Q: I grew up in the 1960s and ’70s with this Lucite clock on a table in my parents’ bedroom. I recently found it in a storage unit of their things and am wondering how old it is, and the approximate value. It still works and has great sentimental value and now has a place of honor on my bedside table. Any information you can provide would be appreciated.
D. S., Miami
A: This is a “Telechron” tabletop clock made in Ashland, Massachusetts. The story really begins with Henry Ellis Warren, who, in the early 20th century, started experimenting with making electric clocks.
Warren, however, was not the first to do this. Reportedly, the first electric clock was invented in Edinburgh, Scotland, by Alexander Bain in 1843. It, of course, was battery-driven, but Warren’s experimentation with battery clocks was a failure and he turned to a mechanism that used a small alternating-current synchronous motor that he dubbed the “Type A motor.”
Warren began marketing electric clocks in 1915 but soon noticed that they were not very reliable as timepieces because of the irregular nature of the power grid at the time. Over the years, Warren perfected his clock motor and in 1923 he registered “Telechron” as his trade name (also seen as “Telekron”).
In the 1920s and later, Telechron became known for its styling and design. Paul Frankl, a noted mid-century modern designer, for example, came up with a clock design based on the skyscraper. He crafted them using such materials as Bakelite, chrome, steel and glass. This Frankl clock was called the “Modernique” and was 8 inches tall. It can sell at auctions for as much as $2,000, but $600 to $1,200 is more common.
Today, Telechron is known for its style and quality, but many current collectors are interested in their advertising wall clocks and their pieces shaped like a refrigerator. The advertising wall clocks can be found touting such products as Coca-Cola, Hartford Insurance, Pepsi Cola, Dr. Pepper, Orange Crush, St. Joseph’s Aspirin, Oilzum Motor Oil, Grand Gas Ranges, Wolverine Boots, Jax Beer and many others.
The clock in today’s question is generally referred to as being acrylic with a gold trim. Calling the clear plastic material Lucite is not necessarily incorrect, but it must be kept in mind that this latter term is trademark owned by E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co.
To be more succinct, the clear material in which this clock is encased is polymethyl methacrylate. This is a thermoplastic often used as a lightweight and shatter-resistant substitute for glass. Other than Lucite it has a variety of other trade names including Plexiglas and Acrylite.
Henry Ellis Warren retired in the 1940s and Telechron became part of the General Electric Co. Quartz technology eventually made the Telechron clocks outdated.
While doing our research we found a clock similar to the one in today’s question dated 1951, and that is probably a good circa date for the example belonging to D. S. This particular clock had been presented to the baseball player Phil Rizzuto and it sold at auction for $500.
Unfortunately, this mid-century modern clock without the Rizzuto connection sells for much, much less and should currently retail in the $50 to $75 range.
Write to Joe Rosson, P.O. Box 27419, Knoxville, TN 37927, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like your question to be considered for the column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus.