Westclox had a highly successful factory in Scotland situated in the Vale of Leven Industrial Estate, in Dumbarton, around twenty miles from the City of Glasgow. Westclox had originally planned to start production in Scotland in 1939 but the War intervened and it was not until 1948 that they were able to fully commission their factory in Dumbarton.
Westclox Scotland produced its first clock on the 21st September 1948; a spring wound alarm with a 4 inch dial. The Westclox factory in Scotland was a full manufacturing plant; all their clocks were assembled from start to finish with only the basic raw materials being brought in by outside suppliers. 95% of the staff were local people and the firm trained their employees from scratch to a high level of skill and had an annual apprenticeship for toolmakers and classes in horology.
By 1949 Westclox Scotland were making 10,000 clocks a week, and by 1950, 1,000,000 clocks had been produced since its opening. No home in the Dunbartonshire Vale was without at least one Westclox clock, nor any raffle complete without a clock as one of the prizes! Many of these clocks are still around today, (and can easily be found on Internet auction sites.) So successful was the Dumbarton factory that in the mid 1950’s Westclox had to expand into adjoining buildings. The factory then added watches to what they made as well as timing devices for other sectors. By the mid 1960’s, employment levels at the Scottish plant were around 1,100. Over a third of the clocks manufactured in Scotland were exported to some 110 countries across the globe.
Difficult times came in 1967/68 when 400 workers were laid off and the future of the plant was in doubt primarily due to cheap clocks from the then iron curtain countries. However, strong petitions to the UK Government produced the passing of an anti-dumping law and production from the factory picked up.
In 1968 General Time was bought out by Talley Industries, which was best known as a manufacturer of timing equipment, such as clocking-in units, to various industry. It had no overlap with the Dumbarton product range.
Westclox in Scotland enjoyed several boom years under the then Managing Director, John Santos. In 1971 the factory was filmed by the BBC for the preparation of a visit by Her Majesty, The Queen, His Majesty, The Duke of Edinburgh and Her Royal Highness, The Princess Anne. The visit made front page news in the Scottish based newspapers. In the early 1970s, Mr Santos, who was at the time also Vice Chairman of the British Clock and Watch Manufacturers Association, saw the beginning of what turned out to be dramatic changes in the clock industry and was reported to have said. “If the British clockmakers and retailers want a profit they must forget their industry was once a hallowed craft and recognise that it is now light engineering.”
Westclox Scotland still made headlines and in October 1974 hosted a Space Seminar for the Astronaut, Neil Armstrong and British Astronomer, Sir Patrick Moore. Both visited the Scottish factory to promote the introduction of ‘Quartz’ time-keeping. In 1976 the Westclox plant in Dumbarton became the Headquarters of General Time (International Operations) Ltd. John Santos retired from General Time and Westclox in the early 1980s and by 1988 the future of Westclox in Scotland was almost over. In 25 years the factory had produced over 50 million clocks, yet it was perhaps inevitable with the advent of Quartz technology, ironically evolved largely by General Time for use in the Apollo 11 Command Module, that it could ultimately herald the contraction of the mechanical clock.
The Westclox factory building in Dumbarton has been converted and is now home to many thriving small businesses.
Thanks to Christopher Santos for the pictures and information on this page.