made equipment very costly to buy. There were builders, the ham magazines had plans to build all sorts of pieces of radio and electronic gear. Of 100 started, perhaps 20-25 were ever finished, what with drilling front panels, painting dial numbers, lettering meters etc, there were many barriers to completion. So Heath came up with his concept, a bag of parts, and very detailed part by part assembly manual, stamped, painted chassis etc to make a finished built item that they sold in 2 ways – kit or built, and they offered a fixit service = success.

    As time went by point to point wiring ceased and printed circuit boards emerged, then wiring harnesses, and flat cable snap in and finally we went to auto assembled, auto tested surface mounted parts. Almost all the labor was engineered out. Away went the Heathkit business model – they died.

    In much the same way we have old railroad and old car clubs – fueled by enthusiasm – but not by economics, we can have old Heathkit nostalgia, it will never be economically viable, the margin it once lived on is gone.

    Much like the last old WW1 soldier died in 2012, and soon enough we will run out of WW2 warriors. (http://www.nationalww2museum.org/honor/wwii-veterans-statistics.html), one day we will run of of Heathkitters, while memory serves.

    We now have thousands of hacker spaces and maker groups that serve a similar need.

    1. HealthKit could adapt to serve that maker community – like AdaFruit and Sparkfun do today. Both companies sell breakout boards for SMD components that make new technology accessible to makers and learners without the learning curve of PCB design and SMD soldering.

      My strong suggestion to HeathKit is/was to sell a hobbyist reflow oven. All of the other accoutrement for SMD work is available, but it remains a right of passage for SMD makes to make their own reflow oven much like Jedi making their own light saber. It doesn’t HAVE to be that way.

      1. The world doesn’t need another AdaFruit or Sparkfun. Heathkit has a different niche. If there’s a market for sleek, nicely done kits, then the Heathkit name helps. If that market no longer exists, there’s no point in using the Heathkit brand name while selling something else. It would be like using the name “Polaroid” to sell crappy digital cameras.

        1. “The world doesn’t need another AdaFruit or Sparkfun.”

          I totally disagree with that. Maybe it doesn’t have to have the HeathKit name, and maybe it doesn’t have to be in the U.S., but the world could use dozens more outfits that are as dedicated and useful to the maker community as those two companies are.

          1. I don’t understand why people talk about this as if it was the original Heathkit company. It is just some guy who bought the trademarks when the old company went bust.

    2. “Away went the Heathkit business model – they died.”

      No, that’s not what I remember. What I remember is Heathkit undergoing a change of management. The new management decided that their was a better future in selling courses to schools than kits to individuals. A lot of people complained that they were wrong to shut down the kit business and pointed out that it was still turning a profit.

      Make no mistake, this was a time where home DIY electronics were definitely in a decline. There was a feeling that it was no longer relevant because of things like SMD and ICs that contain pretty much all of a device’s functionality. Heathkit like many others bought into all that pesimism and didn’t forsee anything like the ‘maker movement’ that we have today.

      They were still profitable, they would have certainly had to survive some hard times to get here and it is no gaurantee that they would have but it wouldn’t have been impossible. As for their educational business.. well, we all see where that went. I can’t understand what they thought they were doing with that. They aimed at both High Schools and Colleges. How many High Schools do you know that teach any meaningful electronics? I wish they would but I certainly wouldn’t bet my livelihood trying to sell soldering irons to them! As for colleges? Sure, there are plenty of colleges with EE programs but are they really shopping around for materials? Professors either choose their books from the established textbook companies or write their own. They don’t want Heathkit.

    1. That nixie clock comes without any enclosure and without a power adapter, so you need to add those in. It uses a crystal oscillator, so the time will be less accurate. I looked at its manual and, IMO, the Heathkit manual is much better. Also, the Heathkit manual is printed out and bound for you. You might not consider that to be valuable, but it IS an expense that Heathkit has and the nixie kit does not.

      1. But there was that whole period when digital clock building was common. Endless paces selling a blank board, a clock IC, the readouts and sometimes the rest of the parts. Minimal instructions, the schematic probably was the datasheet for the IC. These followed the expensive clock kits of a few years earlier, but one of the selling points was that you could put it inside of some other project or build your own case. There was a kid at school who was good at woodworking but not so much at electronics, he liked those kits.

        A few years later the minimal kits were replaced by clock modules, from National and maybe others, small boards not much bigger than the display, various options through jumpers, you just needed to add switches, and a power transformer.

        And then it all faded out, since like calculators before them, you could buy really cheap digital clocks off the shelf. The only reason to build one was for something exotic.

        As for crystal time bases, a good clock would include one so if power goes off, the clock can still keep time. There was the classic National IC which used a color subcarrier crystal, common and cheap, to generate the needed pulses for digital clocks. How accurate the oscillator was depended on the effort out into it. You could adjust it, you could add temperature compensation, you could pick a crystal frequency that divided down properly but which was more stable to begin with. Or put the crystal in an oven so its temperature was constant. Some people were very interested in that, still are. I gather there is or was a mailing list for the topic of very accurate time. The same issue came with frequency counters, which were common projects at the same time as the wave of clock projects, indeed some built up a very good frequency reference (and made the effort to set it precisely) and then with divider chis used it as a time base for both a frequency counter and a clock.

        A partial kit is more open to customizing than a full kit. And a Nixie clock at least offers a different readout from the average ten dollar clock. One is paying a lot here for the sake of putting the kit together, and gets nothing special for the results. It’s long after 1971 when electronic digital clocks were really expensive, and building a kit was the only way for the rest of us to have one.


    2. The price is a little high, but if somebody likes it…

      When I built my first LED clock (because I saw an offer for a clock chip) it was in the end much more expensive (with transformer, LED-7seg displays, enclosure) than the chip alone and it was more expensive than a ready made radio-alarm-clock. Without a radio.

      But I built it myself and I learned something about electronics and reading datasheets. Had also to design a multi voltage PSU for the 1980 something PMOS Chip :-)

      But I don’t know, why I should buy a nixie clock. Why should I buy something with such an ancient, outdated and probably quite power hungry display? I much prefer the appearance of LEDs.

  5. Back in the day (in UK, Europe), I built several clocks, and added a radio time code interface. Heathkits were some of my first experience of electronics, for which I was very greatfu I have a collection of their test gear from the 70s that I refurbish and love. A fellow ham builds HK style SSB transceivers..

    1. Surely it’s a play on “the most accurate clock”, which the old Heathkit did once sell. But that one synced to WWV, and even made adjustments to its internal crystal oscillator to get the clock more accurate if it couldn’t receive WWV. That was before cheap WWVB clocks, so the promotion did mean something, and you did get something better than the average clock.


  6. I’ve scanned through the comments and much of it is with respect to accuracy of the time displayed. How freakin accurate do you need? I completed the build of this clock on Oct 22, 2016 and the time has never varied more than a few seconds from other sources. I have not had to reset the time either. I use mine to tell time of day and to log my ham radio contacts. I can’t think of any use for an atomic clock’s accuracy. I paid $100 and had a very nice, enjoyable afternoon assembling my clock. One of the brackets factory glued to the top of my clock was unglued upon arrival. Heathkit had one out to me the same day and I received it the next day. I’m totally pleased with my well functioning attractive clock.


  7. 1) if your day is affected by +/- 5 seconds a day then you need to change your life bro!
    2) if you reeeally need +/- 5 seconds a day accuracy, then you wont be building a kit, unless what your after is a tablet with a wall-mount.
    3) the only market for +/-5 second a day are people doing cyrptography, plant automation, security, infrastructure, banking (back-end), or just anything that does NOT involve LEDs sitting on a normal desk, anything THAT critical will be made using LCD so it can run for a long time on a coin-cell.

  8. What would make it much more valuable is a 120v AC output tied to the alarm. I made one of these myself decades ago and still use it to turn on a vintage receiver in my bedroom in the morning. But an alarm switched receptacle would be useful to many people, even it just to turn on the bedroom light. I’d pay another $20 for that feature alone…

  9. Does anyone know where you can buy replacement switches besides Heathkit? Doe sMouser or digikey sell them Heathkit does not give a good part number for them. I got some that are very sensitive You just blow on them and then activate.

  10. I must be one of the 10% that got a bad one (first edition). I easily gain 2-3 minutes per week. I have a half dozen other digital clocks and have grown out of at least that many. Never had one that did not keep accurate time – until now. Heathkit says it’s the power stability. So how did the Chinese get it right but Heathkit can’t? I put line filters on both ends of the adapter. That helped it some by making the weekly increase exactly 2.791 minutes every week. Sorry, Heathkit, at my age I cannot have too many like you – it hurts my hemorrhoids…

    1. I too have had “issues” with proper timekeeping. Of the two clocks that I built a year ago, one always lost significant time. (about 1 second a week) I swapped wall-warts between the two clocks, and the problem followed the power supply. I thought that it was odd, thinking that transformers are basically “transparent” to frequency, it wouldn’t matter. The open-circuit voltage of the “bad” unit was 1.8VAC lower than the good one. 10.66V vs. 12.5V. (the “bad” unit was a Jameco device supplied with the kit, while the “good” one was some Chinese brand). After another unresponsive email (and phone call to HHeathkit…by the way, I was missing a piece of hardware from the kit a year ago , and….after a year, never heard anything back from them), I bought a replacement wall-wart off of Amazon. The time loss seems to have disappeared.
      The dimming circuit only has two brightness levels, and at a certain ambient light level, the display “hunts” between the two….very annoying.
      The other item that I noticed is the Lo Bat display. After 13.5 months, I started getting random flickering of the display segments. It turned out that the clock was trying to display the “Lo Bat” message Putting fresh batteries in solved that problem. The clock appears to use battery power, even when AC powered. These were Energizer alkaline batteries, and after only one 5 second power failure during the last year, the battery voltage was down. I checked the open-circuit voltage, and each battery was 1.14V. I’m surprised that the low voltage trigger point is so high (looks like 6.8VDC, down from 9V)

      1. Very interesting and fantastic, since you solved the time drift. Heathkit’s response to my comment is that the clock’s mechanism is such a finely tuned instrument, that the incoming electrical power cannot vary the 60Hz frequency by more than 0.0276%, otherwise the time drift. Here is an excerpt:

        “We’re not sure who misinformed you about “10%” “bad one(s)”. That’s entirely incorrect. To avoid doubt, there have been 0% “bad” GC-1006 clocks–none. Also, the measured rate of customer line-noise or electric utility-variance timekeeping problems is 100 times lower than your guess, at approximately 0.1% of clock owners worldwide (i.e. a measured 99.9% of customers have excellent success with their clock, even using some pretty unusual non-US electric utilities in Europe, Asia and Africa), and rare case someone has time drift we work with them to help them diagnose the line voltage problem they didn’t know about and help them resolve it. (By comparison, you already know that the amount of personal product support you get from the Chinese manufacturers you refer to is zero.) The combination of product design quality, product reliability, and Heathkit support is a major reason the clock has been enormously popular among people who have bought and built one.”

        I tried to explain to Heathkit that our definitions of “reliable” differ some. I accept the Webster dictionary version that defines it with the synonym “dependable.” A clock that cannot keep somewhat accurate time, especially with six other digital clocks (mostly Chinese) that keep almost perfect time, is not reliable to me. It’s a “bad one” to me. The old Heathkit believed that I was the customer. The new Heathkit wants to create excuses. I was told to buy all sorts of line filters and full sine wave UPS devices and maybe that would help.

        Suffice it to say that I will most likely not buy from Heathkit again. I was so hopeful…

        1. It’s interesting that they say that…..since I built two GC-1006’s within a month, I powered them up, plugged into the same outlet simultaneously, both “synced” numerous times, both clocks sitting next to each other. The one clock mentioned above, would loose time.
          I thought that, over time, it would “self-correct”…..that didn’t happen. For a year, I lived with the time loss, and no response from Heathkit…EVER! (both email and phone messages left. I DID get the automated email response, stating that “we received your email, and will get back to you shortly”). ) I could monitor the time loss daily…..I’ve got a GC-1195 floor clock with chimes, and a CG-1005 (6 digit gas planar tube) both remain “synced” to each other perfectly (both using the 60Hz. line as a reference) They may wander a bit from WWV. but at least they average out the correct time.

  11. Very interesting comments overall. So many things I’d like to say, but first, like the last comment here in Jan. from Mr.Z, I too have had time-keeping problems which I do not have with my old GC-1005, still running after 40+ years (how dependable is THAT??). I can only hope that the lack of response some have had several years ago was a problem in the past and they have now caught up. I had several responses by e-mail, and in fact, they CALLED ME! I had a very long and nice conversation with an engineer who also was an engineer with the old Heath Co. He told me (among other things) that there is a total of 6 employees, so one can see where they might be spread a little thin on customer service. But I can also see where, like one poster here, they seem to have somewhat of an attitude like they can do no wrong, where once upon a time, the customer “was always right” and they would bend over backwards to make sure that was true.

    The critical go-no-go problem with mine, which the engineer said he had never seen in thousands of clocks (who is to say everyone reported though?) is that instead of gaining or losing time, the clock will “jump time”, and always forward; sometimes a minute or so at a time, and several times 5 minutes plus at a time. After much discussion, the only thing the engineer could think of was a power problem. However, that does not explain why the OLD GC-1005 would keep perfect time right along side the GC-1006. Queer, huh? Hasn’t done it in a while. He suggested I try plugging it in another circuit. I have it on my bench isolation transformer. (By the way, I consider myself to be an experienced builder with dozens of kits built over the span of some 55 years, both “old” and “new”.)

    But for me, there are several other almost as serious problems with their fundamental design of the clock. Others have mentioned it should be GPS-regulated. Actually, If it only had the WWVB radio synchronization, that works very well and would avoid the down sides several mentioned with GPS. And that primarily to avoid having to reset Daylight Saving Time. That could easily have been done. But even lacking that, the LEAST they could have done is provide a simple slide switch for DST that would advance or retard the one hour for DST. As it is, you have to go through the ENTIRE clock setting procedure just to change the hour. You cannot just change ONLY the hour as you could with the old GC-1005 you have to reset the time. So the entire time setting procedure is three steps backward compared to the old clock. The second thing is that the seconds do not automatically reset to zero. Who ever needs to set a clock to an odd seconds? Crazy No digital clock I have ever set, do you have to manually set the seconds to zero. That was just a VERY GROSS oversight; probably someone too lazy to code it into the micro controller to do that.

    The other big gripe I have about what I consider poor design is the battery back-up. Why does it take 6 batteries and they are only good for 6 months, when your standard wall clock keeps time and runs a mechanical clock for 12-18 months on ONE battery (ok, I know, cell)? Something is fundamentally wrong with their design. And to aggravate it even more, you have to take the damn clock APART just to change the batteries! And the method of assembling the cabinet, which has to be disassembled (partly at least) twice a year is terrible; using machine screws into bare wood. The least they could have done, for the part that is disassembled for the batteries, is to have used brass inserts for the machine screws. That way the wood wouldn’t be wearing out. Do they really think that is going to last 40 years without problems? And to claim it is dependable; I have my doubts.

    The rest of it has to do with somewhat less critical aspects of some errors in the manual itself, and with the quality of the execution of the kit itself. By the latter I mean for instance. when assembling the internal parts of the case and mounting, the pass-through holes for the screws were not centered on where the screws went into, therefore making it very tight. In fact, it was SUPPOSED to be loose in order to provide some adjustment movement as stated in the instructions. That very tightness led to the holes for the switches being too tight, making it necessary to hog out the holes with a reamer in order for the switches not to bind. So there was a lack of quality control in their mechanical production. Because of this problem with the holes not lining up, I fail to see how this could not have been noticed by other customers, or maybe they never bothered to report it. Regardless, this should have been discovered by trial assembly using people not already familiar with the product. This is what the old Heathkit did; sent kits home with office personnel for instance to put a kit together and find any flaws. In their defense, perhaps something changed during production that no one noticed. Though again, speaks to lack of QC.

    So overall, is it a good kit? Depends. Perhaps more on whether you are old or young. If you are old like me, you KNOW how both a kit and the product SHOULD work (for instance, knowing that the seconds should automatically zero). But if you are young, you don’t know any better. You probably don’t notice so much the errors in the instructions, or don’t know any better that holes should be centered, etc. You don’t know any better that a serial number should be on the OUTSIDE and not on the inside where you have to take the damn thing apart to find it (they could have laser-engraved it on the outside in less than 5 seconds, if they were worried about a label falling off.)

    Like many others, I was hopeful about the “new” Heathkit. I was also very put off by their way over-priced radio and told them so. Want to know what their response was? (in so many words) Well, you are probably not the demographic that the radio was targeted for. Really? I don’t think they even knew how much that pissed me off. So it’s OK to make an inferior, over-priced product as long as no one outside of your targeted demographic wants to buy it? Hello? Maybe I WOULD want to buy it. Why should I have to accept inferiority and pay extra for it to boot, just because I don’t match their target group? My main gripe besides the very high price was there was no volume control. Real good for little kids’ hearing, right? NOT! He said no one complained about it. Again, REALLY? You should have to complain in order for the right thing to be done? Kids don’t understand TRF radios. All they have ever known is a radio has a volume control, even the cheapest one. What is inside this radio does not even deserve the nice display cabinet they put it in. And it’s not like you can put it up on the entertainment center for display, and use it at the same time. NO SPEAKER!! And all for $150? OK, so I was ticked off by their radio. I don’t have to buy it. But for the people who do, I think they are being ripped off and probably don’t even know it. However, I DID feel that the clock was more fairly priced, even though for that price, they could have done MUCH better. They may do better with other products. But no, they are not the old Heathkit, and they never will be. That ship has forever sailed. The perfection that Mr. Anthony built into the company is forever gone. Even though there is still a demand for mostly small kits, the dynamic that existed after WWII that propelled Heath to the stratosphere will never exist again. Nor can it be duplicated.

    1. I agree with a lot of your post.

      For the record, I assembled the new Heathkit clock when it first came out and did not have the problem with the pass-through screws you mentioned. Maybe there’s some variation in the kits they’re sending out.

      I’m impressed that you spoke with an engineer and that he told you there were 6 employees. This incarnation of Heathkit has been very close-mouthed about who they are and what they’re doing. I find it annoying and off-putting. I think they should be humanizing themselves instead of acting like a big, impersonal corporation. If we knew their situation better, we might cut them some more slack for their missed deadlines, their high prices, and their slow ramp-up.

    2. The reason the battery life is low (I am shocked that you are getting 6 months) is there is a resistor voltage divider to ground from the batteries, so they are constantly being drained while on AC power! You mentioned battery life in a wall clock – that battery is actually being used while these should be loafing, waiting for the power to fail. The function of this divider is so the uC can monitor voltage and display that annoying “Lo batt” message. Horrible design, unless you manufacture and sell batteries. The batteries should primarily be consumed in powering the clock, not a voltage monitoring circuit.

  12. I’m an old fart that never had an interest in electronics until several years ago. I have tried to teach myself (no Elmer yet, rural Maine) and have had some success. I am up to basic restoration of radio receivers, such as Hallicrafters. I use some Heathkit test equipment, such as the IT-28 (excellent for leakage tests), IM-5228 (excellent for alignments), and SM-2420 (frequency measurement as good as my recently calibrated HP generator). These pieces were purchased by me from fleaBay and are very, very accurate and extremely “reliable” in testing. Yes, I was very lucky buying online, sort of. The builds were excellent because I knew who I was buying from. The VTVM was purchased from Gary Clark (now deceased), who was an engineer and tech writer of several reference manuals on vacuum tube electronics.

    So, I knew when I ordered the clock kit who and what Heathkit used to represent. I now have a Heathkit clock I will have to give away with warnings about the lack of “reliable” built into it. I cannot in good conscience sell it, even for five bucks. The Heathkit rep that sent me the email excuses mentions the lack of support for Chinese digital clocks. His lack of attention to detail amazed me. I had said that all my clocks, including the Chinese models, kept accurate and “reliable” time. Duh. Why would I need support?

    As far as the programming of the new Heathkit clock, try removing the batteries and plugging it in. I thought I was in a Star Trek episode with Spock. Red alert! That awful screeching noise was the last straw. I did not want to waste batteries. My other most “reliable” Chinese clock that is never off time, takes a nine volt battery. There isn’t one in it and it is as quiet as a mouse. That’s probably why there is a lack of nice-to-have features programmed. They were too busy programming a fancy audio no battery alert to think of the other stuff.

    1. Two other things to nitpick about this clock are: I wish that the alarm would shut itself off after an hour (like ALL of the other clock-radios that I have owned) Sometimes if I wake up before the alarm preset and forget to shut it off, it’s beeping away when I get home from work. The other item comes in to the reliability issue, over time. The electrolytic that is mounted next to the voltage regulator (shrouded by the heatsink), may fail prematurely due to heat. (speaking from my 50+ years of servicing) When I built both of the kits, I lengthened the leads, covered them with heatshrink, then hot-melt glued it to the other larger electrolytic, away from the heatsink.

  13. Zombie article I know, but I just finished putting together this little clock. I had built one way back in the 80’s, and this one is better than that one of course. I do wish it had an option to get synced with radio/gps/wifi. I have about six nixie clocks around the house, but this one gets to sit below the TV, since it is rather subdued, and rather a good looking clock. I like for my clocks to tell 24 hour time, and this one fits the bill quite nicely.

  14. I put one together this month. Doing that brought back a lot of memories. My first Heathkit was the “Twoer”. A lot of kits after that. Including a Heathkit TV. I had a few issues during assembly which I overcame.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.