Well we’re finally doing an article about clocks…and it’s about time!
It’s probably a good bet that everyone has seen (or maybe even owns) a Kit-Cat clock. Believe it or not, this frisky feline time keeper with its iconic swinging tail, rolling eyes and contagious smile has inspired smiles from cat lovers around the world since 1932. That’s 86 years of bringing time to life in purrfect rhythm.
FUN FACT: Here’s a staggering statistic…believe it or not, for the last 50 years, someone has purchased a Kit-Cat clock every 3 minutes! >^..^<
All Kit-Cat clocks are true to the original design and have been made in the USA since their inception. The manufacturer (California Clock Company) is based in Ontario, California and they remain dedicated to keeping this part of Americana alive by keeping the same look that survived since the 1950’s.
FUN FACT: Did you know that the opening scene of the wildly popular move from 1985 (Back to the Future) features Kit-Kat…remember this ticking intro.?
Following is a brief history of the Kit-Kat clock and how it evolved over the past 8 decades…
During the height of The Great Depression, the Kit-Cat clock was first invented in 1932 in Oregon by designer Earl Arnault (1904-1971). The Allied Clock Company was founded in Portland, Oregon to manufacture these uniquely animated pendulum clocks. The earliest clocks had no markings on the back and most had metal bodies, metal clock hands and four toes on each of the two paws. They also had starter knobs on the front to “start” the motor spinning in the correct direction when it was plugged in, because “self-starting” motors were not widely used in clocks in the 30’s. Allied Clock soon adopted the increasingly popular method of plastic molding and moved to Seattle, WA.
40’s and 50’s
The 40s and 50s were decades of explosive growth for Kit-Cat’s popularity and marked the first (and last) changes in his design. The top paws and the Kit-Cat’s dapper bow tie were added. Due to his popularity, it wasn’t long before Kit-Cat became synonymous with the 1950’s in America.
In 1962, Allied Clock moved production to Southern California and renamed itself the California Clock Company. In 1982, the owner of the California Clock Company convinced Ohio native and serial entrepreneur Woody Young to take over as President/Owner and keep Kit-Cat going strong into the new millennium.
But in the late 1980′s, the American Made legacy of Kit-Cat was almost lost! In the span of a few years, American electric motor manufacturing was almost exclusively relocated to Asia, leaving Kit-Cat without a US motor supplier. A battery motor powerful enough to move Kit-Cat’s exclusive “one-second” animation had yet to be invented. With no other alternative, the California Clock Company was driven to develop a new battery technology.
Kit-Cat kept on ticking through the 90’s when the first Limited Color Edition Kit-Cats began to be manufactured, including the first 3/4 size Kitty Cat which was introduced in 1996. It wasn’t long before Lady Kit-Cat first burst on to the scene in 2001, swapping out the bow tie for pearls and eyelashes.
2007 marked Kit-Cat’s 75th anniversary, and was celebrated with The Great All American Road Show which lasted 75 days along the entire Route 66. “We were wanting to do something special for the 75th anniversary of an American icon,” said Woody Young, President of the California Clock Company. Kit-Cat Klocks are made on Route 66 just outside of Los Angeles so it seemed like a perfect fit. The Great All American Road Show included the world’s largest Kit Cat Klock at 75 inches tall and a 75-year-old Ford Deuce, specially painted to celebrate the clock which participated in 75 events across the country including parades and car shows.
2012 marked Kit-Cat’s 80th anniversary, 50 years manufacturing all of their clocks in California, and 30 years with Woody Young as President. To celebrate this milestone, Kit-Cat sponsored the only 100% US grown commercial float in the 2012 Pasadena Rose Parade.
Entering its 86th year, Kit-Cat continues to prove that he is truly “timeless” as Kit-Cat clocks are now sold through stores in countries all around the world. Outside the US, the most popular countries buying Kit-Kat clocks are Japan, the UK, France and Germany.
We contacted the California Clock Company and reached Mr. David Milburn who was kind enough to answer a couple of questions we had…
Q: What was your most popular design sold in 2017?
That’s an easy question because every single year since the first (as far as our records go) the Classic Black has been the most popular design. While the black and the white create a striking design that fits in most any designed room, we believe it’s more because the original is part of people’s cherished memories.
Q: If you had to pick 5 favorite designs from over the years which would they be?
Wow! It’s hard to pick just the top 5. The first most popular design would have to be the original, tried and true, Classic Black Kit-Cat. Beginning in the late 1950’s or early 60’s, Kit-Cat was available in a “jeweled” version that is still requested today. Real crystals adorned his body and eyes–what a way to light up a room! Red Kit-Cat Clocks have been eternally popular. What is it about the color red that draws our attention? Maybe because it’s such a fun accent color throughout the house, or that red is a popular kitchen accent color, where many Kit-Cats reside.
When the year 2000 came around, we decided that the Millennium Kit-Cat had to be extra-special! He had a Chrome body and was a huge hit! Kit-Cats have followed popular home-decorating trends over the years. As a result, we see many electric Kit-Cats in a Copper color, which may have been introduced in the 1950’s but persisted through the 1980’s and is even coming back with retro designs today. (However, avocado green hasn’t enjoyed the same longevity).The Iconic and Loved Kit-Kat Clock Turns 86 this Year!Click To Tweet
David went on to tell us that they have a number of exciting releases coming very soon that will be new territory for Kit-Cat. He couldn’t say much yet, but did say that the Build a Clock program and selection is about to get much larger and even more interesting!
What an enduring and remarkable legacy! Here’s a bit more video eye candy from the nostalgia lovers at DoYouRemember.
Do you (or a family member) own a Kit-Kat clock? If so, tell us about it by posting a comment in the ‘Leave a Reply’ box below and share your story.