Open just through this Sunday, February 21st, the exhibition “For All Time: Clocks and Watches from the National Heritage Museum” is filled with fascinating stories.
The career of Eugene Fitch (b. 1846) is one. Originally a dry goods merchant, Eugene Fitch turned to invention in the 1880s. After applying for patents for a display unit for thread and improvements to the typewriter, in the early 1900s, he sought patents for a clock.
What was new about his clock? Rather than showing the time with hands on a numbered dial, Fitch’s “time indicator” used small die-cut celluloid plates to display the hour and minute. He named it “The Plato Clock,” after the white “plates” that showed the time.
The American clock-manufacturing powerhouse, The Ansonia Clock Company, produced the Plato Clock from at least 1904 to 1906. Their catalog described it as “the latest in Novelty Clocks.” Ansonia went on to claim that the little gold clock kept perfect time and sold “on sight.” In addition to the American-produced models, French and German companies sold copies of Fitch’s design on the continent through 1914.
What happened to Eugene Fitch? Currently, we don’t know but hope that future research will tell us more about the inventor of the Plato clock and his next big idea.
The Plato Clock, 1904–1907. Eugene L. Fitch (b. 1846), designer. Ansonia Clock Co., manufacturer (1879–1930), Brooklyn, New York. Gift of Mrs. Willis R. Michael, 85.108.18. Photograph by David Bohl.
Charles O. Terwilliger, Jr., “Eugene L. Fitch and the Plato Clock,” Bulletin of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, Inc., October 1964, pp. 447-460
Tran Duy Ly, Ansonia Clocks and Watches, Arlington Books, 1998, p. 564