Clock design was heavily influenced in the 1920s and ’30s by Art Deco, a machine-like aesthetic for a fast-paced industrial age. No object escaped the streamline touch of Art Deco, including clocks, whose cases often echoed the geometric architecture of the day.

In Europe, the French and Swiss were leading producers of Art Deco clocks. The French excelled in clocks for the mantel made of marble, onyx, brass, glass, and chrome. Many of these clocks sported columns on their sides and Roman numerals on their faces. Other clocks were designed for desks. These would frequently sit on bases of marble, below which were nickel feet, with the clock flanked by a pair of inkwells, which most contemporary collectors today use for paper clips and other dry office items.

Some French clocks were paired with bronze figurines of, for example, Diana the Huntress, complete with ivory bow and green onyx shield. Animals were also common, with bronze, fantail doves, lovebirds, and gazelles being particularly popular choices. Beyond the desktop and mantel, the French also produced large grandfather clocks in the Art Deco style, some of which were made of rosewood with silver-finished faces and clear glass on the clocks’ pendulum doors.

French Art Deco clock designers included Edgar Brandt, whose hand-wrought, forged iron clocks typically sat on marble bases. Cartier made all sorts of clocks, including square travel clocks with gold hands and black enameled handles. Compagnie Industrielle de Macanique Horelogere, which sold clocks under its JAZ brand, introduced a line of Art Deco clocks in 1934. These were usually geometric (round faces in horizontal cases), colorful (think blues, greens, and gold), and often incorporated mirrors into their designs.

The Swiss were also Art Deco clock masters. Arthur ImHof produced clocks featuring amber glass and chromed bronze; other ImHof clocks paired black Bakelite and patinated bronze with shiny chrome to provide contrast and accentuate the airplane-wing-like design of the clock’s base. LeCoultre also got into the Art Deco act, producing clocks made of Lucite and copper, among other materials.

In the United States, venerable clockmakers such as Ingraham, Seth Thomas, Waltham, and Telechron produced a large number of Art Deco clocks for the home. The SK141 electric kitchen wall clock by Ingraham had a black painted wood case with chrome trim. Seth Thomas made a green, faux-marble Catalin (a transparent cousin to Bakelite) alarm clock, as well as a mantel clock formed from a block of clear, gold-bubble-infused Lucite.

Waltham clocks were often framed in successive bands of marble or jade—some had silver numbers and hands. Telechron, a subsidiary of General Electric, was another company to make...

Another prominent designer of Art Deco clocks for G.E. was Walter Dorwin Teague, who created, among other things, a brown Bakelite clock. Raymond Loewy chose to do his clock-design work for Westinghouse—his slender, 54-inch tall Columaire Jr. housed both a clock and a radio, and spurred a slew of so-called Skyscraper clock-radio imitators.

In the world of high design, the Herman Miller Clock Company of Zeeland, Michigan contracted with Gilbert Rohde to design a clock for the 1934 Worlds Fair. It was made of beautifully grained ebony, with chrome accents, a brass second hand, and black enamel minute and hour hands. Rohde designed a lot of clocks for Miller in the 1930s, including cylindrical clocks cased in Bakelite. Some were made of veneered burlwood or rosewood, usually with chrome accents, while others were made only of black glass on a chrome base.

Out in Pasadena, California, Kem Weber designed a number of clocks for Lawson Electric Clock. Most of these resembled the sorts of architectural details one might find in an Art Deco train station. His Zephyr Clock had a curving, asymmetrical copper body with brass trim. Model 206 was a blocky clock incorporating a brass body, columns on the sides, and a digital readout in the center. Model P40 was also digital, but its case was made of silver and glass, all of which sat on a white alabaster base.

Lest you get the impression that all clocks made during the Art Deco era were somber examples of serious design, the period also saw a huge number of charming novelty clocks. Airplane clocks made out of Bakelite and nickel were very popular, as were the Bakelite Vistascope clocks that had a recessed compartment above the clock’s dial to house an illuminated diorama of a three-dimensional object, such as a boat or a ship.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

National Watch and Clock Museum

National Watch and Clock Museum

This virtual museum, created by the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, lets you stroll through tim… [read review or visit site]

Art Deco 1910-1939

Art Deco 1910-1939

This Victoria and Albert Museum has a terrific collection of Art Deco objects. On the VAM's website, you can learn … [read review or visit site]

Clockhistory.com

Clockhistory.com

Bill Stoddard's clock history site offers a trove of great reference information on clock and watch makers includin… [read review or visit site]

Decopix

Decopix

Randy Juster's survey of Art Deco imagery and reference on all things Deco. Includes pages on murals, houses, gov… [read review or visit site]

National Maritime Museum

National Maritime Museum

Check out this sampling of nautical and maritime items held by the U.K.'s National Maritime Museum and Royal Observ… [read review or visit site]

Modernism

Modernism

This archived overview produced by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts offers thumbnail sketches of the design moveme… [read review or visit site]

Dan and Diana's Lux Clock Collection

Dan and Diana's Lux Clock Collection

Dan and Diana Lockett's amazing collection of several hundred novelty Lux clocks made by the Lux Clock Manufacturin… [read review or visit site]

Detex Watchman's Clock Album

Detex Watchman's Clock Album

Philip Haselton's guide to watchmen's time recording equipment. Includes 19th century German portables, 20th centur… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

C. 1950's Lecoultre Eames Era Art Deco Lucite Clock 8 Day Skeleton MovementLovely Art Deco Blue Perspex Smiths Electric Mantel Clock 1930s Workin1920's French Art Deco Fireplace Clock Set With GarnituresMid-20th Century Zenith Travel Alarm Clock. Carriage Clock. Modernist. Art Deco.Vintage 1930s Art Deco Early Modern Telechron Jazz Age Mantle Shelf Clock -norsvArt Deco 1920s Tiffany Furnaces / Tiffany Studios Blue Enamel Desk ClockVintage Hammond Postal Telegraph Art Deco Light Up Clock For Restoration Hi-15Vintage 1930's Smiths Sectric Electric Starburst Wall Clock - Art Deco!Art Deco Telechron Mantel Clock With Chime, Mod. 6b01, Mid Century Modern, WorksVintage 1930s Warren Telechron Bakelite Old Electric Machine Age Art Deco ClockVintage Art Deco Moderne Streamlined Bakelite Ge Telechron Clock Model 3f51 Art Deco Streamlined Lawson Clock Style No. 500 Electric Clock ~no Reserve~ Beautiful Original Art Deco Pink Glass Boudoir Clock Heinrich Hoffmann Czech Antique British Perivale Anvil Westminster Chiming Mantel Clock Vintage Art DecoFine Art Deco Vintage Sterling Silver Guilloche Enamel 8 Day Desk Travel Clock1930's French Polaire Dep Clock Art Deco Machine Age Automatic Table Lighter Vtg Warren Telechron Blue Mirrored Art Deco Electric Clock #3f65Antique French Art Deco Long Case Mantel Carriage Clock In Working Condition Vintige Art Deco Swiss Made Imhof 15 Jewels 8 Day Hand Painted Alarm ClockHammond Mantel Desk Calendar Clock " Skyscraper" Bakelite Art Deco Day Date NrBeautiful Junghans Chiming Mantel Clock Art Deco GermanyRare 50s Risque 1950 Lane & Co Racy Nude Sessions Mantel Clock Spicy Art DecoGe General Electric Model 3h94 Blue Mirror Deco Vintage Electric Clock Beautiful Art Deco Westminster Junghans Chiming Mantel Clock  nice Vintage 1950's Art Deco Retro Jefferson Golden Hour Mystery Clock WorksVintage Art Deco Smiths K6b Mantel Clock West Minster Or Whittington ChimeVintage Electric Telechron Kitchen Clock Minitmaster Retro Art Deco For Parts1950's Vintage Rare Schaefer Beer Retro Art Deco Lighted Sailboat Clock SignVintage German Bauhaus Mauthe 40s 50s Art Deco Table Clock Tischuhr Uhr Art Deco Phenolic Bakelite Scottie Dog Clock, Bayard Clock, CatalinGeneral Electric Clock Vtg Mid Century Chrome 4f60 Dictator Art Deco Mid Ge Art Deco Light Wood Inlayed Striking Mantel Clock FwoAntique Art Deco Style Waltham Wood Cased Mantel Clock - Not WorkingArt Deco Aluminum Desktop Prop Model Airplane + Display Air Plane Clock Works Rare Beautiful Art Deco Junghans Chiming Mantel Clock With PendulumAntique Art Deco Gilbert Black Column Claw Foot Mantle Chime Clock With KeyNice Vintage Deco Chrome Seth Thomas 5.5" Blue Desk Shelf Clock Collectible Nr Art Deco Desk Clock Vintage Ingraham Wood Art Deco Electric Mantel Clock Mod # D157Cobalt Blue Mirror Clock Thomas O'brien Vintage Modern Deco 5-1/2" X 5-1/2"Vintage Chrome Art Deco Ship Wheel Military Clock Airguide Nautical AntiqueArt Deco Prop Plane Clock By SarsaparillaBeautiful Art Deco Design Chiming Mantel Clock From Junghans Germany Art Deco Antique & Modern Watches Repair Sales Advertising Mirror Sign ClockArt Deco Light Wood Chiming Mantel Shelf Clock W/ Pendulum & Key *works*6" Glass - Chrome Vintage Machine Age Art Deco Hammond Synchronous Alarm ClockVintage Art Deco Petite Neuchteloise Jaeger Swiss Music Box Alarm ClockVintage Mid Century Art Deco Jefferson Electric Golden Hour Clock - NonworkingArt Deco Chrome Mantel ClockMid-century Haddon Golden Vision Mystery Art Deco Clock / Model 70s / WorkingWaltham 8 Day Clock In Art Deco Chrome StandSemca Art Deco Swiss Ladies Travel Alarm Clock Working Haddon Golden Vision Clock Jefferson Clock Art Deco Model 70 Hour Gorgeous 1960's Art Deco 3d Flamingo Shelf/mantle Clock By Otagiri Japan Rare!Vintage Hammond Art Deco Cathedral Bakelite Electric Clock Works *vintage 1956-64 Westclox Big Ben Style 7 Art Deco Windup Alarm Clock*Vintage 1949-55 Westclox Big Ben Wind Up Art Deco Alarm Clock Repair Or PartsVintage German Art Deco Mantel ClockFrench Clock Bell For Striker Art Deco Etc No Reserve