Westclox was founded by Charles Stahlberg in 1885, in Illinois, but was initially known as the United Clock Company. Throughout the late 1800s and the early 1900s, the United Clock Company underwent several bankruptcies and leadership turnovers, the most famous being to F.W Matthiessen in 1888. These changes also caused a succession of company name to changes, first to the Western Clock Company, then then Western Clock Manufacturing Company, then back to the Western Clock Company. The company name of Westclox finally began appearing on the back of their watches and clocks as early as 1910; however the company did not officially incorporate that name until 1919.
Westclox, was an early innovator in the mass manufacturing of clock movements. In 1885, the company received a patent for the process it used to make a wheel and piston assembly; the parts were held together by a jig while a liquid alloy was put in and once the alloy set, everything would remain in its place. In 1902, Westclox received another patent for the alloy setting, this time for a slightly updated process.
Westclox continued to receive patents as late as 1959, when it introduced the “drowse” function. The drowse function was powered by electricity, and it allowed people to shut off their alarm for a set period of time without turning off the alarm clock completely. Today, this function is more commonly known as the “snooze” button.
One of the many things that helped to put Westclox on the map as far as watch and clock companies go was its ability to market to the masses. Westclox was one of the few companies in the late 1800s that produced pocket watches for people who were on a budget; these watches were known as “dollar watches”. It allowed people who could not afford a big name brand to still have a nice and inexpensive pocket watch. Westclox continued to produce these inexpensive pocket watches well into the 1990s.
By far, Westclox’s most well-known clock is the Big Ben and the Baby Ben, both of which have undergone a series of minor stylistic changes. The Big Ben and Baby Ben clocks all have the iconic round face; they are analog clocks. The Big Ben and Baby Ben clocks have been available in a variety of colors but are most often seen in silver, bronze, and black. These clocks have been so popular, that companies from overseas have started to forge them and put the Westclox name on clocks that are not as high quality.
Until 2001, all of Westclox’s manufacturing was done in the United States. Today, that manufacturing is split between the United States and China, so just because a Westclox clock says it was made in China, doesn’t make it a forgery. On New Year’s Day, 2012, the Westclox factory in Peru, Illinois was struck by arsonists, and the ensuing fire caused over 50% of the merchandise and components to be lost. It took over twenty firefighters to put out the flames; Westclox is currently in the process of rebuilding.