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    

1950's Art Deco Glass And Bakelite 8-day Mantle Clock By Smiths. Working1950's Art Deco Chrome And Bakelite 8-day Desk Mantle Clock By Smiths. WorkingVintage Art Deco Luxor Blue Warren Telechron Mirror Clock Shelf MantelVintage 1930's Working Octagon Face Art Deco Light Up Neon ClockVintage Bakelite General Electric Telechron Wall School Clock Usa Art Deco BrownArt Deco Telechron Clock 4f71 Cobalt Blue Mirror Vintage Neon Ray Clock Company Ny Luncheonette Sign Menu Board Art Deco ClockEnglish Mantel Clock - Art Deco Westminster Chime Clock - Antique ClocksVintage 1940 Art Deco Clock Mid Century Rose & Brass Ge 3h160 Rapture Serviced20's 30's Vintage Art Deco Movie Theater Lobby Clock Rare!! Wizard Of Oz Alarm Clock-art Deco By Ingraham Co-1939 Bobbs Merrill Co.Vtg 1950's Art Deco Jefferson Electric Golden Hour Mystery Mantle Clock Works! Rare Beautiful Art Deco Junghans Chiming Mantel Clock With PendulumRare Waltham "art Deco" 8 Day Clock Unusual Greek Key Enamel DesignVintage Job Lot Alarm Clock Art Deco Oris Polaris Etc Spares Or Repairs Prop UseAntique 1920's New Haven Slumber Stopper Art Deco Windup Alarm Clock "rare"Working Jefferson Golden Hour Mystery Clock Art Deco Mid Century Modern StyleBeautiful Later Art Deco Junghans Chiming Mantel Clock From 50Lovely Black Dial Le Coultre Art Deco Travel Clock - Gwo 1938 General Electric Art Deco Cobalt Blue Mirror Shelf Clock Mod.5h64 LorraineTelechron Electric Table Clock-runs Accurately-1930's Art DecoBeautiful Later Art Deco Junghans Chiming Mantel Clock From 50Absolute Rare Beautiful Later Art Deco Junghans Chiming Mantel Clock From 50Art Deco Mantel Clock - Westminster Chime Clock - Antique Clocks 1930's Hammond Art Deco Bakelite Clock Beautiful Later Art Deco Westminster Zentra Hermle Chiming Mantel Clock 50Old Vintage 1930's Bakelite Catalin Art Deco Wind-up Alarm Clock Pure Rare Beautiful Art Deco Kieninger Chiming Mantel Clock With PendulumBeautiful Wood Later Art Deco Zenrtra Chiming Mantel Clock 50Rare Vtg Semca 8 Day Wind Up Alarm Clock; 7 Jewel Swiss Made Mcm Art Deco BrassAntique 1930-1934 Westclox Dura Model 61-f Art Deco Windup Mantle Alarm ClockRare Beautiful Art Deco Kienzle Chiming Mantel Clock Very Big Rare Beautiful Art Deco Kienzle Chiming Mantel Clock With Pendulum  1936 Art Deco Telechron Amethyst Or Lavender Mirror Ac Electric Clock LuxorGe Telechron Art Deco Chrome And Blue Kitchen Wall Clock WorkingVintage Anvil 1930's Mantle Clock Striking Brass Movement British Art Deco ClockVintage Telechron Art Deco Electric Alarm Clock Excellent ConditionVintage Alarm Clock Art Deco Westclox Baby Ben #61-r Wind Up Works!!!Vintage Westclox Ben Franklin S4 White Bakelite Art Deco Clock WorksLarge Swiss Art Deco Enamel Face ClockArt Deco Jefferson Golden Secret Electric Clock For Parts Or RepairVintage Deco Style Jefferson Golden Hour Electric Mystery Clock Parts Or RestoreAntique French Art Deco Style Wall Clock Case Dark Walnut Stained Solid Wood Vintage Westclox Art Deco Roll-top Travel Alarm Clock Lot Of 5 ClocksVintage Red Seth Thomas Clock Art Deco Lines Made In Usa Red Kitchen Wall ClockAntique German Art Deco Fine Oak Wall Clock. Circa 1920 Excellent Decorator ItemRare Beautiful Art Deco Junghans Chiming Mantel Clock With PendulumBeautiful Art Deco Seth Thomas Mantle Clock In Excellent Condition - 1920sVintage Bentima Perivale Clock Wind Up Mantel Westminster Chime Walnut Art DecoAntique (1920) Marble Art Deco Table Clock - Free ShippingVintage Art Deco Waltham Shelf/desk Clock,glass,mirror Face,model 170,rare FindVintage Hammond Bakelite Art Deco Electric Calendar Clock For PartsVintage Hammond "tripoli" Deco Synchronous Date Time Calendar Alarm Clock C.1941Rare Beautiful Art Deco Junghans Chiming Mantel Clock With Pendulum1930's Deco German Striking Kienzle Grandfather ClockVintage English / German Art Deco Oak Cased Mantel Clock . Working Time / ChimeVintage 1950's - Original G.e. Art Deco Plaskon Kitchen Wall Clock - Works - Antique Art Deco 20s Waltham 8 Day 15j Watch Co. Double Dial Partners Desk ClockTelechron Thick Cased Art Glass Eye Ball Mid Century Deco Shelf Mantle Clock Art Deco Ge Mantle Clock Vintage Copper Glass Mirror Industrial Modern Telechron