Brief History: Westclox Watch Company
Including Serial Numbers and Production Dates
1899 - 2001
Westclox: The "Boy Proof" Pocket Watch
Originally started by Charles Stahlberg as the United Clock Company, the Western Clock Manufacturing Company (later simply Westclox) was primarily a producer of small clocks, including wind-up alarm clocks. Westclox began producing pocket watches around the turn of the 19th century. They also produced small, decorative "handbag watches" which were designed to be carried in a woman's purse. The company produced thousands of lower-grade watches including many pin-pallet "dollar-style" watches. By 1920, the company was producing 15,000 watches per day! The trademark for the Westclox name was filed in 1916, but the Westclox name first appeared on a watch in about 1911.
Many a lad (including this watchmaker) received a Westclox pocket watch for a birthday or Christmas gift, and while only a few Westclox watches are considered to be monetarily valuable by collectors today, they represent a fascinating part of American watch history because of the volume of watches produced and are easily collectible because they can often be purchased quite inexpensively.
A few of the more popular Westclox models were: The American, Bulls Eye, Boy Proof (designed with special "tamper-proof" back), Country Gentleman, Dax, Everbrite, Johnny Zero, Pocket Ben, Scotty, and Team Mate (made with various sports team markings).
Westclox Advertising Watches and Clocks - Buyer Beware!
Because Westclox watches (and other dollar-style watches) were inexpensive and frequently had paper dials, they were frequently "customized" as advertising or political campaign pieces... often made in very limited quantities. As such, Westclox watches with GENUINE paper "advertising" dials can be very rare and collectible.
But... because there are so many examples of Westclox watches and clocks to be found at flea-markets and swap meets, these items have become popular for counterfeiters. These individuals make fake paper dials, using old advertising images to create watches that never really existed, or were made in very limited production quantities.
This is done to artificially (and dishonestly) inflate the value of the watch by making it appear more collectible than it really is. Unknowing buyers will pay inflated prices for a cheap watch with a fake dial believing it is a rare turn-of-the-century advertising item. Early advertising images and Black Americana (sadly, often derogatory in nature) seem to be particularly popular subject areas for these fake dials, so next time you see one of these offered on Ebay, check it out very carefully before making a purchase.
Repair of Westclox Watches
Unfortunately, many Westclox watches are not good candidates for repair. They were very inexpensively made movements, with stamped out plates and pin-pallet escapements. In later years, many of them were riveted together and are not easily disassembled for repair. It is almost certain that the cost of repairs would exceed the value of the watch. As such, we do not repair Westclox watches.
In 1930, shareholders in the Western Clock Company approved a merger with the Seth Thomas Clock Company. The resulting holding company, the General Time Instruments Corporation, produced the first electric wall clock in 1932, and went on to become the largest producer of alarm, wall and occasional clocks in North America.
In 2001, the General Time Corporation announced it was ceasing all operations, and closing its US facilities. The General Time headquarters in Norcross, Georgia and the factory in Athens, Georgia were closed, as were distribution centers in the United Kingdom, Canada and Hong Kong.
In August of 2001, Salton, Inc. announced the acquisition of the Westclox, Big Ben and Spartus brands from the bankrupt General Time Corporation. The brand was sold again in 2007 to NYL Holdings LLC..
Westclox Watch Company
Westclox Serial Numbers and Production Dates
No known serial number/date information exists for Westclox watches, but many Westclox movements were stamped with the date of manufacture (until the mid-60's). This number is usually found somewhere on the back plate of the watch movement, but the location varies from model to model. Locating the serial number will require removal of the back cover from the watch. Westclox watches had snap-off backs that can be hard to open and even harder to put back on. It's easy to break the plastic crystal when trying to snap on the back, so use caution or seek out professional assistance if you have difficulty.