Art Deco Bakelite Clocks

By | January 9, 2024

Art Deco Bakelite Clocks, with their bold designs and innovative use of materials, represent a fascinating intersection of art and functionality. Emerging during the Art Deco movement of the 1920s and 1930s, these clocks showcase the sleek, geometric, and often avant-garde characteristics associated with the era. This exploration delves into the historical context, design features, cultural impact, and enduring appeal of Art Deco Bakelite Clocks, highlighting their role as both timekeeping instruments and iconic artifacts of the early 20th century. See proindustrialfans for porcelain dial clocks.

  1. Historical Context and the Rise of Art Deco:
  2. Art Deco Movement: The Art Deco movement, prominent between the two World Wars, was characterized by its emphasis on modernity, luxury, and bold design. Originating in France, Art Deco permeated various aspects of visual arts, architecture, fashion, and design.
  3. Introduction of Bakelite: Bakelite, an early form of plastic, was invented by Leo Baekeland in 1907. Recognized for its versatility, durability, and moldability, Bakelite quickly became a favored material in the design and manufacturing industries.
  4. Characteristics of Art Deco Bakelite Clocks:
  5. Geometric Shapes and Symmetry: Art Deco Bakelite Clocks embraced geometric shapes and symmetry. Rectangles, circles, and streamlined forms were common, reflecting the movement’s preference for clean lines and precision.
  6. Bold Colors and Contrasting Materials: Vivid and contrasting colors were a hallmark of Art Deco design. Bakelite, available in an array of hues, allowed clock designers to experiment with bold color combinations. Additionally, Bakelite was often paired with materials like chrome, glass, or wood to create striking contrasts.
  7. Innovative Use of Materials: Bakelite’s malleability allowed clock designers to experiment with intricate shapes and details. Extravagant and sculptural elements, such as stepped or tiered structures, were incorporated into clock designs to capture the essence of Art Deco extravagance.
  8. Sunburst Motifs: The sunburst motif, characterized by radiating lines or rays, was a popular design element in Art Deco. Bakelite clocks often featured sunburst patterns on the clock face or as part of the overall structure, conveying a sense of dynamism and energy.

III. Cultural Impact and Symbolism:

  1. Luxury and Modernity: Art Deco Bakelite Clocks symbolized the luxury and modernity associated with the Roaring Twenties and the interwar period. These clocks adorned the homes of the elite, reflecting the opulence and optimism of the time.
  2. Social and Technological Progress: The bold, futuristic designs of Art Deco Bakelite Clocks reflected a belief in social and technological progress. As society embraced new technologies and embraced a forward-looking mindset, these clocks became symbols of the era’s optimism and confidence.
  3. Influential Designers and Manufacturers:
  4. Warren Telechron Company: The Warren Telechron Company was a prominent manufacturer of electric clocks during the Art Deco era. Their Bakelite clocks often featured innovative designs, incorporating the latest advancements in clock technology.
  5. Smiths Clocks: Smiths Clocks, a British clock manufacturer, produced a range of Art Deco Bakelite clocks. Their designs were characterized by simplicity, functionality, and the use of Bakelite in combination with other materials.
  6. Gilbert Rohde: Gilbert Rohde, an influential American industrial designer, played a significant role in popularizing Art Deco design. His contributions to the Herman Miller Clock Company included innovative clock designs that blended functionality with avant-garde aesthetics.
  7. Clock Mechanisms and Technological Advances:
  8. Electric Movements: Many Art Deco Bakelite Clocks incorporated electric movements, marking a departure from traditional spring-driven mechanisms. Electric clocks were praised for their accuracy and the ability to feature dynamic design elements.
  9. Alarm and Chiming Features: Some Bakelite clocks included alarm functions or chiming features. These additions not only enhanced the clocks’ practicality but also allowed for aural and functional versatility.
  10. Collectibility and Rarity:
  11. Antique and Vintage Appeal: Art Deco Bakelite Clocks hold a special place among collectors due to their historical significance and unique design characteristics. The scarcity of well-preserved examples contributes to their desirability in the vintage and antique market.
  12. Restoration Challenges: Restoring Art Deco Bakelite Clocks requires expertise in handling vintage materials. Preserving the original colors, textures, and finishes while addressing wear and tear is essential to maintaining the authenticity of these timepieces.

VII. Contemporary Resurgence and Reproductions:

  1. Nostalgia and Revival: The nostalgia for the Art Deco era has led to a resurgence of interest in Bakelite clocks. Contemporary designers and manufacturers create reproductions that capture the essence of Art Deco while incorporating modern materials and production techniques.
  2. Limited Edition Releases: Some companies release limited edition Art Deco-inspired Bakelite clocks, catering to enthusiasts and those seeking to infuse their spaces with the glamour and sophistication associated with the iconic design movement.

VIII. Iconic Examples and Variations:

  1. Telechron Model 700 Series: The Telechron Model 700 series, featuring Bakelite cases and streamlined designs, is considered an iconic representation of Art Deco clock design. These clocks, produced in various colors, epitomize the dynamic and avant-garde spirit of the era.
  2. Smiths “Art Deco” Bakelite Clocks: Smiths Clocks produced a range of Bakelite clocks during the Art Deco period. Their designs often showcased simplicity and functionality, with geometric shapes and contrasting materials.
  3. Symbolism and Time as Art:
  4. Functional Art: Art Deco Bakelite Clocks transcend mere functionality, embodying the concept of time as art. The marriage of innovative design with timekeeping functionality elevates these clocks to the status of functional art pieces.
  5. Time as a Design Element: In Art Deco Bakelite Clocks, time becomes a design element in itself. The clock face, hands, and overall structure are carefully integrated into the overall aesthetic, emphasizing the significance of time as an integral part of the design narrative.


Art Deco Bakelite Clocks, with their bold designs, innovative use of materials, and cultural symbolism, encapsulate the spirit of an era marked by glamour, optimism, and progress. These timepieces serve as tangible reminders of the transformative power of design and the ability of everyday objects to reflect the ethos of their time. As collectors continue to cherish and seek out these iconic clocks, the allure of Art Deco Bakelite Clocks endures, inviting us to appreciate the marriage of function and artistry that defined a pivotal period in design history.

Art Deco Bakelite Clocks