Coca-Cola began advertising its products on clocks in 1893, when such novelty advertisements were increasingly common. Coke would distribute branded clocks to sellers who bought and sold at least 100 gallons of Coca-Cola syrup per year.
The first Coca-Cola clocks were made by the Baird Clock Company of Plattsburgh, New York, and had big, round faces with Roman numerals. The first ones were generally blue rather than red, and they measured about two feet tall. Unlike the electric clocks that were to follow several decades later, they were key-wound.
At $2.75 each, clocks were relatively expensive to produce, but Coca-Cola made the investment knowing that, because of their usefulness, advertising clocks would stay on display in a store long after posters or other items had been discarded...
These early Coca-Cola clocks often bore slogans like “The Ideal Brain Tonic,” or “Delicious, Refreshing, Relieves Exhaustion.” Soon, however, simpler slogans like “Drink Coca-Cola” and “Delicious, Refreshing” became standard. Because these statements were more generic, they also helped prevent the clocks from becoming outdated or irrelevant.
In 1900, Coca-Cola switched to schoolhouse clocks, which were manufactured by companies like Welch Manufacturing. These clocks had octagonal faces, were pendulum-driven, and featured ornate engravings on their wood cases.
Five years later, schoolhouse clocks gave way to large, rectangular regulator clocks. These often had the same type of face as the schoolhouse clocks but had two panels on them—a top panel with the clock itself and a bottom panel with an illustration. One example, from 1911, has been nicknamed the “Gibson Girl” clock because its illustration of a girl in the bottom panel that resembles the artwork of the illustrator Charles Dana Gibson. In addition to these wall clocks, Coke distributed clocks meant to be displayed on the top of a store’s cash register.
Around the same time, until about 1920, Coca-Cola also produced small table and desk clocks for the home. Some of these were wind-up clocks and sported leather casing and gold-stamped lettering. Whereas store clocks often simply said, “Drink Coca-Cola,” desk and table clocks frequently emphasized drinking Coca-Cola in bottles, which could be purchased and served in the home. These clocks had slogans like “Drink Coca-Cola in Bottles” and “Drink Bottles, So Easily Served.” One such clock from about 1910 was even shaped like a bottle, with a clock face mounted in the front.
In the 1930s, and especially after World War II, Coke switched from pendulum clocks to cheaper, more reliable electric clocks. On these clocks, the Coke logo was placed either on the actual face of the clock or on the glass over the face. These clocks were made of wood and metal at first, but by the 1950s, plastic was more common. These later clocks were generally not dated and were produced by a variety of manufacturers, so collectors must rely on slogans, designs, and materials to identify the year or decade in which a clock was produced.
Interviews & Articles
As the archivist for Coca-Cola, I’m interested in preserving the history of this company. Integrally tied to that history are all … [more]
How did I get interested in clocks? Something about them has always been ingrained in me. My mom’s father had a small collection o… [more]
I started collecting Coca-Cola memorabilia back in the early 1970s. I was working the night shift at a company, and as I walked ho… [more]
I was working as a jewelry department manager for a department store, and I had a customer who brought a clock in for repair. I wa… [more]
My grandfather got me started collecting bottles when I was about eight years old. A couple of years later, I was walking along a … [more]
I started collecting Coca-Cola in 1994. The World Cup soccer games were being hosted at the Stanford Stadium and I saw Coke bottle… [more]
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