Gilbert Clock Company
The Gilbert Clock Company was an American clock manufacturer based in Connecticut.
The company was established in 1828 as ‘Marsh, Gilbert and Company’ by William Lewis Gilbert and his brother-in-law George Marsh. They purchased a clock shop in Bristol, Connecticut and were joined in 1837 by John Birge, changing the company name to Birge, Gilbert, & Company.
Later that year Chauncey and Nobel Jerome became partners in the business, along with Zelotus Grant, and the company became known as Jerome, Grant, Gilbert, & Company. However, Gilbert himself moved to the town of Winchester, Connecticut in 1841 and, along with Lucius Clarke, bought a clock factory.
This new business produced relatively cheap brass clocks, and was known at various times as ‘Clarke, Gilbert, & Company’, ‘Gilbert & Clarke’ and ‘W. L. Gilbert & Company’. In 1866 it became The Gilbert Manufacturing Company, and operated until 1871 when the entire factory was burned to the ground.
Gilbert soon reopened his business, this time known as the ‘William L. Gilbert Clock Company’. This company found success and continued to run long after the death of Gilbert in 1890. Despite two brushes with bankruptcy it survived the Great Depression of the 1930s and became the ‘William L. Gilbert Clock Corporation’ in 1934.
It spent the years during World War II manufacturing cheap alarm clocks with pressed papier-mâché cases, and began manufacturing adding machines in 1953. The company was purchased by the General Computing Machines Company in 1957 and renamed the ‘General-Gilbert Corporation’. The clock division of the company was sold to the Chicago-based Spartus Corporation in 1964.
The company produced a wide range of clocks during their history, including shelf and mantel clocks, steeple clocks, banjo clocks, wall clocks in styles such as Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts movement, desk clocks and parlour clocks, and also branched out into producing advertising clocks for brands of liquor and similar in the 20th century.
The company’s ethos centred around economy: inexpensive timepieces anyone could afford. Despite this, the clocks were of high quality, often with ornate decoration.
Gilbert was a leading producer of alarm clocks, particularly the recognisable Winlite, which resembled a large pocket watch.
Guide to Collecting
Today many Gilbert clocks are sought after by collectors due to their often unusual styling and innovative mechanisms. The company was renowned for the high quality of its work, and a large number of clocks remain working heirlooms to this day.
As the company changed names so many times over the years, this can help to date a clock. Collectors may also focus on one type of clock, made in one particular era of the company, for example the early ornamented steeple clocks which imitated Gilbert’s contemporaries, Gilbert’s kitchen clocks, or the World War II alarm clocks which they became renowned for.
The value of Gilbert clocks on today’s market can vary greatly depending on the model and its condition.
Gilbert clocks can be found at auction, on eBay, in second hand stores, through specialist dealers, at flea markets, garage sales and passed down from relatives.