Vitascope Clocks A Short History and Price Guide

We take a look at the history of these very interesting Vitascope clocks along with a price guide to some examples. The Vitascope clock became a design icon of the mid 20th Century featuring an illuminated diorama with a rocking and pitching model ship. The Vitascope Clock proved to be especially popular among children, who enjoyed watching the floating ship as it moved back and forth in its illuminated backdrop. Over time, Vitascope clocks became a symbol of mid-century design and have since become highly sought after by collectors. Today, they are considered to be a valuable addition to any vintage clock collection.

black case Vitascope clock with silvered dial

A black case Vitascope clock with silvered dial. This example sold for £600 at Sworders, March 2021.

The Vitascope Clock was a product of Vitascope Industries Ltd based in Ramsay on the Isle of Man. It was introduced in 1946 and they were produced until about 1950. In principle it was  a synchronous clock so was functional but it was the visual automation of the ship that has made it a desirable object today. The design is heavily influenced by Art Deco and although made in the 1940s are often referred to as Art Deco. Also they are referenced as being made of bakelite, however there is no reference to bakelite only injection moulded cellulose acetate.

vitascope logo

The YouTube video below shows the Vitascope clock in operation with the ship sailing on the rolling ocean.

All ‘Vitascope’ clocks have the same basic operational style but vary in case colour, chapter ring and style of hands, and, there are some variations in the internal aluminium frame that supports the movement and animation. They do vary in size slightly but are approximately 12.5 inches (32cm) tall, 8.5 (21.5cm) wide and 6 inches (15cm) deep. Source: Clockdoc

black case Vitascope clock with silvered dial

A black case Vitascope clock with silvered dial. This example sold for £920 at Mitchells Auctioneers, March 2019. 

There is a variation in the colours for the Vitascope plastic case and in the ships used for the automation. Plastic cases were produced in various colours including white, cream, brown, and less often in green, pink, blue and red and black. The model sailing ship used has three sails: jib, a foremast and mainmast each with five sails and a single spinnaker sail, the mizzen mast has either four or five sails and both these styles were originally manufactured. A four-sail mizzen mast is said to be fitted to early serial number clocks and five sails fitted on later clock.

red case Vitascope clock with silvered dial

A red case Vitascope clock with silvered dial. This example sold for £400 at Fielding’s Auctioneers, April 2018.

Related
Geoff Horner’s Vitascope clock feature at Clockdoc is a useful read and includes notes on some technical aspects.

white case Vitascope clock with gold dial

A white case Vitascope clock with gold dial. This example sold for £460 at Lockdales, October 2013.

grey case Vitascope clock with gold dial

A grey case Vitascope clock with a silvered dial. This example sold for £750 at McTears, November 2021.

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