Kitchener-Waterloo·Photos

Timeless piece of Kitchener history on display at antique clock auction

The Arthur Pequegnat Clock Company was the first manufacturer to successfully mass produce clocks in Canada. A collection of 200 Pequegnat clocks will be auctioned off in New Hamburg this weekend.

200 Pequegnat clocks to be auctioned off in New Hamburg this weekend

A collection of 200 clocks made by the Arthur Pequegnat Clock Company will be auctioned off in New Hamburg. (Robin De Angelis/CBC)

A collection of antique wooden clocks is set to hit the auction block in New Hamburg this weekend, drawing both clock enthusiasts and local history buffs alike.

The collection features 200 timepieces, produced by the Arthur Pequegnat Clock Company in Kitchener during the first half of the twentieth century. It's believed to be the largest-ever collection of Pequegnat clocks.

Ethan Miller, one of the owners of Miller & Miller Auctions Ltd., describes the company as an "untold Canadian story," that started when Arthur Pequegnat came to Canada from Switzerland in the late 1800s.

Ethan Miller is one of the owners of Miller & Miller Auctions Ltd., based in New Hamburg. (Robin De Angelis/CBC)

Initially, the Pequegnat family owned and operated jewellery stores across southwestern Ontario, importing watches and other goods.

Pequegnat later built a factory in Kitchener, then called Berlin, to manufacture bicycles. When the bicycle market began to decline, he converted his factory to manufacture clocks around 1904.

The Sarnia clock — named after the Ontario city — was one of the models produced by the Arthur Pequegnat Clock Company. Pequegnat liked to use quartersawn oak, to show off the grain of the wood. (Robin De Angelis/CBC)

It was the first successful attempt to mass produce clocks in Canada, Miller said. Previous efforts were unable to compete with clockmakers in the U.S. and overseas.

"He had the skill set, he had the clockmaking and the watchmaking background, and then he applied that to this business to produce clocks on a larger scale," Miller explained.

Pequegnat would go on to manufacture dozens of models of wall, mantle and grandfather clocks for the Canadian market.

The Citadel clock is inspired by Greek and neoclassical architecture. This model is currently valued at between $1,200 and $1,800. At the time it would've sold for around $15, which works out to $850 in today's money with inflation. (Robin De Angelis/CBC)

The company also developed an "ingenious" marketing strategy, naming several of the models after cities.

"Not only any Canadian city, the largest Canadian cities, so they'd have the highest potential number of buyers from each city," Miller said.

"It works to this day. People from Toronto will want to buy a 'Toronto' because it's from their city."

The company would continue to manufacture clocks until 1943, when production ceased in the middle of the Second World War. 

Today, collectors are known for trying to search out every model and variation produced by the company during its heyday. The collection on auction this week contains at least one of each.

The Arthur Pequegnat Clock Company drew in customers by naming different models after Canadian cities. A five cent label on the back of the clock identified the model and its namesake — in this case, Lindsay, Ont.. (Robin De Angelis/CBC)

Miller said there is a lot of enthusiasm for the upcoming auction on Saturday, but one of the most exciting parts for him is the history the clocks represent.

"Each one of these clocks had a story, had a home. Some of them were bought for presentation, as gifts for people. Others were bought just as a necessity, because they needed to catch the train in the morning," he said.

"Every one of these clocks has some form of social history. That's what's so fascinating."

For the auction, Miller & Miller recreated Pequegnat's display at the 1911 Toronto Exhibition. The display earned a silver medal at the exhibition. (Supplied by Miller & Miller Auctions Ltd.)

About the Author

Robin De Angelis is a multimedia journalist based in southwestern Ontario. She has previously worked as a reporter covering local news in Sudbury. Get in touch on Twitter @RobinElizabethD or by email robin.deangelis@cbc.ca

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