The history of clockmaking has always been a race against time. Each advance in the manufacture of these machines that keep track of the hours, minutes, and seconds in a day has been measured in terms of the accuracy of those standard units of time. Naturally, the design of clocks is also of interest to horologists, from the space allowed for swinging pendulums to the fonts used on clock faces. But if a clock doesn’t keep good time, it’s just another decorative dust collector.

In mechanical clocks, the movement of the hands is regulated by the escapement, which is a device that basically controls the rate at which a clock’s stored energy is released. As that stored energy is depleted, the clock’s accuracy decreases, requiring it to be wound again, often weekly. This inefficiency spurred inventors to create something more reliable. In fact, the first electric clock was invented all the way back in 1843 by an Edinburgh clockmaker named Alexander Bain. Being first, though, is not always a virtue, which is why Henry Ellis Warren is usually credited with making the first prototypical electric clock in 1915.

The alternating-current motors in Warren’s clock held out the promise of avoiding the weekly winding ritual and, most importantly, of keeping more accurate time than mechanical clocks. Unfortunately, Warren’s clocks were only as reliable as the electricity that flowed into them, which, in those days, was still a work in progress. To try and bring predictability to what was then an infant industry, in 1916 Warren made a master clock for his local utility, the Boston Edison Electric Illuminating Company. This master clock was actually two in one. The first was electrical, keeping time as best as it could using the current from Boston Edison. The second clock was powered by a mechanical spring and pendulum, with its time updated twice daily to make sure it was in sync with the official time being kept at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. Thus, when the electrical dial on Warren’s master clock was the same as the mechanical one, the utility knew that the current flowing from its power plant was stable.

Freed from the dimensional demands of grandfathers, banjos, and regulators, Warren’s Telechron clocks, as they were soon called, had license to be modern and beautiful. From the 1920s throughout the Great Depression, Telechron released Art Deco-style clocks in manufactured materials such as Bakelite, Catalin, and Lucite, as well as handsome woods. After World War II, electric clocks of countless makes and models embraced Streamline Moderne, which led to the Mid-Century Modern clocks of the 1950s and ’60s. Among the most famous of these were clocks designed by George Nelson and associates such as Irving Harper for the Howard Miller Clock Co., including wall clocks whose hands pointed to colored balls that resembled Tootsie Pops. Ironically, perhaps, these electrical clocks were battery powered, which meant that although they no longer needed winding, they were only as accurate as the freshness of their batteries, which began to lose their power the minute—or, to be more accurate, the second—they were first used.


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]

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]

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    

V. Rare Gents Slave Driven Fig C53 Chime Controller For Electric Master Clock Rare Very Early Gents Electric Master Clock Circa 1910 Not SynchronomeV. Rare Gents Slave Driven Fig C53 Strike Controller For Electric Master Clock Vintage Art Deco Clock Bakelite ? Telechron Octagonal Electric ClockVintage Original 1950's Howard Miller George Nelson Electric Atomic Ball ClockVintage Lumichron Model 12d Electric Neon Lighted Wall Clock W/ Chrome Case Nr2 Vintage Art Deco General Electric Ge Rapture Mantle Clock Models For PartsBulle Electric Clock In Glass Dome, Serial 200004 Circa 1935.excellent ConditionGeneral Electric 1930 Mechanical Timer ClockArt Deco Butterscotch Bakelite Ingraham Electric Alarm ClockVintage Art Deco Catalin Butterscotch Bakelite Telechron Electric Clock Case VtgVintage Midland Clock Radio Model No. 11-368 Sphere Sputnik Space Age ElectricVintage General Electric Wall Clock Model 2h10. Red Dot. Original Kit Cat Klock- Model D8- Electric-working Condition-moving Eye & TailVtg United Self Starting Hula Dancer Hawaiian Girl Electric Clock - Parts Repair Vtg 1929 Ge General Electric Telechron Metal Art Deco Alarm Clock Ab-712 PartsVintage Art Deco 1940s Ferranti Bakelite Electric Mantel Clock - 6.25" High Original Kit Cat Klock- Model D8- Electric Works Great With Moving Eyes & TailMichelin Electric Clock - 1920s Or Earlier.Vtg Jefferson Golden Hour Mystery Art Deco Mid Century Modern Electric ClockVintage Mastercrafters Starburst Mid Century Modern Working/lighted Electric WalVintage Sunbeam Electric Flip Clock Works Perfectly - Model 85-70 - 1970s JapanVintage Brass Art Deco Jefferson Golden Secret Electric Clock Working ConditionVintage 40s General Electric Ge Model 3h-180 Brown Marbled Bakelite Mantle ClockVintage General Electric Ge John Deere Quanity Farm Equipment Wall ClockVintage 1950s Coca Cola Electric Wall Clock General Electric Model 608 Working 1935-1936 Vintage Chevrolet Electric Dash Clock In Good Working Condition 1950 Vintage Electric White Church Clock By Mastercrafters Lot Of 20 Working Vintage Electric Clock Motors Parts Or Repair Vintage Lanshire Original Tags Ornate Victorian Roses Ceramic Electric ClockAdvertising Display Clock Napa Wiper Blades Plastic Electric Auto Part StoreVintage General Electric 13 Inch Wall Clock WorksVintage Oxford Metal Spinning Co Porcelain Sessions Mantle Clock ElectricNib, Vintage General Electric Am Clock Radio Rare Spartus Electric School Days Wall Clock 3016-41 Factory SealedVintage Ge Digital Alarm Clock Model 8138-6a General Electric Time Set FlipAntique/vtg-new Haven Electric Neon Clock Clock Motor Synchronous 110v 60 CyclesLot 4 Big Ben Moonbeam Electric And Baby Ben Wind Up Alarm ClocksVintage Clock Movement Lanshire Electric New No Box/old Stock Vintage Sessions Wood Self Starting Electric Mantel Clock Model 2wVintage Ge General Electric Alarm Clock Radio Am Fm Stereo Model No. 7-4550bGeneral Electric Wall Clock 2h20 Not Battery OperatedVintage Telechron Electric Clock Motor 110 Volt - WorksVintage/antique Sessions Electric Mantel Clock Ceramic/porcelain Vintage United Self Starting Wood Electric Wall Clock - Moving Bobbing BirdsVintage General Electric Dual Speaker Am/fm Table Top Clock Radio WorksVintage Electric Clock Motor 110 Volt - WorksVintage Sparta Electric Wall Clock--kitty Cat And MouseVintage Electric Clock Motor For Movement Clock - WorksVintage Telechron Revere Electric Mantle Shelf Westminster Clock Restore / PartsWestclox Electric Alarm Clock, New, UnopenedVintage Westclox Electric School Industrial Clock 10"Vintage Self Starting Electric Clock Glowing Log Fireplace Mantle Clock 1950'sVintage Sizzler Pink Westclox Drowse Dialite Model 22240 Electric Alarm ClockGe General Electric Am/fm Alarm Flip Clock Radio Model 7-4333 Wood Grain TestedVintage General Electric Table Top Clock Model 7347, Working Vintage Analog Westclox Drowse Dialite Electric Alarm Clock Model 22194Vintage Ge General Electric Clock Radio 7-4663a Elec. Touch W/blue Display, #3Vintage Mid Century General Electric Model 7ha 253 Alarm Clock, WorksSpartus Electric Clock Vintage