Flip Clocks Inspired by the Solari Dator 5

Stephen Coles

A BT637 calendar clock by Pierre Bodet, produced in the ’70s. Here’s the patent (PDF). It sold on eBay today for nearly $400.


This tasty bit of eye candy for flip clock fetishists led me to the piece that was probably its inspiration: the Dator 5 designed by Gino Valle and manufactured by Solari Udine in the mid- to late ’60s.

A Solari Dator 5 in blue


And as luck would have it, a generous Dutchman, Raymond Van Orsoy de Flines, has published video of the Dator 5 and its dateless cousin, the Cifra 5, in action. Witnessing all the noisy mechanics whir as it changes from one month to the next only makes my lust for this marvel grow deeper.

There are more followers of Valle’s design in production today, including this wide range by Homeloo, but they clearly lack the spirit of the Solari Dator 5 or even the Bodet model.

Here’s another beautiful example of a Bodet flip clock, this one with months in English.



Finally, Adam Dorrell shot the innards of his Dator 5, noting the leap year function and blithely commenting, “This is why it’s great. No one would make a clock like this today. It would be cheaper to use ICs and a clock chip.”

Solari is still a key producer of those fantastic split-flap displays seen in railway stations and airports. In fact, such displays are often called “Solari boards”. Thanks to Luke McKenzie for the info, who notes:

Sadly, like most mechanical things that are awesome to behold, they easily fall into disrepair, and reliable, versatile, dull electronic signs are driving them to extinction.

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  1. 07.12.10 pagnier
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  3. 10.02.12 — garcia


    I have a clock donkey with trendy lid there 380v, I would like to connect her(it) 220v there, have you a solution for me?

    Beforehand thank you.

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