Thursday, February 23, 2012

Of the essence: travel alarm clocks

Before I got my first smart phone, I would always travel with an address book, a watch with alarm function, a small photo album, some sort of music player, etc. These items, while necessary, added a small but significant amount of weight to my luggage, so when a device came out that included all these functions plus many others, I was elated!

Still, I must admit that there is one distinct benefit to having a dedicated alarm clock while on the road: you can set it up and have instant access to the time at any point without having to flip open or wake up your cell phone. Just look at the clock face on your dresser or nightstand and you know what time it is!

Even though I take the pragmatic approach these days and leave my travel clocks at home, I still have a small collection of these lovely timepieces.

Blue & Gold Europa Travel Alarm Clock

This wind-up folding travel alarm clock by Europa features a distinctive but legible font for the numbers on the clock face. The two hands have dots of luminous paint probably containing radium, as do the twelve dots sitting outside the circle of numbers.

The case is a clear and pleasant shade of blue, while the metal details as well as the back of the clock are done in gold.

As you can see, my model was made in Germany, although I believe some Europa clocks were also manufactured in the United Kingdom.

All closed up and ready to travel!

Red & Gold Junghans Travel Alarm Clock

The outer shell of this Junghans travel clock is done in a wine red color with a texture reminiscent of cracked leather. Like the Europa piece above, the hands are coated with substance containing radium to make them glow in the dark, but here the insides of the numbers are also filled with this substance.

Did you know that the girls who used to paint these radioactive pigments onto clocks used to come down with radiation poisoning regularly before it was discovered in the 1950s that their practice of licking the brush to keep it pointed had deadly results?

Silver Raketa Upright Travel Alarm Clock

Raketa ("Rocket") clocks were high-quality timepieces manufactured by the Petrodvoretz watch factory in the former Soviet Union, hence the "MADE IN USSR" printed in small letters right above the number "6".

This particular model is small with a clean, easy-to-read face that comes with a colorful plastic container for traveling.

The back has a word printed in Cyrillic letters above one of the dials which I'm sure one of my Russian-speaking readers can translate. One dial knob is missing in the photo below because I forgot to notice it had fallen off when I took it out of its case. It has since been replaced.

Travel clocks are not difficult to come by in my experience, since the demand for them has plummeted in recent years for the reason mentioned above. They make a lovely addition to bedrooms decorated in vintage or retro themes. And as long as you wind them regularly, they will keep time for you and wake you up at the correct hour without having to plug them in or insert a battery.

So tell me, do any of you have vintage or antique clocks in your home?


  1. Lovely collection! I've started a small collection of (wind-up) vintage alarm clocks. I only have 3 so far but they look so neat and all work very well (nothing gets me out of bed faster than those alarms! Mine all sound like fire alarms!)

    1. You're right about these alarms being effective. The electronic beeping of modern alarms may be annoying enough to wake you up, but nothing is as persuasive as metal hitting metal!

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  3. Amazing post....!!!!! really I appreciate it..

  4. I found this site because I just bought two old travel clocks today from an antique store. :) When I was a preteen someone gave me one that was like the two cased clocks pictured above, and I was so intrigued by it even though I don't recall that it actually worked. When I became a teenager tho, because of the identity issues, I got rid of it plus other items since none of the kids I hung around with would have appreciated old things. It was all about the modern stuff for them. Shortly after tho I remember asking my mom if I could have an old black art deco clock she had and from there it took off. I'm in my late thirties now and found these in an antique store, one works, the other doesn't but I don't mind cause I'm keeping them :)

  5. Do you know how old the Junghans travel clock is? I have the same one but in green and can't find anything on the official Junghans site about how to accurately identify their clocks. I estimate it's 1970s, but not sure which year? Anything you know would be helpful!

    1. That's an excellent question to which I unfortunately have no answer. The person I got it from collected a lot of his things in the 70s, if that is any indication. Also, the style of the numbering, although classic, seems to me more characteristic of the 70s than the 60s or 50s. Sorry I can't be more precise. If you ever find an answer to your question, do come back and leave another comment to help others with the same problem.

    2. Thanks, sounds like you know as much as I do! If I find out any more I will let you know.


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