Yes, if it was made in Los Angeles. No, if it was
made elsewhere. Specifically:
Los Angeles 1934 -1940
Pasadena 1940 -1942
Alhambra 1948 - c.1975
These dates may not be absolutely precise (parts
may have been left over, etc) but we know from both
articles of incorporation and phone directories,
where the company was and when.
1934 Lawson Clocks Limited,
Oct. 3, 1934 Lawson Time,
Incorporated, Los Angeles
1940-42 Pasadena (first
appearance of "Model P40") 1948-c.1975 Alhambra (serial
number stamped on plate) Also Alhambra, later
production (w/UL approval - patent
Was my clock designed by KEM
KEM Weber made some drawings for Lawson, however
none of these designs appears to have been
produced. His drawings date from 1934 so it is
possible he had a hand in the design of the very
earliest Lawson clocks.
Some will point out that designers are often
anonymous. True, but the 1938 Lawson catalogdoes
say who the designers were: Ferher & Adomatis.
Among other models, the 1938 catalog shows model
304, the Zephyr, which had been attributed to KEM
Weber. There is no evidence of this, however, and
it seems clear that Ferher & Adomatis were
responsible for the designs as the catalog
Time-Table Time - Creations For 1938
It has been confirmed that Adomatis was George
Adomatis, an obscure designer and I believe
"Ferher" was Paul Feher the great Art Deco
Could anyone other than KEM Weber create such
striking streamlined designs? Frankly, yes. During
the period from c. 1933 to WWII,everything
from locomotives to pencil sharpeners was available
in a streamlined version. To take just one example:
Left: Lawson Zephyr
model 304, designed by Ferher & Adomatis;
Middle: Chronotherm thermostat, designed by Henry
Dreyfuss; Right: Zenith "Wavemagnet" Radio, model
6D-311, designed by Robert
Is my Lawson clock rare?
You've probably noticed, everything on eBay is
RARE. Still, it's fair to say most Lawson models
truly are somewhat scarce, with certain finishes
being less common. It's easier to point out the
three that turn up frequently. Most surprising is
the Zephyr (above), which, with its rakish design,
might have been too wild for some tastes. Yet, this
model was made at all three Lawson factories and I
have seen as many as four on eBay at the same time.
The earliest 1930s Zephyrs are a bit different,
with the style 1b numbers (see below) and ball
feet. The Zephyr, in bronze finish, is among the
most desirable yet easiest to find Lawson models.
Also common is the Sierra (also called the
Sportsman) model 215. Its worth noting that early
versions of model 215 had a different case, taller
and with ball feet, compared to the later versions
of this popular model.
Lawson Sierra, model
Finally, there is the New Yorker, model 940. Unlike
the iconic Zephyr or inexpensive Sierra, the New
Yorker doesn’t give any obvious clues to its
popularity but it had a long run in both Pasadena
and Alhambra. Henry Fenenbock has a version of this
clock in a wooden case and his, I suspect, really
is rare--perhaps a prototype.
The popular New
Yorker, model 940 and an unusual wooden cased
When a seller says a Lawson metal cased clock has a
few spots that can be “buffed out” is this
Unfortunately, no. Lawson metal clocks have a
lacquer coat and while its much tougher than the
environmentally friendly lacquers in use today, if
a clock has a worn or tarnished finish, that means
some of the lacquer is gone. Additional lacquer can
be applied but won’t fix any flaws and tends to
give a cloudy look.
I have been told it is possible to strip the
original lacquer without harming the finish
underneath. Henry Fenenbock says he's had this done
by F&H Plating in North Hollywood. This might
be an alternative to totally refinishing. There are
a few Lawson clocks with steel finishes where the
lacquer serves as a clear coat but with brass,
copper and nickel, lacquer is essential to prevent
Does refinishing a Lawson clock reduce its
This is where I say an item is worth what someone
is willing to pay for it. If the original finish is
mostly intact, it would seem foolish to alter it.
On the other hand, I have seen exquisitely
refinished clocks that looked a lot nicer than
others whose "original patina" was badly beat up.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
By the way, its also possible that some Lawson
clocks were made with custom or non-standard
Q: What causes the darkening that surrounds the
numbers window on the copper-bronze finished
I found this quite interesting. In final polishing,
if the buffing wheel is larger that the surface
being buffed, the finish retains an even color.
However, if a narrow buffing wheel is used, the
wheel spins more quickly when it passes over the
opening for the numbers because there is less
resistance. This higher speed darkens the finish
more in that area.
Q: What does it mean when someone says the clock
was recently cleaned and oiled?
This sounds like something one would do when
servicing a watch or mechanical clock. Since we are
talking about electric clocks the only thing that
could be oiled would be the motor and if its
working, I wouldn’t. You can try a drop or two of
an ultra-light lubricant like liquefied molybdenum
or graphite but be advised that after years of
wear, lubricating an old motor that’s working will
often just make it noisier--the worn parts have
more room to rattle around. As for cleaning, see
Can I clean the number wheels?
Not always, but sometimes. The numbers on Lawson
clocks are surprisingly durable! Occasionally, you
will see the paint starting to blister and in that
case, you’re out of luck. With the disclaimer that
I am not responsible for any mishaps, try a very
soft cloth and a small amount of a totally
non-abrasive cleaner. I use Brillianize. Usually,
its only necessary to clean the white (ivory)
portions of the wheels. If you feel the need, you
can try cleaning the numbers themselves but do this
very gently--repainted numbers look awful.
Are the parts inside a Lawson clock
Many are, and that’s why it’s generally not
possible to date a clock by the internal mechanism.
The earliest Lawson clocks--the ones that say
“Motored By Waltham” use a mechanism that is
smaller than the later clocks and some very early
clock cases are too small to accept the mechanisms
from later clocks. Also, some of the Motored By
Waltham clocks use the diagonally offset mounting
screws that are typical of most Pennwood clocks,
not the side-by-side mounting screws found on all
What does "Model P-40" that appears on all Lawson
clocks from about 1940 on, mean?
A: I'm sure there's a simple explanation but I
don't know. Probably just a coincidence, but the
factory relocated to Pasadena in 1940.
When and where did the style of the numbers
This is imprecise but here is the sequence, with
approximate dates. Remember that in most cases,
these mechanisms can be swapped so they aren’t
reliable indicators of the age of the clock.
1a- 1934 -
c.1935. "Motored By Waltham" models. Ivory wheels
with copper or chrome aperture plate
c.1935 - c.1940. Same typeface as Style 1a but
with painted ivory aperture plate
c.1940 - c.1942. Identical to Style 1b, but
with Lawson decal applied
c.1940 - c.1960s. A new, "machine age"
typeface - the most common style
c.1960s - 1970s. A simplified, post-Art Deco
What is my Lawson clock's case made from?
The vast majority of the wooden clocks have walnut
cases. This is a high-quality "hand rubbed" oil
finish with a satin to semi-gloss appearance. A
much smaller number of the wood clocks were made
with mahogany or light ash. A very small number of
early clocks have the fancy, shiny wood veneers
that were popular in the 1930s and 1940s.
Lawson metal cases are almost always entirely
brass. Occasionally, some flat pieces such as
bottoms or backs are steel. While the most popular
Lawson finish was "copper bronze" I have yet to
find any bronze in a Lawson clock. The uncommon
"gold" finish is in fact, a bright brass. In one of
the few situations where Lawson did not go first
class, there is no real gold in Lawson's gold
Q: What finishes were available on the metal
Finish choices varied with the model and the time
period. Besides the popular copper-bronze (actually
oxidized "antiqued" copper), clocks were offered in
brushed nickel, brushed silver, gunmetal
(uncommon)and gold (uncommon). The "gold" appears
similar to the bare brass seen in clocks whose
finish has been stripped, however, the gold finish
has a sparkle that sets it apart.
Bright copper (quite attractive, in my opinion) was
not offered. These days, bright copper is
frequently seen since it's what you get if you
polish a copper-bronze clock and brighten up the
oxidation. I don't believe chrome was offered
either, except on on the back plates of some mirror
At first, metal trim on Lawson clocks was typically
brass plated with copper, chrome or nickel. A very
few clocks had gold plated trim. Early on, it
appears Lawson decided to standardize on stain
I'll end this installment with some interesting
trivia. First, did you notice that in the 1940s-50s
Lawson catalog, the clock numbers are set to match
the model number of the clock?
Second, while photographing an early model 115, I
rotated the photo 90 degrees. Some marks that had
been scratched into the nameplate
I thought were the initials W-W-N) appear to be a
date, 12/33 suggesting Lawson might have been in
business slightly earlier than when they appeared
in the phone directory.