Alarm Clocks
Conrad Biernacki

   Alarm clocks are a necessary evil. Even the name alarm clock seems sharp and cruel, especially at 6 a.m. The French, as might be expected, have a more civilized term for this rude little device - réveille-matin (morning wakeup). Previously only appreciated for their practical value, small vintage alarm clocks are fast becoming hot property amoung trend-setting collectors.

   Historical Notes

   Clocks are fascinating pieces of technology - each contains an intricate mechanism of connected springs, levers and cogs that measures the elusive concept, time. The earliest known alarm clocks were used in medieval churches to awaken the tower warden during the night so that he could ring the hourly tower bell by hand. Although wall and mantel clocks with built-in alarms have existed for over 250 years, it wasn't until the turn of this century that small alarm clocks were first made.

   What To Look For

Make sure a clock is complete: that the case and crystal (the glass or plastic dial cover) aren't damaged, and the dial and hands are original. Eight-day models and features such as an external bell, fancy case, sweep second hand, jewelled works or unusual shape are in greater demand.
   Choose decorative clocks. Edwardian clocks are classic looking and usually rectangular. Art Deco examples are frequently circular and have chrome or plastic cases. The ubiquitous Canadian-made Westclox "Big Ben" and "Baby Ben" are appreciated for their traditional appearance. If you decide to choose clocks with interesting model names, look for "Morning Glory," "Sunrise," "The Little Chick," "Pee-O-Day," "Birdie" and "Slumberminder."

   Price Tag

   Vintage alarm clocks range from $25 to $75. If you're paying top dollar, the clock should be high quality and in mint condition, come with its original box, or have one or more unusual features. Shy away from non-working clocks - a good overhaul costs around $100.

   For More Information

  • The Official Price Guide to Antique Clocks (The House of Collectibles) by Roy Ehrhardt
  • Unitt's Clock Price Guide (Fizhenry & Whiteside) by Peter Unitt and Anne Worrall
  • Miller's Clocks Antiques Checklist (Reed) by John Mighell
  • Practical Clock Repairing (Robert Hale) by Donald de Carlo

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