Seth Thomas Company History
Seth Thomas Clock Company was one of the most prolific and long lived clock companies. The quality of their products was always maintained at an above average level. Seth Thomas must have sold many clocks in the Lafayette, Indiana area, for out of all the antique clocks we repair, about 40% are made by Seth Thomas.
Many American clock factories in the 19th century suffered factory fires but Seth Thomas was fortunate in this respect. Through conservative growth and taking advantage of the new ideas of others, Seth Thomas was able to enjoy financial stability, whereas many other companies faced financial difficulties.
Seth Thomas was born in Wolcott, Connecticut in 1785, went to work for clockmaker Eli Terry in 1807, bought out Terrys factory (together with Silas Hoadley) in 1810, and in December 1813 bought out Heman Clarks clockmaking business in Plymouth Hollow.
Thomas continued Clarks wooden movement tall clock production, and about 1817 began making the wooden movement shelf clock. These were cased in pillar and scroll cases until 1830, when the bronze looking glass and other styles became popular. In 1842, brass movements were introduced, and first cased in the popular O.G. case (which was made until 1913). Wood movements were phased out in 1845. In 1853 Mr. Thomas incorporated the Seth Thomas Clock Company, so that the business would outlive him. Mr. Thomas died in 1859, and Plymouth Hollow was renamed Thomaston in his honor in 1865.
Mr. Thomas was very conservative, and after his death many new styles of clocks were introduced by his sons. Regulator clocks were introduced in 1860. The patterns and machinery for these had been purchased in 1859 from the creditors of bankrupt clockmaker Silas B. Terry. Spring driven clocks were introduced ca. 18551860. Perpetual calendar clocks were made from ca. 18631917. Some of the most popular later types include walnut kitchen clocks, made from 18841909; marble clocks, 1887ca. 1895; black (Adamantine finish) wood mantel clocks, ca. 18851917; black enameled iron cased clocks, 1892ca. 1895; oak kitchen clocks, 1890ca. 1915; tambour clocks, introduced in 1904; chime clocks, introduced in 1909; and electric A/C clocks, introduced in 1928.
Many Seth Thomas clocks from 1881 to 1918 have a date code stamped in ink on the case back or bottom. Usually, the year is done in reverse, followed by a letter AL representing the month. For example, April 1897 would appear as 7981 D.
In 1930 a holding company named General Time Instruments Corporation was formed to unite Seth Thomas Clock Company with Western Clock Company.
In 1955, a flood badly damaged the Seth Thomas factory. They phased out movement manufacturing and began importing many movements from Germany. Hermle, in the Black forest of Germany, has made many movements for Seth Thomas clocks.
In 1968, General Time was bought by Talley Industries, and in 1979 the headquarters was moved to Norcross, GA.
In June 2001 General Time announced that it was closing its entire operation. The Colibri Group acquired Seth Thomas. The NAWCC (the National Association of Watch and Clock collectors) purchased from Seth Thomas their collection of historical records, drawings, photographs, advertisements and documents.
Colibri Goes Into Receivership
In January, 2009, The Colibri Group unexpectedly shut its doors, laying off its 280 employees and preparing to sell all remaining jewelry, gold and silver to pay creditors. I don't know yet what this means for Seth Thomas.
The following message appeared on the Colibri website:
"February 16, 2009
The Colibri Group is currently in receivership and is not accepting any orders at this time. We are also unable to repair or replace any items returned to us for the time being. We will do our best to ensure that items that have been sent to us will be returned to the respective customer or owner. We will update this message as new information becomes available. We are sorry for the inconvenience. Thank you for your patience."
Seth Thomas and Colibri Acquired by Alliance Time
March 25, 2009
Alliance Time Acquires Colibri Group Assets, Colibri &
Seth Thomas, Top-Tier
Deal Includes Intellectual Property, Trademarks & Inventory
Company to Connect With Former Employees for Possible
NEW YORK, March 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Alliance Time (www.alliancetime.com), a leading distributor of brand name and designer jewelry, watches and accessories, has acquired the entire inventory of goods, intellectual property and trademarks from three top brands -- Colibri, maker of popular lighters, accessories for men, jewelry, executive gifts and flasks; Seth Thomas, the oldest clock manufacturer in the United States; and Linden Clocks, a noted clock maker.
The company plans to leverage its robust distribution
channels with mid-sized and large market retailers, national chains and
high-volume e-commerce sites
"Colibri, Seth Thomas and Linden are well-known brands with a history of quality and consumer appeal -- from the ubiquitous Colibri lighter to the iconic Seth Thomas-manufactured clock in Grand Central Station in New York," said Eli Katz, Alliance Time president, retail division. "We believe that their brand recognition combined with the strength of Alliance Time's distribution network will reinvigorate their presence in the marketplace." In an effort to rejuvenate the brands further, Alliance Time will be asking former employees of The Colibri Group to contact them directly at email@example.com, for background analysis and to investigate potential work opportunities.
"As we look into possibly developing and growing these brands for the future, we would be remiss, if we didn't explore tapping into the people and resources that previously served Colibri, Seth Thomas and Linden well. We are confident that we can leverage the synergy of our existing infrastructure with the historic legacy of these brands" added Katz.
About Alliance Time:
Based in New York City, Alliance Time (www.alliancetime.com) is a privately-held retail distribution company offering a multitude of products from mid-range to luxury brands, specializing in jewelry, watches and accessories. They are the exclusive worldwide distributor for the European watch brands Milleret (www.milleret.ch) and Golana (www.golana.ch). Since 1999, the company has successfully provided goods to brick-and-mortar and online stores nationwide, including major chains and e-tailers.
On April 13, 2009, the following message appeared on seththomas.com:
"Thank you for visiting SethThomas.com.
We are excited to announce that Seth Thomas is under new ownership with a long-standing commitment to providing quality products and a 100% customer approval rating.
For almost 200 years, Seth Thomas has earned a reputation for producing masterfully-crafted clocks including many public tower clocks installed throughout the United States, the most famous of which proudly stands in the center of Grand Central Station in New York City. We now begin a new era with a promise to improve on this legacy and our service to you, our valued customer, as we take immediate steps to regain your trust and confidence.
Thank you for your patience, and please expect to hear from us soon."
On April 13, 2009, the following message appeared on colibri.com:
"COLIBRI - THE FLAME BURNS ON
Thank you for visiting Colibri.com, a name our customers have trusted for over 80 years.
We are excited to announce that Colibri is under new ownership with a long-standing commitment to providing quality luxury products and a 100% customer approval rating.
Colibri was founded in 1928 with a sincere dedication to our customers. Our legacy was built on offering innovative products with the highest quality and design standards. We are committed to you, our valued customers, and we are taking immediate steps to regain your confidence.
Thank you for your patience, and please expect to hear from us soon."
A default server webpage comes up at seththomas.com
Colibri.com now has a web page. © 2009 CST Enterprises, LLC. They sell lighters and mens accessories - no mention of clocks.
seththomas.com now brings up the same web page as colibri.com. At the bottom is: © 2009 CST Enterprises, LLC
Illustrated Catalog of Seth Thomas Clocks, Regulators and Time Pieces, 1863, reprinted by the American Clock and Watch Museum , 1977, with Seth Thomas history by Chris Bailey.
Seth Thomas Clocks & Movements, Tran Duy Ly, U. S. Books, ISBN 0-9647406-0-5, Second revised Edition, 1996.
Clocks in the author's collection and clocks observed over the years.
Printers of Hartford 1825 Thru 1860, by D. R. Slaght, part of the label printer project coordinated by Paul Heffner of NAWCC.
Seth Thomas comes to Columbia, News from the Library and Research Center by Beth Bisbano, NAWCC Bulletin, December 2001, vol. 43/6, No. 335, p. 791.