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 Los Angeles, California, in 1934, Lindley Spencer Lawson and his son, Harold, opened Lawson Clocks Limited. Most of their clocks resembled the sorts of architectural details one might find in an Art Deco train station, as in the Zephyr Clock, which 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. The Arlington model 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    

Vintage Harley Davidson Motorcycle Glo Dial Art Deco Neon Wall ClockDunhill Parker Beacon Silver Plated Art Deco Pocket Clock Lighter BoxedVintage Glo Dial Art Deco Neon Wall Clock As IsVery Stylish Art Deco Clock - Lapis Lazuli & Onyx - Very Rare Designer ClockVintage 3os Majestic Deco Old Swirled Colors Bakelite Antique Mirror Clock RadioVintage Marbled Plastic Bakelite Lux Art Deco Mid Century Gothic Antique ClockVintage Gubelin 8 Day 15 Jewel Alarm Clock Swiss Movement - Art Deco Style 5351Dura Westclox Antique 1930's Art Deco Clock, 401 Model 61-c Alarm Desk Mantle1920`s French Art Deco Mantel Clock Set With Group FiguralArt Deco Carved Oak Wall ClockAntique Vintage Art Deco German Vienna 8 Day Westminster Chiming Wall Clock 1930Vintage Ivory Bakelite Telechron Electric Art Deco Alarm Clock Work!Antique 1937 King George Vi Coronation Mantel Clock - Art DecoStunning Old 1930's Art Deco 8-day Mantel Clock - Fully Working - Swiss MadeElectric Art Deco Digital Style Wooden Clock 1930s Westclox Electric Art Deco Pittsfield Alarm ClockAntique Bucherer Swiss 8 Day Enamel Clock Art Deco Beautiful! Beautiful Art Deco Junghans Westminster Chiming Mantel Clock With PendulumLarge Art Deco Mahogany Napoleon Hat Mantel ClockAntique Early 20thc Miniature Art Deco Chrome Elgin Mantle Clock, Works!A Dream In Black Art Deco Westminster Chiming Mantel Clock From Dugena HermlePleasance & Harper Mantle Clock In Art Deco Style Westminster Chimes Antique Rare Beautiful Art Deco Kienzle Westminster Chiming Mantel Clock With PendulumVintage Art Deco Chrome Shelf Desk Clock Wind Up Works Mid Century GermanyVintage Telechron Bakelite Art Deco Alarm Clock / 1940s / Model 7h125Authentic Must De Cartier Art Deco Fine Brass & Lacquer Quartz Desk ClockHamilton Sangamo Art Deco Mantel Synchronous A.c. Onyx Marble Clock Style S-402Bond Bakelite Deco Electric ClockArt Deco Gilt And Brass Cartier Alarm Clock Beautiful Art Deco Junghans Westminster Chiming Mantel Clock With EchapementBeautiful Art Deco Junghans Chiming Mantel Clock With Pendulum2x Vintage Art Deco French 1930's Jaz 8 Day Chrome Clock Spares/repairBeautiful Art Deco Junghans Chiming Mantel Clock With PendulumPink Glass Art Deco Clock.1940's Smiths Sectric Art Deco Green Bakelite Kitchen Wall Clock DurbanVintage Running "art Deco" Westminster Hump Back German Mahogany Mantel Clock.Art Deco Germany Mauthe 21" Footed German Mantle Clock 4 Rod Strike ChimesVintage Seth Thomas Amber Bakelite Alarm Clock Art Deco .canadaRare Beautiful Art Deco Lauffer Westminster Chiming Mantel Clock Black ForestVintage Art Deco Waltham 8 Day Shelf Mantle Clock For PartsArt Deco Telechron Electric Clock Model 3h731940's Smiths Sectric Art Deco Red Bakelite Electric Kitchen Wall Clock8 Day Art Deco Mantle Clock In GwoVintage General Electric Alarm Clock Mahogany Wood Art Deco Model 7h140 *works*Deco Marble Angular Shape Table Clock--very Interesting One Of A Kind ClockCrosley Deco Alarm Clock - Bakelite - Light Up Dial - Battery Operated - RetroArt Deco Vintage / Antique French Ceramic Mantel / Mantle Garniture Clock.General Electric Mosaic Wall Clock Vintage Retro Art Deco Model 2118 A WorksLater Art Deco Junghans Westminster Chiming Mantel Clock With ResonanzFrench Art Deco Vendette Clock About 1940, 4/4 WestminsterVintage Art Deco Forestville Alarm Clock Made In GermanyVintage Germany Art Deco Bakelite Clock- Not Working- Very Unique! Cobalt Glass Deco ClockVintage Bakelite Dest Top Shelf Mini Mantle Clock Chicago Art Deco Wind-up BlackAn Authentic Hawaiian Koa Wood Art Deco Style Clock-lenox Movement