Sunday, February 27, 2011

Duverdrey & Bloquel then Bayard - Part 1

Clockmaking was the economic engine of the small village of Saint Nicholas D'Aliermont in Normandy for over two hundred and fifty years, beginning with the arrival of Charles-Antoine Croutte in 1725. Son of a clockmaker, Charles -Antoine succeeded so well in attracting workers to the village that 25 years later in 1750, Saint Niicholas counted 8 production shops and 27 on the eve of the French revolution in 1789.

In 1867, Albert Villon established his clockmaking shop in Saint Nicholas and began creating small 'domestic' alarm and mantle clocks, utilizing Japy Frères' famous enamel dials. Villon identified his clocks by includiing his initials A.V. on the back and added his logo, the "lion passant" or walking lion which became the trademark for over eighty years..

In  1896, Albert Villon associated himself with Paul Duverdrey and Joseph Bloquel and the three of them created the company known as Albert Villon, Duverdrey et Bloquel which operated under that name until  Villon's death in 1902.
It was then rebaptized Duverdrey & Bloquel  and in 1928, the brand name Bayard was retained. Bayard was chosen in reference to a character of French history known as the Chevalier de Bayard, who was without fear and without reproach.

From 1928 to about 1932, many of the clocks produced were stamped with both names - Duverdrey & Bloquel - Bayard mostly on the clock mechanism and finally only Bayard was kept along with the logo of the walking lion. Interestingly, people still confuse the Bayard lion with the car manufacturer Peugeot's lion even though the two of them are dramatically different in design.


Logo stamped on Bayard mechanisms
With the increasing mechanization of the manufacturing process, Bayard clocks were mass produced and exported to the four corners of the world during the 1930's - a feat in itself. They also produced models for private brands such as Tribaudeau and the Manufrance catalogue.  Many of the clocks produced by Duverdrey & Bloquel did not have identification marks on the case, only on the clock's internal mechanism which makes identification sometimes a bit tricky. This is especially true for clocks that were manufactured for export.

1926 - 29 Bayard stamp on mechanism

1931 Solid brass clock case

1932 Blue leather desk clock case

The most easily recognizable Bayard clock is the one with the enamel dial and Roman numerals that was produced in varying sizes  and case finishes.

1931 'bijou' type models
This model ranged from the small "bijou" ladies clock in a leather carrying case, to a desk clock to the large mantle clock with a marble case weighing over 3 kgs. 
1934 Large mantle clock style in marble case stamped 'TRIB'.

The model on the left is one of Bayard's best- known and most popular. Produced around 1937, its chrome case and stylized numbering made it into a best-seller. It was also sold in brass, porcelain and stamped Bayard & Bayard . It was a completely new model of clock for the manufacturer. 
On a personal note, Bayard's clock mechanisms are surprisingly sturdy.

Friday, February 18, 2011

DEP clocks - 1930's

As the Art Deco style gained in popularity, so did the demand for larger models that could be used as decorative elements in the various rooms of both home and office. In most cases, the alarm function was not required and consequently not included in the mechanical movement.

Emphasis was placed on the use of "noble' materials such as marble, chrome and brass and the styling was very geometric but DEP kept and developed its distinctive numbering on the dials. The clocks of that period were sold not only through retail jewelry shops (where a customer could also purchase watches, cutlery, evening bags and in some cases sewing machines and eye glasses) but also via catalogues such as Tribaudeau and Manufrance with their own brand name printed on the clock face.

A few (very few) DEP models were produced to include a figurine on a marble base, such as the cat with its paw resting on the dial (photo above), while others were enlarged and used more than one material.

The mantle clock on the right measures 23 cms across its widest point and weighs a hefty 6 kgs. Such large models were difficult to pack and ship to ensure that they were delivered in pristine condition - the most fragile part being the glass that covered the dial. Compared to other models, they were also expensively priced.
As a result, few were produced and even fewer survived the years.

Not to be outdone by other manufacturers, DEP also produced a
large porcelain wall clock for use both in the kitchen and in the office with an 8-day movement that was wound with a key. Again these clocks were relatively fragile to ship and for everyday use. I can imagine that more than one of them shattered as they fell off of the wall while being wound.

These clocks represented some of the finest and most beautiful creations of the two decades between the World Wars.
With the downturn of the early 1930's falling into a full-blown economic depression, the retail market in many sectors collapsed and clock makers were no exception. People simply did not purchase non-essentials. DEP tried to weather the storm by producing more utilitarian alarm clocks in a sober style, using plainer, cheaper materials.

The brand name was sold and renamed DEP Savoy.
Gone was the elaborate design and distinctive styling that made them stand out. But the competition for the utilitarian clock market was fierce and finally after WWII, the clock brand DEP disappeared completely.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Small DEP clocks

The earliest small 'bijou' type of DEP clocks such as those on the left with their characteristic hexagonal dial frame appeared around 1900 and were still featured in advertisements in 1921. Carried in a small leather covered, felt lined case with a small handle, they were known as 'ladies clocks' since they could be discreetly carried in a small vanity or jewellery case or even a handbag, then taken out of the case and placed on a table in a boudoir or bedroom.

In the 1920's these small clocks' popularity increased and so did their styling. DEP created them in various shapes and finishes and many of the fonts used on the dials were unique to the brand.

Almost all of the 'bijou' models were also redesigned for use on desks with a marble base and two arms that allowed them to pivot.

In the 1930's as tastes became more 'modernist',
the marble was replaced by the more popular chrome or polished brass finishes, but the size and styling of the clock remained small and elegant.

As the manufacturing process made clocks cheaper and more accessible, people could afford to buy several of them whereas before, a single clock usually held 'pride-of-place' on a mantlepiece in homes.
Small clocks were now created for specific uses.

Travel clocks were now permanently encased in elegant leather boxes lined in either velour or silk. They were light, small and could be discreetly carried and placed on even the narrowest of night tables.

The back of such clocks tell us a lot about their owners. The wealthier travelers who were accompanied by domestics very seldom used the alarm function and while the movement winder shows traces of wear and regular use in order to tell the time, many of the alarm winders are in pristine condition with no tell-tale circular abrasions.
It was up to the ladies maid or to the gentleman's valet to wake up the clock's owner.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

DEP clocks - continued

The design of the numbering on the clock face created by DEP was unique and made their clocks recognizable from afar. It was used for about 8 years and represented the high-end of their desk and mantle clocks models. The earliest example I've seen dates from 1926 and appears to be a mock-up model of the oval clock face. It was also used for elegant little travel clocks in a fine leather case.
Many of their clocks were made for export and had 'Made in France' and 'Breveté' stamped on the back as required by law, along with the letters SGDG which mean Without Guarantee from the Government.
As an aside 'Breveté' means patented in French and is NOT a brand. All manufactured goods were required to have it.
The DEP manufacturing headquarters were located in Cluses, a small industrial town in the Savoie and like many clock makers, it was a seasonal occupation for farmers during the winter months. Clock making had been a major industry there for decades and the creation in 1849 of one of France's largest clock making schools - L'Ecole de L'Horlogerie de Cluses - confirmed its importance. In 1900, Cluses and the neighbouring town of Scionzier counted over 40 manufacturing plants related to clock making. Social and economic lines were drawn and the wealthy owners of the parts and clock manufacturing plants were firmly entrenched in their belief of their God-given rights to do as they wished, and that included managing their workers' lives.
In 1904 when seven workers were fired for supporting the election of an opposing municipal party without the permission of the plant owner, the plant workers went on strike demanding their reinstatement. The owner refused and the strike spread to the other plants. It was the first industrial general strike and shut down the clock making industry. Things took a tragic turn when the son of the plant owner where the strike began, fired on the demonstrators in front of the gates, killing several of them. It marked the beginning of the labor movement and a new socio-economic order in the French clock making industry.

DEP clocks

Durée, Elégance, Précision - durability, elegance, precision - the marketing words used in DEP clocks advertisements in the 1920's and 30's.

For me, DEP clocks personify Art Deco Period clocks with their elegant and often unusual dials, shapes, and the use of elegant materials in the clock casings.

The brand DEP came from the family name Dépéry who were well-established clockmakers as well as clock parts manufacturers and flourished between 1826 and 1954. The clock mechanisms were produced in their establishments and then sent to "clock dressers" or even to other manufacturers who placed them in casings, polished them and readied them for shipping.

Like many manufacturers, DEP provided clocks for other brand names such as the Tribaudeau catalogue or "Trib" brand and even produced some under the name of specific jewelers/clockmakers.

Art Deco clocks - the why

I love French clocks from the Art Deco period - the years between the great wars. My affair with clocks began when I spotted a very dilapidated DEP clock in a flea market. The oval dial and elongated numbers caught my eye. The chrome case was in a sad condition, but I bought it because it was so unusual. Prior to that clocks had always been round with a bell on top that made enough noise to raise the dead. Between then and now, I have collected over 500 mechanical clocks made by one or another of the great manufacturers that have all disappeared.
DEP, Blangy, Jaz, Japy, Bayard, Diette Hour were the brands that through research revealed a successful clock making industry that supplied the mechanisms that until WWII, supported the renown of even the Swiss. clock makers.
Clocks are interesting objects. They all have the same basic functionality - to tell the time, yet between the wars clock makers and designers let their imaginations soar. Round, square, oval, half-moon, triangular dials with all sorts of numbering with marble, chrome, bakelite, brass and even gold and silver clock casings were produced and exported to Europe, America and even the Far East.
With each clock acquired came the curiosity of its origins. Where were the manufacturing plants and why? How many different models were produced? Old catalogues, books, clock fairs and even discussions with the descendants of the original manufacturers provided some answers.
Hopefully as I develop this blog, other clock enthusiasts will join me to exchange information.