Here is an original Day planner that surrounds a small desk clock. The secretary could record her boss’s schedule at the time of an appointment. This model of a clock is called “Secretary.” It dates back to 1938, as evidenced by the page of the planner.

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The ancestor of the animated clock is the automatons. The oldest automaton clock is located at Strasbourg Cathedral (c. 1352-1354), but only the singing rooster remains. The animated or automaton clock may be considered a gadget clock or a whimsical clock. This clock that I photographed in a large American antique fair is named Blinking-eye Clock because the character’s eyes move to the rhythm of the clock’s ticking. Unfortunately, this one, wholly made in cast iron, is scarce on the market and very expensive.

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The pendulum is called torsion or “twisting” when its very heavy bob suspended from a wire is able to undergo a long period of vibration with minimal energy. In 1793, an Englishman, Robert Leslie, was granted a patent for a twisted clock. But an American, Aaron D. Crane, also obtained patents in 1829 and 1841 for a twisted clock of 8, 30 or 365 days of operation. The commercialization took place in small quantities around 1845 in New York by J. R. Mills and co. In 1855, Crane obtained another patent for a multi-weight clock. In Germany, around 1879, Anton Harder developed a 400-day twist clock. Very popular in the late 1940s and 1950s, like this German Kundo from 1950s, the Anniversary clock has a mouvement that allows continuous operation for 400 days, or even 1,000 days.  It was mostly sold under a glass or plastic globe or in a glass lantern. The pendulum of this clock is usually made up of four spheres that rotate and return very slowly around an axis. The Americans later named it “Birthday Clock” because this type of clock was offered for a birthday, and it worked until the next birthday. With the advent of battery clocks, there are several anniversary clock imitations on the market that can no longer be called 400 days since they work as long as the battery charge allows.

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Caspar Behaim (Chasparus Bohemus) (active 1568–84)
Astronomical table clock, 1568
Austrian, Vienna,
Case and dials: gilded brass; Movement: iron post and frame.

George Graham built c. 1750 the illustrated (left) long-case astronomical clock. The American Airlines Corporation donated the clock to the Canadian Museum of History. “Samuel Johannes Holland, appointed in 1764 as the first chief surveyor in British North America, surrounded this astronomical clock with precise movement with great precautions. He used it to make topographical surveys that were consulted for many years.” Furniture astronomical clock we also made, like the illustrated (right) one, a 16th-century table astronomical from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of New York.

(Left Image no D-5579, S89-1861 published with the permission of the Canadian Museum of History; Right Image from Metropolitan Museum authorized under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication)

Clocks; James Cox's "perpetual motion" self-winding clock. E Wellcome V0023851

James Cox was credited with the invention of a perpetual motion clock around the 1760s, the ancestor of atmospheric clocks (illustrated an engraving of Cox clock by J. Lodge, 1774). Indeed, they do not need winding, because it is the combined effect of changes in temperature and atmospheric pressure that makes it work. It was developed in 1926 by Jean-Léon Reutter of Neuchâtel, Switzerland. The Swiss company Jaeger-LeCoultre, the holder of the patent, is credited with the commercialization of this type of clock. Here is a Jaeger-LeCoultre prototype. The pendulum, in the form of a fairly thick disc, makes a back-and-forth motion. For more details, see Wikipedia.

(Left Image by Wellcome Collection CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons. Right Image by Rama, CC BY-SA 2.0 FR, via Wikimedia Commons)

In the Articulated arm clock, the whole sphere-dial, intersecting rods, and sphere-shaped counterweights serve as the clock’s pendulum. Here, the goddess Diane holds the world globe in her arm, and she wings it from left to right. This is an Ansonia that I photographed at an American antique fair. These clocks sell for high prices. 

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1.03 – NATIONAL CREATIONS OR DENOMINATIONS - USA - 1883: Flying Pendulum or Ignatz (A.C. Clausen)
Flying Pendulum clock
Image reproduced under “Fair use for educational purpose.”

Alder Christian Clausen of Minneapolis, Minnesota, invented and patented (October 9, 1883) the so-called Ignatz or flying clock, manufactured by Jerome and Co. of Connecticut, a division of New Haven, and sold only for two years (1884-1885). Most of those on the market today are reproductions by Horolovar and manufactured in Germany from 1959 to 1979. As you can see in the photo, a pendulum is attached to a central swivel rod, and the centrifugal force causes it to fly from right to left, touching, in turn, the other two rods situated at equal distances from the central post. These clocks are not precision models; they lose 5 to 10 minutes per day. The publicity for the Ignatz clock said: “This is the best showcase attraction ever made. Will attract a crowd wherever it is exhibited.” The Ignatz is part of the Gadget or Novelty clock category for this alone.

The origin of the organ clock dates back to the 16th century. Queen Elizabeth commissioned Thomas Dallam to present a gift to the Sultan of Turkey, an organ he had made, to which Randolph Bull’s clock was attached. But it was not until about 1770 that organ clocks took off. Made in Furtwangen in the Black Forest, these clocks were large instruments installed in a very deep and high floor case. You have to go to a museum to see them. In the United States, Kirk and Todd Wilcott of Connecticut were the only ones to build organ clocks in 1848. However, as they were not smart businessmen, they built very few of these clocks. See Wikipedia. Illustrated: an English Organ Clock by Markwick Markham from the 17th century. These organ clocks were very trendy for the Ottoman market.

(Left imageRight image by Spritz 331Spritz331 authorized under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 International)






A Ships Bell Clock, like this German Schatz from the 1950s, is geared to ring quarters on a ship, that is, the four hours of watch. The first quarter starts at noon, the next one at 4 pm, etc. When a watch begins, the two hammers struck the bell in pairs four times. At the first half-hour of the cycle, the bell is strike once; at the next half-hour, the two hammers strike the bell in pairs, wait a few seconds, and add a strike, the same for each half-hour until the end of the quarter marked by four pairs of strikes. Then the cycle starts again. 

The characteristics of a quality Ships bell clock are a brass or nickel case to prevent corrosion, a French-style escapement on a plate, or a spiral spring escapement with rubies to ensure that a change of level will not stop it. It usually has an eight-day movement. Some alike clocks do not have a bell, so they do not belong to the Ships Bell Clock sub-category. Instead, they are classified as marine, maritime, or nautical clocks.

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Console clocks are so called because they usually fit into a cabinet or dashboard where other devices are located. For example, there are clocks on the dashboard of a car or truck, an airplane cockpit or a boat, or even a radio or television control board or road or train monitoring. On the left is an 8-day Waltham from a US Navy Aero Hellcat, a World War II fighter. Right at the top, an 8-day Waltham of a 1926 Ford Model T, down a quartz clock installed in a boat binnacle. The binnacle is defined as a structure on the deck of a ship, usually in front of the helmsman, designed to protect navigational equipment such as a magnetic compass, a compass, a marine clock that rings the quarters, and also a lamp.

(Images reproduced under “Fair use for educational purpose“)

Americans call Novelty Clocks, clocks of various shapes that are meant to be fun to have and with which the gallery can be amazed. They are bought for amusement or as a souvenir. For example, the many Disney clocks representing characters from their cartoons are Novelty Clocks. Among the manufacturers that have offered gadget clocks, “The Lux Clock Manufacturing Co.” founded in 1917, has distinguished itself by the variety of its models. Note that several clocks inspired by everyday objects can be called  “Gadgets Clocks(Novelty clocks). For example, this Canadian-made Novelty clock from the 1960s was made by the Snider Clock Mfg Company. 

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This illustrated clock, a Junghans 1930s mini grandfather is a one-spring clock with a tiny pendulum that beats, the small weights being decorative. Its case is in walnut with a hand-painted pattern. These mini clocks that imitate the big ones are classified apart because it is a popular category for some collectors. It belongs to the gadget clock sub-category. 

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The industrial-style clock refers to a miniature clock often with an automaton, modeled on objects from the world of the 19th century industry, such as the steam engine clock or the windmill clock or the locomotive clock, such as this one, seen on the Web, a French eight day of the 1950s with a mechanical movement.

(Image reproduced under “Fair use for educational purpose“)

A handcrafted clock is a clock made or transformed by a clockmaker or a cabinetmaker, in which he added an ancient or recent movement acquired for this purpose. For example, here is an artisan-made grandfather clock seen in an antique store in the U.S.A.

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This 1912 patented Lux small clock has two slits on top, one for 10 ¢, the other for 5¢ or 25 ¢. A small hole on the side allows inserting tightly rolled paper dollars. Inside, a mechanism allows the clock to be rewind as coins are inserted. But it takes many coins to rewind it in full, between 60 ¢ and 3 $. You could also rewind the clock manually with a key at the back. A small door at the bottom allowed to withdraw the money when the case was full of coins. The illustrated clock is dated March 1926.

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Today’s children are born in the digital age. They are therefore unable to read the time on an analog clock. But long before today, small clocks were created to teach children to read the time. On this small Instant Time Teacher, made in Germany for the Bradley American company, probably in the 1950s, a small window indicates in number the place of the short hand on the dial.

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The Braille clock is a Canadian contribution for the visually impaired. A Canadian-made Westclox Baby Ben alarm clock has been adapted for the blind, introducing Braille characters on the dial as in this alarm clock from the Canadian Clock Museum.

(Image published with the permission of the Canadian Clock Museum)

Westclox adapted some of its electric alarm clocks for the hearing impaired, such as this one, the Canadian-made Wesclock Moonbeam from the Canadian Clock Museum. A strong flashing light replaces the traditional bell, followed by a very loud buzzer. The plastic of this alarm clock is Catalin™.

(Image published with the permission of the Canadian Clock Museum)

The Americans were the first to propose to its citizens a talking clock in 1927. Accessed by the telephone, a recording, or a live person gave the exact time. In 1933, “L’horloge parlante” (Speaking clock) from l’Observatoire de Paris was put in service, followed by one in Holland (1934), another in Switzerland (1935), and the British Post Office TIM in 1936. The Mk II Prototype (1954) of the British Post Office is illustrated, built for the cities of Sydney and Melbourne in Australia.

(Image authorized under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 International)

The Japanese introduced the first household talking clock in 1970, the Panasonic’s Tele-Time, which was also a radio device. All you had to do to get the time was to touch the top of the cube-shaped case or press the button on an extension wire attached to it. Today, contemporary talking clocks are very easy to find, but they are not collectibles. My talking clock’s name is now Alexa; it’s an Echo from Amazon.

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A Mystery Clock is a clock whose how it operates is not immediately apparent and explicable. In France, at the end of the 17th century, Grollier de Servière made a funny turtle clock, a horizontal table clock whose central part of the dial was filled with water, a small turtle walking around to indicate the time. I’ll let you guess how!  Below is the mystery clock of my collection, a 1970s Jefferson Electric Golden Helm. The needles are not related to any apparent mechanism, but how does it move to give the time?

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Do not confuse the synchronome clock with the so-called synchronous clock. Shortt’s synchronome clock, placed in a vacuum, transmits pulses to another clock connected to it. The first is called the “mother clock,” and the other is called the “receiving clock.” Carl August Steinhill was the first to use electricity to do so in 1839. Alexander Bain then followed and referred to “Parent Clock” as those attached to the main clock. It was not until 1895 that the system was really perfected to make it very accurate and reliable, under the leadership of Frank Hope-Jones and Georges Bennett Bowell, who invented the synchronome switch. Together with railway engineer William Hamilton Shortt, Hope-Jones introduced a synchronome clock in 1921. For more details, click Wikipedia. Illustrated, “A Shortt-Synchronome free pendulum clock belonging to the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in the NIST Museum, Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA. Invented in 1921 by William Hamilton Shortt, it was the most accurate mechanical clock ever manufactured, achieving an accuracy of around one second per year. This example was purchased by NIST in 1929 and used by physicist Paul R. Heyl in his second determination of the gravitational constant. It consists of a master invar pendulum (left) in a copper vacuum tank and a precision pendulum clock (right). The units are connected by electric wires that operate electromagnets to keep the slave pendulum in the clock synchronized to the master pendulum. The pendulum in the clock is attached to the clock’s mechanism and performs the function of moving the clock’s gears, leaving the master pendulum to swing virtually free of outside influence. The pendulums make one swing per second, and every 30 swings, the slave clock gives the master pendulum a push to keep it swinging.” (Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology – NIST)

(Image from NIST authorized under Creative Commons CC 1.0 Public Domain Dedication)

The automatic winding clock is a mechanical clock assisted by an electrical device, often battery-powered, capable of automatically rewinding the clock without human intervention. The Self-Winding Clock Co. Ltd of New York was the specialist in this type of clock. Here is an example: a Western Union Naval Observatory Time.

(Images by Elecclock, authorized under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

A precision central clock transmits pulses to a series of clocks in the same place that give the same time, like the illustrated school clock from the 1928s working on 24 volts DC. We call it a Master or Mother clock. The receiving clocks are called Repeaters or Impulse dials. The Master-Receiver model should not be confused with the mother-receiver couple of the Shortt-Synchronome. Click on Wikipedia for more information.

(Image by Elecclock authorized under Creative Common CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 )

The term Repeater or Receiver applies to a secondary clock connected to a mother clock that gives time to a series of other clocks. For example, the clock opposite is an electric Simplex that was connected to a mother clock at the Alcan aluminum factory in Jonquière, Québec, and served as a repeater by acting as the receiver of time.

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A binary clock gives the time in binary format, e.g., 0 and 1 spread over 6 columns (sexagesimal system: degree, minute, second). It’s usually a digital clock, but it can also be analog. The two dials opposite gives the same time, one in digital format and the other in binary. For more details, see Wikipedia.

(Image authorized under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal – Public Domain Dedication)

1.02.02 - SCIENTIFIC FUNCTION - Equation Clock

An equation clock has a dial that compares solar time with the average or median time. This obsession is due to an English watchmaker, Joseph Williamson (?-1725), who built movements and clocks with this ambition. He even pretended that he had invented the Equation clock. But as seen on Wikipedia, the invention is older. Illustrated a German equation clock from 1591, photographed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York. In November 1797, the American Eli Terry patented a clock called Equation with two dials, indicating the solar time and the real-time.

(Image by Jim.henderson, authorized under Creative Commons  CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

The tide clock is based on the lunar day, 24 hours and 50 minutes; therefore, it can provide the time of low and high tides. Here is a small tidal clock of German origin, a Mauthe with mechanical movement, from the 1950s. It also has an alarm that can be fixed to high tide or low tide or anywhere on the dial. The two inscriptions 1/2 indicate the time between two tides. A previous owner pasted the “High and Low” labels.

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1.02.03 - Special Applications - 1886: Advertising Clock (Sydney Advertising Clock Co.)
Advertising Clocks
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Advertising clocks are found among specialized clocks not because they are mechanically or electronically different but because they have a specific function: advertising a product, a merchant, a manufacturer, etc. Advertising clocks are primarily in the public domain; they target consumers in general or specific audiences. For example, jewelers advertise their trade with a clock with their name on the front of their shop or store window. Others, such as those shown in the attached photo, were used for advertising products. Some collectors are particularly fond of advertising clocks because the market is continually active, and prices are high. For example, Canada has been quite active in advertising clocks with Baird and Canadian Neon Ray clocks, which get soaring prices.

In vintage specialty stores and even in some so-called antique shops, we find items that look old but are relatively recent copies. We may also found them at furniture and home accessories dealers. It’s very fashionable right now. Let’s call them Old Look Clocks or Vintage Reproductions and classify them as Gadget clocks since their old appearance serves as decor. Here, an example of a railway station clock whose metal finish seems to be old. Even the dial suggests an ancient clock with its scratches and inscriptions: “Caledonian Railway – 1879 – Central Station Glasgow“. It was manufactured at the end of the 20th century or in the early 21st century. And it works with a cheap battery quartz mechanism. 

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