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.
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."
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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