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Clocks to watch

October 23, 2003|Adamo DiGregorio and David A. Keeps | Special to The Times

In the Los Angeles of post-World War II film noir, clocks were ominous things, a reminder that no one can turn back the hands of time. But in those movies, people were more interested in saving their necks than in saving an hour of daylight.

This weekend, after resetting your timepieces, why not spend the hour you've gained by shopping for a clock with character? Leave the SpongeBob SquarePants alarms to the kids and invest in quality time, something shapely with desirable numbers and nice hands. A clock made out of metal and glass, with a cord.

In the Electric Age, between grandfather's windups and today's battery-operated quartz chronometers, clocks were designed to be a dutiful -- and beautiful -- addition to mantels, walls, desktops and bedside tables. Many still are out there at swap meets and repair shops. (Try Elsie's at 5315 Hollywood Blvd., [323] 464-8445, which sells and fixes old tickers.)

For connoisseurs, Bedfellows in Studio City keeps perfect timepieces such as a Streamline Moderne model, by Lawson Clocks of Alhambra, with revolving number dials that announce the time through a glass window, and a kitchen clock by Henry Dreyfuss, the industrial designer who created the 1939 Big Ben alarm clock.

If time is money and money is no object, make an appointment to view the vintage clocks advertising car dealers and drugstores in the Americana collection at Track 16 Gallery in Santa Monica. (They're in the $2,000 range; you'll probably put in overtime paying for one.)

For clock watchers, the Nixie clock makes every moment count, displaying the hours, minutes and seconds as they pass in tube lights from the dawn of television.

Need something quick? You don't have to sacrifice good looks or pay big bucks. Retro-style clocks are experiencing an uptick in sales at retailers such as Target, which stocks new versions of the old-school Big Ben alarms, and Pottery Barn, which has single- and triple-time-zone models that look like car dashboard clocks.

Major manufacturers aren't wasting time catching on to the retro trend, either. Bulova has reissued the Deco-ish Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian mantel clock for less than $80, and Westclox has teamed with Restoration Hardware to re-create the 1949 Moonbeam alarm ($45), which offers a less rude awakening by flashing a warning light before it sounds.

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