Thursday, August 30, 2012

JAZ Commemorative clock

In 1990 the current manufacturer of JAZ timepieces issued a clock to commemorate JAZ's 70 years of existence - from 1920 to 1990.

This particular clock is easily recognizable by the number "70" printed on the dial in a small rectangle and the brand name Jaz under the 12 with the bird's tail in a downward position. The overall styling is very "Art Deco" with honeycomb hands, a 'skyscraper' styling, rectangular brass decorations on the front and the elongated dial face.

The movement is a quartz operated on a small battery. Quartz movements were not incorporated into clocks until the 1970's and basically meant the end of mechanical movements. In comparison to its predecessors, this clock is relatively very light in weight.

The casing of the clock is reminiscent of Jaz' version of the bakelite plastic so extensively used in the 1920's and 30's, which they called 'Jazlite'. 
Although it is a relatively recent issue, it has become over the past decade a very collectible piece, however it should not be confused with JAZ bakelite cased clocks manufactured in the 20's and 30's.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

JAPY Frères clocks

There are so many JAPY clocks still around because Frederic Japy (1749-1812) was one of the founders of the industrialization of not only clocks, but of manufacturing in general. An imaginative inventor of all sorts of machines, he began his career as a watchmaker. At that time, watch and clock parts were manufactured usually by hand by specialized workers in their homes in small communities.
The parts were then collected and mounted into a piece by an 'assembler'. Once the movement was assembled, it was then sent to a 'dresser' who would in turn mount it into a case - be it a small one or an elaborate brass plated mantle clock complete with mythological figures.

Frederic Japy purchased some of few clock making machines in existence, brought them back to his native town of Beaucourt and proceeded to invent new ones in order to standardize the pieces and the quality of the production.

The workers were then regrouped into one location instead of being scattered throughout the countryside and each one was assigned to a specific work post with its own specific machine. Frederic Japy radically changed the way clocks were produced. The sequential production of parts in one location  - a manufacturing plant - aided by machines meant that clock parts were made and assembled in about half the time that it had taken previously.

Japy's plant revolutionized manufacturing. Production schedules were now established by the plant owner and not by the local artisan. The number of steps and operations were reduced by half. All parts could be assembled into a finished product on-site instead of the previous sub-assemblies and the machines could be operated by a less-skilled worker.

Japy then imagined other applications (and invented the machines required to produce them) such as the mass production of hardware parts (screws, nails, bolts) and other products - rotating pumps (a model still in use today), locks, and he perfected the creation and baking of enamelware.

In clockmaking - Japy's enamel dials became the standard for the great majority of clock manufacturers for 150 years both in France and abroad. There are few French carriage clocks in existence that do not have Japy enamel dials on them.

Japy's plants continued to produce clocks in many styles and at the higher priced levels. In 1806, he handed the direction of his businesses to his three sons - and it became Japy Frères (Japy Brothers)  who in turn diversified the manufacturing to produce coffee grinders, typewriters, enamelware, kitchen utensils, office machines such as the first typewriters, refrigerator pumps, advertising signs and they invented more machines to transform copper and steel wires into elaborate hardware parts.

However, his sons' sons did not inherit the creative and inventive spirit of their fathers and grandfather and by the early 1900's, many of the the businesses were sold off and the manufacturing was dismantled.

A classic Japy Frères clock from the late1890's with the well-known logo and the announcement of  having won the  1878 Grand Prize  for clockmaking.

ALL Japy clocks - large or small are signed either on the back case and/or stamped on the movement.

In the 1930's, Japy Frères decided to 'reinvent' themselves to appeal to a wider market and they produced several models with tin casings and in various geometrical styles. Unfortunately they were competing with names such as Jaz and Blangy in that segment of the market and sales were rather limited. As with most French clockmakers, WWII basically decimated them

1932 ad in la France Horlogère advertising Japy's new line of alarm clocks.

After the war, the name brand Japy was sold off to another clock manufacturer who mass produced cheap models of alarm and desk clocks.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

How it got started

My interest in French art Deco period clocks began with a small, tarnished brass DEP clock bought in a flea market. I cleaned the case to a shiny brilliance and then plunked the dirty movement in a special clock cleaning fluid and left it there overnight. 80 years of old oil, dirt,  nicotine and coal dust oozed to the bottom of the dish. I wound it up and lo and behold, it began ticking. I was hooked.
During the past nine years, I've done a lot of research on DEP clocks as well as on the majority of French clock manufacturers. As my personal collection grew, I met dozens of equally passionate clock collectors, attended clock fairs, dug up old papers, catalogues and histories, visited clock museums and had the priviledge of meeting the late Georges Lacroix who owned the greatest DEP clock collection in existence. A true renaissance man, Georges not only generously shared his collection but also introduced me to the descendants of the original DEPery family. Interestingly, Georges' father and grandfather were also clockmakers and worked in the DEP manufacturing plants.
What has always intrigued me about clocks is how such functionally mundane object could be interpreted so many different ways - especially the dials and numbering.
There are thousands of clock collectors in the world, each of them with their own special interest and clock fairs bring out the best of them and there is no doubt that we all roam the aisles and happily discuss our collections, always in the hope of finding that one clock that we don't have yet.
So happy hunting to each and every one of you.