While on a trip to 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. We are quite used to electronic alarms (cell phone or tablet) if it is critical that we get up at a certain time in the morning but my little bit of testing revealed that this little travel alarm clock works just fine.

It is a Westclox travel alarm with a luminous dial. I bought it at a local antique dealer for $6 and it is in pristine condition. I don’t think it did a lot of traveling. 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 collapses into its case when transported. It fits easily into a purse, messenger bag, overnight bag or suitcase.

Collapsed, the clock fits anywhere
Collapsed, the clock fits anywhere
Red lever is for activating the alarm
Red lever is for activating the alarm

Instead of two keys, one for winding the bell alarm and the one for the time function, they are combined into one key. 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 3 patent numbers none of which tell me the exact year of manufacture. These clocks were produced in the thousands and can be bought on eBay for under $10.

Back of alarm clock showing setting knobs
Back of alarm clock showing setting knobs

This 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 .

Westclox alarm clocks were originally produced by the United Clock company in Peru Illinois in the late nineteenth century. The company 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.

Although I am primarily a clock collector I have a few alarm clocks in my collection. I try to be selective and only add 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 avoid 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.