Saturday, April 14, 2012

Charles Hour - Diette Hour - Hour Lavigne and "JUST" clocks

Charles Victor HOUR, one of the co-founders of HOUR LAVIGNE which still produces some of the finest and most spectacular clocks today (Google Hour Lavigne) began as an apprentice at 11 years of age. Twenty years later, he bought out a failing manufacture and in 1891 took on an associate  - Diette. Together they became one of the most important clock makers in France.
Hour then associated himself with Maurice Lavigne  and by the end of the XIX C, Hour Lavigne was the largest clock and timepiece manufacturer in France with over 800 employees.
Carriage clock with DH stamped on movement

During the years of association with Diette, most of the models produced reflected the styles and taste of the period, including small carriage clocks  with a visible escapement and balance wheel. They had DH stamped on the back of the movement and were delivered in very fine calf leather carrying cases.

CH HOUR rectangular carriage clock

Their more popular models included enamel dial clocks that were incorporated into large bronze or porcelain mantle clocks such as the one shown below.

Their clocks were entered in numerous exhibits and won the Grand Prix in Brussels in 1910 and the Grand Prix in Turin in 1911.

It was very important for a clock maker's reputation and sales to be present in the various exhibitions and to win since clocks were an expensive domestic object and those who could afford them tended to prefer the cachet conferred by the manufacturer who had won the Grand Prize and could advertise the win on the back of the clock case.

After WWI, Hour Lavigne revolutionized the concept of what a clock could look like. While most manufacturers interpreted the new Art Deco movement as using existing clock movements and dials in more stylized casings, Hour Lavigne transformed all visible parts of a clock - the dial, the case, the hands, the numbering into a new, coherent whole truly reflective of the Art Deco style. At the 1925 Exposition des Arts D√©coratifs in Paris, they presented a dozen clocks that simply wiped out the competition.
Photograph from La France Horlogere of 1925 showing the
winning exhibition Hour Lavigne clock.
One of the most striking examples presented by Hour Lavigne at the 1925 Art Deco Exhibit from the catalogue. The clock case is in red veined marble while the numbers are small tablets of white fired enamel with the numbers in red encrusted in them. Four small stylized squares with small gold frames fill the corners while the black hands reflect the round chubbiness of the font used in the numbering on a gold background. A judge described it as a symphony of red, white and black worthy of the highest admiration.

The Hour Lavigne clocks shown in 1925 redefined the aesthetics of clockmakers for decades. While many of their pieces were 'one of' (as most Art Deco pieces were before mass reproduction), they had shrewdly realized after WWI that there was a growing market for high quality, original clocks reflecting the new streamline Art Deco aesthetics. That resulted in the extension of the "JUST" brand which had been used for their watch production since the 1900's, to clocks.

While they kept up the production of their more traditional mantle clocks and large bronze ornament clocks with garnitures and figures, they developed a new line of regulator clocks and smaller clocks based on the success of the the clocks they had presented at the 1925 Exhibition.

"JUST" clock  1930
One of those clocks is shown on the left. Most of the large JUST clocks from that period were manufactured in very limited numbers as they were relatively expensive and very heavy (this one is over 10 lbs in weight) to ship.

The clock on the left has an asymmetrical case composed of three different colours of marbles with a polished chrome face and short, square shaped hands.

The numbering is unique and original in that it is one of the few clocks that did not use Roman numerals as do the great majority of JUST clocks.

During this period, they also manufactured clocks that were stamped with the brand name of some of the most prestigious jewellers such as Tiffany & Co.
High-end jewelers in both America and in the U.K.did not normally manufacture the clocks they sold under their names, but sought out prestigious clockmakers to produce models with their brands stamped on the dial and the maker's name or logo on the movement.

During the 1920's and 1930's they also produced many models of  small easel clocks and two or three function clocks (a clock plus a barometer and a thermometer and a calendar).

Two of the small easel clocks produced in the mid 1920's. Their clocks were mostly decorative with no alarm function.

The most popular JUST models aside from the more traditional ones, were brass case easel clocks.
Two of the nine models of easel clocks with triple functions ( clock + calendar + thermometer). These models were frequently stamped with the name of a jeweler and the location of the shop. The movement is that of a pocket watch. The calendar days were stamped on a roll of thin tissue and suffered the greatest wear. Dates were stamped directly on the brass plate.
Some of the brass easel clocks included a barometer as well as a calendar and thermometer.