Novelty Timepieces Gallery

Although the primary purpose of a clock is to tell time, this is not necessarily the only purpose. Many clocks have been designed to dazzle, entertain, and even instruct those who see them. Since the earliest days of the mechanical clock, clockmakers have sought to make timepieces that are mechanically and decoratively unique.

Some of the earliest clocks—the tower clocks of medieval Europe—incorporated both complex astronomical indications and automata. Later, specialty clocks featured birds that actually sang, dogs that wagged their tails, ships that sailed, or people who blinked their eyes. Throughout the 1700s and 1800s, specialty clocks remained popular.

During the 1900s, novelty timepieces capitalized on popular culture generated by comic books, radio, motion pictures, and television. During the first half of the century, clock and watch manufacturers such as Ingersoll (later U.S. Time, and then Timex), Ingraham, New Haven, and Bradley recognized the large market for timepieces featuring comic book characters, cowboys, action heroes, and other cultural icons. The most famous character timepiece, the Mickey Mouse™ watch, introduced by Ingersoll-Waterbury Company in 1933, was so popular that sales saved the struggling watch company from bankruptcy. The purpose of these handcrafted timepieces was not so much to tell time as to entertain the viewers.

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