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]

Modernism

Modernism

This archived overview produced by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts offers thumbnail sketches of the design moveme… [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]

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    

Beautiful English Smiths Art Deco Mantle Clock Basse Taille Guilloche EnamelVintage Art Deco Bakelite Catalin 8 Day Plymouth Clock Co. Clock UsaLawson Clock Art DecoArt Deco Mantel Clock By Enfield - Gwo - Westminster Chimes - 1940sVintage 40s Near Mint Working Philco Art Deco Old Mid Century Tube Clock Radio Asymmetrical Art Deco Telechron Chrome & Grey Mirror Desk Clock Runs Smoothly Vintage Art Deco Style Ticket Flip Clock German Desk Clock Runs GoodLawson Art Deco Copper Brass Zephyr Electric Time Flip Table Clock P40 Style 304Vintage Mid Century Telechron Kitchen Clock. Red Dot,,art Deco Look Cream ColorVintage Art Deco Shelf Clock Antique French Cased Ladies Wind Up Art Deco Traveling Alarm Clock By BreveteGilbert Art Deco Alarm Clock - Neat 1930s - Works FineRare Art Deco Enamel Diel Watch Clock Pocket Lighter Engine Turned As IsArt Deco Moderne Clock Unusual Tessellated Penshell Maitland Smith InspiredRare Vintage Deco Jaeger Lecoultre Desk Table Clock Gold Filigree 15 Jewel WorksExcellent Signed Venini Murano Italy Twisted Rope Glass Art Deco 8 Day Clock "gorham 8 Days" Deco Desk Clock, Ulysse Nardin15 Jewels, "black, Starr & Frost"Rare Vintage Art Deco Guillouche Enameled Miniature Clock Digital Numerals Vintage Art Deco 1930s Electric Telechron Blue Mirror Clock Works DatededVintage Veritable Westminster Art Deco Mirrored Pendulum Wall Clock Lovely Deco Haller (german) Dual Chime Westminster & Whittington Mantle ClockVery Rare 1950s, Art Deco Chrome Mechanical 30-hour Smiths Tilting Desk Clock, Vintage Old Near Mint Ingraham Sheraton Radio Design Colonial Deco Era Clock Art Deco Mid Century Modern Lackner Neon Glo Desk Mantle Clock SquireSmiths Art Deco Antique Clock Oak Westminster Chimes Winegartens Ltd London***nice Vtg * Art Deco * Bakelite Rare New Haven Clock Vintage Antique L@@k! ***Art Deco Wood Mantle ClockVintage General Electric Art Deco Clock Model 3h92-mahogany,inlays-1939-40-worksVtg Hammond Synchronous Prudence Red Bakelite Chrome Art Deco Kitchen Wall ClockLeininger Vintage Deco Spin Clock-translucent Case-rareIngraham "sundial Shoes" Large Art Deco Ad Alarm Clock 1937Rare Warren Telechron Bakelite Skyscraper 770 Deco Electric Alarm Clock-workingPair Of Lovely Art Deco Clock Garnitures Art Deco Butterscotch Bakelite Electric Westclox Clock. Vintage Deco Minneapolis - Honeywell Chronotherm Clock Thermostat In Great CondArt Deco New Haven Advertising Alarm Clock "star Brand Shoes"Rare Vintage Art Deco Walt Disney Mickey Mouse Alarm Clock Phinney-walker Japan1930s New Haven Art Deco Style Small Mantel Alarm Clock Metal Case Parts RepairLarge Art Deco Style Swiza 8 Day Alarm Clock Gold ColourBeautiful Smiths Deco Brass & Bakelite 8 Day Clock - 7 " Dial - GwoVintage Windsor Cobalt Blue Mirror Glass Art Deco Electric Alarm Clock UsaVintage No 420 Sessions Clock Co Regulator Mantle Clock Deco StyleVintage Shelf Clock Mantle Clock Art Deco Electric Clock Vtg Art Deco Mastercrafters Starlight Clock #146 Illuminated Mantel Tv McmVintage Art Deco Hammond Synchronous Electric Alarm Clock. 60 Hz. The Edgemont.Vintage General Electric Ge Yellow Plastic Kitchen Deco Wall ClockStunning Ferranti Early Electric Chrome Art Deco ClockJuvenia Swiss Sterling Silver Art Deco Vintage Travel Pocket Watch Clock MovadoVintage Bentima Art Deco Style 8 Day Mantel Clock With Chimes #cr#1930s Smiths Electric Bakelite Vintage Art Deco Mantel/ Alarm ClockVintage Art Deco Small Wooden Mantle Clock - Mercedes - Made In GermanyVintage Antique Deco Modern National Clock Co. Wind Up Alarm (a5)Vtg Westclox Big Ben Twilight Powder Blue Art Deco Illuminated Alarm Clock Nice!Art Deco Electric ClockChiming Mantel Clock Junghans Art Deco Germany From The 40'sSmiths 8 Day Art Deco Mantle Clock The Pembroke.Ingraham Sentinel Art Deco Style Vintage Alarm Clock 1950's Small SizeLovely Art Deco 1930s Smiths Mantel Clock 8 Day Working Case Grubby Veneered OldBeautiful Art Deco Junghans Westminster Chiming Mantel Clock With PendulumIngraham Aristocrat 1946 Art Deco Style Ivory Wall Clock W/ Box