Dorrin K Mace, Horologost

Dorrin K Mace, Horologost
The Clock Man in a pensive moment

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Ceramic Case Clock

The History of the Ceramic Clock
Between the two world wars, when you stepped in a common home in Belgium or in the North of France, you would inevitably notice a superb ceramic clock proudly standing on the chimney mantel with its two sidepieces.  It was indeed an unstoppable craze which gave birth to tens of millions of creative clocks, with an extraordinary variety of shapes and decorations. It owes its origin with the development of the mechanical industry.Indeed up to the middle of the 19th century, a clock was an expensive object: its clockwork was hand made. The possession of time was thus reserved to the elite. Alarm-clocks started to be produced industrially around 1850; but it was only at the beginning of the twentieth century that clockworks, manufactured in the Black Forest and France, became really cheap. Ceramic (faience) was then the inexpensive "plastic" material: in the ceramic producing areas, it was chosen to dress these clockworks: clock became handsome and affordable to everybody.
Therefore in the Twenties a significant industry of the faience clock developed in Belgium and North of France. And because owning the time was important in the developing industrial world, the ceramic clock ended up in the focus point of the house, the chimney. It became a mantelpiece ornament, the clock being surrounded by two sidepieces, vases or cups. In the twenties and the thirties, it was not only a valuably useful object, it was also the nice object of the house, proudly and conspicuously decorating the chimney mantel.
To satisfy the unprejudiced taste of this new market, ceramic producers were very creative. The clock shape sometimes recall that of middle-class bronze or marble clocks; some bear animals or peoples sculptures; others refer to the Art-Deco architecture or to Greek temples.
Their decorations are also infinitely varied, often very colored, sometimes extravagant. Some imitate marble or stone, others refer to modern decorative styles, to Chinese or Dutch porcelains, to traditional tableware or to avant-garde modernistic painting. Often the decoration matches the shape and bear transfers or stencil drawings especially created. The sidepieces topic, shape and decoration match those of the clock, contributing to the esthetics of the mantelpiece.  Several ceramic factories specialized in these mantel clocks. Among the most productive ones are four factories of the Borinage, the coal-mining center of Belgium: the factories Thulin, Jemappes, and especially the factories "Auguste Mouzin and Co" and " La Majolique" in the small village of WasmuĂ«l. In France, the main ceramic clock factories were "Berlot & Mussier" in Vierzon and Somain in Northern France. Some Czech factories created clocks for export to Belgium and Northern France, especially after 1930: the "G. Bihl AG" factory and three others, yet to be identified. Also a few German factories produced some pieces, mainly for export.  After the 2nd world war, the mantelpiece clock fashion declined. With the wage increases and the advent of the consumer society, other goods became more attractive. Among those, wrist watches became affordable and a normal timepiece to wear. After the war, only minor ceramic clocks were produced, intended for kitchens or bedrooms. Also some bright colorful models without sidepiece were created especially for poorer countries where the sun shines (Southern Italy, North Africa...).  This market loss as well as the fast rising labor costs gradually turned the ceramic factories into bankruptcy. Today remains only a small production, abroad, intended for Third World countries.

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