While on a vacation in the Dominican Republic we brought along an old Westclox wind-up mechanical travel alarm clock for no other reason but to have it as a curiosity and of course, to get us up in the morning.
We have all grown used used to electronic alarms (cell phone or tablet) to wake us up at a specific time but my little bit of testing revealed that this little travel alarm clock works just fine though not quite as accurate.
It is a Westclox travel alarm with a luminous dial. I bought it at a local antique dealer for $6 and it is in very good condition. It did not do a lot of traveling in its life since a well worn clock usually does not work well and these things were tossed in the garbage when they broke.
I would date it to the 1960s. It is very compact, measuring 3 inches square by 1 1/2 inches deep when collapsed. It is in a light brown plastic case and folds into its case when transported. It fits easily into a purse, messenger bag, overnight bag or suitcase.
Instead of two winding keys that are typically found on an older alarm clock, they are combined into one key, for the bell alarm and the time function. The centre knob is for adjusting the time and the upper left knob is for setting the alarm. There is also a speed adjustment just above the centre knob.
There are three patent numbers none of which tell me the exact year of manufacture. These clocks were produced in the thousands and many can be bought on eBay for under $10.
This particular clock is made in China while other similar Westclox alarm clocks at the time were made in Taiwan. By the 1960s production went offshore to achieve economies of scale .
But this is not how the story of Westclox began.
Westclox alarm clocks were originally produced by the United Clock company in Peru, Illinois in the late nineteenth century.
The company initially failed, became the Western Clock Co. and again went bankrupt, reorganized under the Western Clock Manufacturing Co and found success when they acquired the first patent for the Big Ben alarm clock in the early part of the 20th Century. In 1931 Western Clock Co,. merged with Seth Thomas with both companies falling under the General Time Corporation. Westclox then became a division of General Time.
There is an interesting Canadian connection. A great many of Westclox alarm clocks sold in North America were made in Peterborough, Ontario from 1922 to the early 1980s.
Although I am primarily a clock collector I have several alarm clocks in my collection. I am selective and add only interesting alarm clocks but avoid clocks with luminous dials from the earlier part of the 20th century because of the potential exposure to Radium.
Quite often alarm clocks that I find in flea markets and antique shops are dented, missing winding keys and other adjustment knobs which I try to avoid (unless for parts) but this one was complete.
Prices are still fairly low for most alarm clocks with the exception of some Swiss and French makes.
This one is a fine example from a company that was the undisputed king of alarm clocks.