Yes, NTP rules... but it usually requires some tunning to work nicely. Read the doc.
To answer the question, I operate several stratum 3. My ISP has one/some 'private' stratum 1 to keep its Juniper routers on time... but these happily respond to NTP queries, offering me top-quality stratum 2 servers to sync onto. :)
What I mean by 'high quality' is low latency and low jitter. AltQ (alternate queuing, a QoS mechanism) is used on our gateway to help guarantee this for NTP packets.
In any case, it sounds like a good idea to check how close the NTP server(s) you want to rely on are (via traceroute, or 'ntpq -c peers' after ntpd has been running for a while).
Afaik, a nearby and properly operating stratum 3 server will serve you better than some remote and heavily loaded stratum 1.
Instead of waiting for clients' requests, our main NTP server broadcasts the time to all listening hosts. These run ntpd as well, as 'broadcastclients'.
ntpdate is therefore used during boot only (actually 'ntpdate -d').
For those still stuck with Windows, an (IMHO way better) alternative to D4 for NT/2k (and probably XP too, not tested) is Intellisoft's TimeSync.
Unlike D4, it works as a service and can receive NTP broadcasts, among other nice features. Details: