Here is a splendid Telechron clock from 1928 or so, "The Tudor" in beautiful Bakelite:
And "The Oxford," from the same era:
This is my newly acquired 1950s-era Telechron wall clock, "The Replica":
It's sixty years old and all you have to do is plug it in and it keeps perfect time. There are apparently thousands and thousands of Telechrons from the 1920s and 1930s that are in prime working order as well.
Telechron clocks, manufactured from 1912 to 1992, had their heyday from the 1920s to the 1950s. Telechrons were robust, reliable and also beautiful: most embodied Art Deco principles of design.
Telechrons employed an ingenious method to keep accurate time. Electric power in the U.S., once standardized in the Twenties, provides alternating current at 60 cycles per second: 60 Hz. In a Telechron, a synchronous motor spins at the same rate as the cycle of the alternating current that's driving it. This method ensures that the clock always keeps the correct time.
The inventor of the Telechron clock technology, Henry Warren, anticipated one significant flaw in this arrangement: if the electric power grid is used as a system for the "distribution of time," as he phrased it, then, in the case of a power failure, the clocks stop and lose their connection with the "master clock" as provided by the 60 Hz AC current from the power company. If there is a temporary power outage, after the power comes back on, the time will be incorrect. To address this issue, Warren designed his clocks with an "indicating device." This is a red dot that appears on the dial whenever the power is interrupted:
This red dot informs the clock's owner to reset the time. Even years ago, the correct time could be checked via telephone or the radio. Resetting the clock changes the indicating device back to white again.
Here's a beautiful working "The Acorn" from 1930s vintage:
Much of the appeal of Telechron clocks derived from the fact that early batteries were unreliable and didn't last long. Once battery technology improved in the 1950s and 1960s, people began buying battery-powered clocks in preference to plug-in models, especially in wall and mantle clock applications.
We all chose batteries in large part because we didn't want clock cords to show on our walls and mantles.
And what have we done....
We've littered the landscape and our groundwater with countless millions, perhaps billions, of used batteries that contain acids and toxic heavy metals. Heeaven only knows what this has done to crops, fish and wildlife, and even rates of cancer in humans.
Rechargeable batteries, like the one in this laptop I'm writing on, can and should be recycled. Though I wonder how "clean" a process that really is. And newer technologies are coming that will allow us to store energy at high density without employing heavy metals at all. But we've already thrown away so many disposable batteries, and caused so much damage to our world.
And part of the reason we did all that is because we don't like seeing cords on our walls. We are a self-involved species indeed.