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Art Deco Clocks

The Art Deco movement swept from France across the world from the '20s to the '30s, prompted by an association of designers fueled by the desire to compete with the Austrian and German advances in design and manufacturing. Like most major art movements, Art Deco sought to completely revolutionize the styles and ideal of the past. Sleek, angular, and heavy on geometric forms with a touch of the individual artist’s flourish, Art Deco changed the face of architecture, interior design, and decorative objects. Clocks were no exception.

Traditional wood paneling was replaced with glass, marble, bronze, brass, or chrome plating. Some vintage Art Deco clocks incorporated Bakelite, an early plastic. Movable timepieces such as the desk or table clock and popular travel clocks were symbols of a forward-thinking industrial age. Mythology, animals, and modern machines were common themes of Art Deco clocks.

During the Art Deco period of horology, luxury jewelers often stood in for traditional clockmakers. The house of Cartier, in cooperation with clockmaker Maurice Couet, created the Pendule Mysterieuse, a series of twelve Chinese-inspired clocks featuring animals and figures with hands that appeared to float in space. The hands were held afloat by transparent disks made of rock crystal, citrine, or aquamarine.


Quick Facts

  • A Cartier Pendule Mysterieuse 1919 Model A sold at Sotheby’s Geneva for $279,231 in 2009
  • A Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos 561 by Marc Newson clock created specifically for Jony and Marc’s (Red) Auction 2013 sold for $425,000 at Sotheby’s New York
  • A Cartier rock crystal and diamond Model A Mystery Clock from the estate of Consuelo Vanderbilt Earl brought $515,000 at Doyle’s of New York in 2013, while a second Cartier jade and nephrite Art Deco clock from the estate brought $221,000

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