History of Revere/GE Clocks


The history of clocks can be traced back centuries. Compared to this History, your Revere or GE clock is considered very young. On the other hand, the development of electricity for use in clocks isnít that old. So donít compare your clock to the history of clocks, but rather to the development of electricity.

There is no written, definitive history of the relationships between Telechron, Revere and General Electric. All of the information you are about to read has been assembled over the years through tid-bits of information picked up here-and-there, old catalogs, and through clues picked up from the clocks themselves. It's pretty much like trying to put pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together, but we don't claim to have every piece.

It would be easy to start with the Revere Company in 1928, but the success of Revere can only be attributed to the Telechron Company over a decade earlier. Electricity in the very early 1900ís was very much undeveloped. Power plants were privately owned, and power was supplied to mainly larger cities. Since electricity was actually targeted toward the well-to-do, no attempts were made to bring it to the suburbs or out in the country. Even into the 1920ís, it was estimated that less than 35% of American homes had electricity.

Henry Warren Henry Warren, the founder of Telechron, was also greatly responsible for how we receive electricity today. After developing a self-starting electric clock motor in 1915, Henry found out that the clock would either gain time, or lose time. The only explanation for this was because of how the electricity was being delivered to the home. Power companies were firm on the fact that the electricity was being delivered at 60-cycles per second frequency. Although, a drop in this would cause a clock to run slow. A delivery of over 60-cycles per second would cause a clock to run fast.

On Oct. 16, 1916, The Boston Edison Power Company stubbornly allowed Henry Warren to prove their electricity was not being delivered atthe promised 60-cycle per second frequency rate. He installed the first Master Clock in the power company. This rather large clock was actully used to monitor the cycle frequency by how it kept time. Henry waren was absolutely correct. The master clock failed to keep proper time. When the clock began to run either fast or slow, this told the power companies that they needed to adjust their generators. When the clock was keeping proper time, boston Edison was assured they were delivering a proper 60-cycle per sond frequency. The use of the master clock proved to be a very reliable method of determining exact frequency. So good, as a matter of fact, 400 Master Clocks were being used by other power companies by 1925. By 1947, it was estimated that 95% of the electricity being provided to America was regulated by Warren's Master Clocks. It was a huge success, and a major stepping stone in the development of electric clocks.

The Warren Telechron Company was actually founded in 1912. But, 1925 was an important pinnacle for Henry Warren. With his motors now keeping absolutely perfect time, he was able to really begin production of a reliable electric clock. Electric clocks began to hit the market.

Two major companies followed Warrens progress with great interest. The first was General Electric. General Electric acquired 48% of the company in 1917. They obtained full interest in 1943 when Henry Warren stepped down. General Electric would use Telechron movements in all their clocks.

A second company was the Herschede Clock Company. Walter Herschede began to see the wisdom of Electric Clocks early on. With the help of Telechron rotors and coils, he developed an electric Westminster with a pendulum back-up. If the power failed, a small spring on the pendulum would keep the clock going for a good 24-hours.

Still not 100% convinced of this new electricity thing to run clocks, Walter turned the risk of embarrasment over to a new company. He began the Revere Clock Company in late 1927. Keeping his prized Herschede Clock Company separate from Revere would protect his good name just in case electric clocks didn't catch on. Production started in 1928. Little did he know that Revere would go on to become one of the most famous names in electric Westminster Clocks.

As of this writing, we have worked on many 1928 Revere Clocks. We have yet to see one with an earlier date. Some people claim that Revere started earlier than 1928, but we have seen no evidence to support that.

The early clocks made between 1928 and 1930 were clearly not made for the average Joe making $12 to $20 per week. The R-405 shown cost $105. You can compare this pretty much to buying a HI-FI VCR back in 1979 or 1980. This type of VCR which you can get for around $50 today was a $500 item back then. If you wanted to be the first on the block to own one, you had to dig deep in your pocket for the money. But, just like VCR's, things changed, and prices began to drop. In 1931, Revere introduced the model R-300 called the "Loyal". This promotional model retailed for $29.95, and was one of the very few Reveres that were actually given a name.

Even though General Electric owned 48% of Telechron at this time, the relationship between GE and Revere remains sketchy. It's a well known fact that General Electric used Telechron clocks, doing nothing more than sticking their name on the front dial. The prefix "AB" was used in model numbers to signify a Telechron Clock under the General Electric name.

We do know for a fact that General Electric was in some sort of partnership with Revere. It's apparent that GE was not capable of, or, not interested in designing or making their line of clocks. During a 10-year period 1930-1940, it was Revere that provided clocks made under the General Electric name. Although Revere had their share of independant designs, some Revere clocks were identical to clocks carrying the General Electric dial. Like the "AB" designation Telechron gave GE on their model numbers, the same holds true on the GE Westminsters. The model numbers on GE Westminsters carried an "ABR" prefix, with the "R" desginating "Revere". Eventually, the "AB" and "ABR" prefixes were dropped on all GE clocks.

Despite their high costs, Revere sales during the first 3-years was a great success. 1930 marked an unmatched pinnacle in Revere history with a record breaking 102,600 movements being produced, and never matched again. This success was short-lived. Not only did the Great Depression strike, but the novelty of electric clocks began to fade. It was tough enough to buy a $100 clock on a $20/week paycheck, but nearly impossible in 1931 when families couldn't even afford to buy food. There are no production figures available for 1931, and 1932 showed a mere 5700 units produced. It is quite possible that remaining 1930 inventory was carried into 1931, and new production was ceased.

We classify this period between 1931 and 1940 as the "Dark Period" of Reveres history. We have Revere sales catalogs right up to 1930, then a void right to 1941. Apparently, General Electric must have been producing some sort of catalogs during the later part of the 1930's, as many of their clocks were still tagged with model numbers and names. Yet, you will find many Revere Clocks lacking any type of ID what-so-ever.

The three clocks shown above are perfect examples of what we consider "Uncataloged". Now, the production figures shown are not for that particular clock. Those numbers are the total number of movements produced for that year. Keep in mind that those movements were spread between Revere, General Electric, and probably (by now) Herschede clocks. None of the clocks produced during this era have any type of ID stamped on them. Now, we can't tell you exactly why, but we do have theories.

First off, we know for a fact that many models were made for one year, and not carried over into the next model year. That would mean that very few of each style was produced, possibly as little as 500 clocks. Since this was too few to mass-market, catalogs were never produced. Look at it this way. If you only had 100 widgets to sell at $90 each, would you spend $2500 to produce 100,000 flyers to advertise them? Probably not. Chances are these clocks found their way into retail stores by salesman, and it was a first-come, first-served type thing. If a retailer sold his clock, odds were high he would not be able to get another one just like it. In any case, we classify any of these uncataloged made during these low production as Scarce to Rare.

Clock production again began to pick up in 1940, and a distinct split between GE and Revere began. General Electric still used the tried-and-proven Revere Movements, but it is unclear whether or not GE produced their own cases. In 1940, GE introduced "The Joy", while Revere introduced their famous (and most popular) R-913. Similarities are striking. Both used the same oval bezel and glass. Both had the same, exact hands. Both used the same, exact nickel chime rods on the same, exact cast iron base. However, the GE clock retailed for $17, while the Revere retailed for $24.50. Quality on both were equal. It was in 1943 that Henry Warren stepped down, and GE quickly took full controlling interest in Telechron. Clearly, GE was targeting the everyday-folk while Revere was still capitalizing on its name. GE produced simple designs during the 1940's. Revere did the same, but still produced some elaborate models costing as much as $60 to $75. The R-913 remained as one of Reveres most popular designs, and would later carry both the Revere and Herschede names right up until the end.

There were several factors that made the Telechron Westminster movements far superior over others, and why your clock has endured for so long. The technical design of these movements were years ahead of their time. The large "B"-rotors in these clocks were made of brass, filled with oil, and sealed. The rotors did not run off electric, but rather off a magnetic field created by the coil around it. In addition, Telechron clocks were Self-Starting. Meaning, the clock would begin to run as soon as you plugged it in. Other manufactures made Spin-to-Start models that required spinning a knob on the back to get it to run. One of the first competitive clocks in the Westminster field was made by Sessions in the early 1930ís. This clock was basically a converted Key-Wind movement. Instead of having two springs, the springs were replaced by two electric motors. Despite the fact these were great clocks, the motors proved unreliable compared to the rotors in the Reveres. Replacement motors for these Sessions clocks are nearly impossible to obtain. Seth Thomas also made an attempt to enter the Westminster field in the early 1940ís. They modified their famous key-wind 124 Westminster movement into what was know as the 1700 series. Compared to the 124 movements, these new 1700 movements were totally inferior. They were problem prone right from the start, and production lasted only a few years before being scrapped. In addition, the thin, steel gearing and plates of these movements could not compare to the brass movements created by Telechron.

Sessions once again attempted to re-enter the Westminster market in the mid-1950ís. They introduced a totally redesigned, brass movement powered by the famous Synchron motor. As beautiful as these clocks were, they unfortunately seemed to have an over-abundance of moving gears and levers. Over time, all these gears and levers would begin to wear and stick, causing problems. In addition, they were very hard to service, as you would need to remove the bottom of the clock to even begin dismounting the movement. With all the complaints they were receiving and rising costs of production, Sessions quickly discontinued these Westminsters right around 1958 or 1959. This still left Revere king of the hill.

With the introduction of both the atomic age and space race, the 1950's ushered in a new and exciting look in clocks. Both Telechron and GE introduced new styles of regular household clocks reflecting the style of the decade, but the end was clearly in sight as cuts were being made in quality to keep prices down. Wood was being replaced with plastics. Glass crystals were being replaced with plastic. Even the movements were being scaled back, as less brass was being used, and gears were becoming thinner. Ironically, though, neither GE or Revere made cuts on the quality of their Westminster clocks. The quality of a 1955 Westminster was identical to that made in 1940. But, how long could this last?

Battery operated clock movements were introduced in the early 1960's, and the death of electric was at hand. The famous Telechron rotors were the first to suffer. The famous brass Revere movements driven by the workhorse "B" rotors were discontinued. As a replacement, Revere designed a much smaller, cheaper steel movement driven by the "H" rotor (as shown in the picture). The "H" rotor was a dependable rotor developed in the mid-1930's that up until this point, was used only in Time-Only clocks produced by Telechron and General Electric. Even though Revere never stooped to using plastics in their cases, one could easily feel the difference in the thickness of the wood veneers being used. But things got worse by the end of the 1960's. Herschede was the first to bail out in 1967 selling to a group of businessmen. By 1972, finances were so bad, Herschede merged with other companies to form Arnold Industries, Inc. We believe it was at this time Revere production stopped. Herschede officially ceased all clock production in 1984, and the factory closed forever.

Things weren't going all that well for General Electric, either. Feeling the financial pinch, General Electric made further cuts. In addition to making some of the most horrid looking clocks of the century, GE quit using the "H" rotors in their clocks. These rotors were replaced with the very inexpensive, smaller "S" rotors, and movement quality was reduced to accommodate the lower torque these rotors produced. Finally, in 1979, General Electric sold all their interests to the Timex Corporation.

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