Thursday, February 24, 2011

ATO clocks : A Fashionable Clockmaker

Léon Hatot is a pupil at the Ecole d'Horlogerie de Besancon and the Ecole des Beaux Art from 1895 till 1898. In 1905, he specializes his activity in the artistic engraving of clocks, jewellery, cases and mechanisms made from precious metals. He emploies twelve people in his workshop.
In 1911, he moves to Paris and becomes a member of the "Circle of Master Engravers" . He works with the leading jewelers of Paris, such as Boucheron, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels.
After the war, in 1919, he comes back to the production of luxury clocks and jewellery. He cooperates with Marius Lavet, a talented engineer who had already been a leading participator in the development of the Bulle clock. He acquires Bredillard, a leading manufacturer and supplier of watches, clocks, jewelry and other stylish accessories to the leading firms of Place Vendome. It is the start of the manufacture of the electric clock. In 1920, the trademark ATO appears.

A patent application is filed in 1923. Electric clocks were an immediate unprecedented success in the market place. ATO provides its movements to the renown glassmaker René Lalique. In return, Lalique designs and makes clocks that are proposed under the ATO mark (see an exemple in the ADCGL catalogue). Throughout this time, Léon Hatot maintained also a workshop for jewellery and highly decorated watch cases in Paris.
Leon Hatot did also sculptures and was rewarded with Grand Prize for this part of his artistic carreer in 1925 in the "Exposition des Arts Decoratifs de Paris" where Ruhlmann, Printz, Janniot, Legrain, Lalique, Brandt, Chareau, Follot, Groult, Dufrêne, Dunand, etc.. were amongst exhibitors. Since then, he has been so famous for his clocks that people forgot what a great art deco figure he was.
In 1928, the Hatot company's premises were transferred to a far more salubrious location at 12 Faubourg Saint Honoré which was soon frequented by a very particular clientele, rich and exacting, attracted by the range of high q.uality, highly decorated watches This new prosperity was, however, short-lived. In common with all luxury industries, they were direct casualties of the economic crisis which followed the Wall Street Crash of 1929.
At the Colonial Exhibition of 1931, Léon Hatot displayed electric clocks of very small proportions which were the origin of a new generation of decorative clocks. In particular, he created a new model, the concept and presentation of which were revolutionary, in which he dispensed with traditional decorated cases and made the movement itself the sole decorative element.
This paved the way for a whole new fashion which swept along most makers who adopted this "avant garde" using glass and chrome which blended perfectly with the furniture of the day. The ATO clockswere based on the same electromagnetic principle as the Bulle clock except that the solenoid is stationary and the simple permanent magnet serves as part of the pendulum mass.

1919 Léon Hatot acquires Bredillard, a leading manufacturer and supplier of watches, clocks, jewelry and other stylish accessories to the leading firms of Place Vendome. It is the start of the manufacture of the electric clock. Co-operation with Marius Lavet, a talented engineer who had already been a leading participator in the development of the Bulle clock.
1920 Start of the production of the electric clock with the name ATO. Because of his earlier artistic activities, Hatot was able to further develop the ATO clock and research the subject of electric clocks. Edouard Dietsch became the director of his firm.
The production of the "ATO Radiola" together with Marius Lavet. The principle of the radio-controlled clock was taken over by the firm of Junghans for their production of the DCF77 in 1980.1922 Marius Lavet became the director of des Etablissments Léon Hatot.
1923 On 26.09.1923, the Patent number 583331 was applied for in France for the ATO principle. There were 2 basic sizes of the ATO clocks produced. The ½ and ¼ second pendulum.
1924 ATO produced 4 different models
1925 In a special research department, a vast variety of the ATO clock were designed following plans from Leon Hatot.
1926 13 different models of the Ato clock were on offer.
1929 Now over 50 models of the Ato clock were on the market. Delivery to the French railway SNCF of the Ato ½ second pendulum clock, they were highly accepted because of their excellent performance. During the world wide economic slump, Hatot was forced to cooperate with Junghans in Schramberg. The Production and introduction of the first automatic clock called
“Rolls”. This patent was sold to Blancpainp
1928 - 1930 Built under the licence from ATO clocks by the Hamburg American Clock Company HAU. Junghans worked closely with HAU and other clock manufacturers in a so called interest group.
1930 Takeover of HAU by Junghans , leading to worldwide sales of the ATO clocks until about 1962.
1938 Takeover of the firm Paul Garnier.
1939 Closing of the jewellery branch of the firm. During the war the existing jewellery was stored in a Swiss bank. Not until 1989 were these pieces auctioned in a very remarkable auction and reached extremely high prices. Today these pieces are sought after and are only secretly handled by a few jewellers.
1940 Closureof the clock production due to the German occupation. Take over of the maintenance of SNCF clock systems.
1949 Lavet experiments with the deployment of transistor as replacement for the mechanical contact of the ATO clock.
1953 Lavet and Dietsch get the patent for the transistor controlled pendulum
clock with the name ATO.
1967 Takeover of the electrical clock branch of the firm of Lepaute. Decline in the production of the electrical pendulum clock because of the development of the quarz clock. (source Lothar Frerking).