Kit-Cat Clock turns 80 — a classic collectible still Made in the USA

One of the coolest things yet on the blog: A working Kit-Cat clock! In celebration of the 80th anniversary of this American icon, I connected with the nice folks at the California Clock Company — the sole manufacturers of the Kit-Cat Clock — and they gave me the pieces to make my own little online eyes-moving, tail-wagging Kit-Cat clock. I have named him Englebert. Happy birthday, K-C, you don’t look a day over 21! Seriously, the Kit-Cat clock has an illustrious past — and a remarkable present — including the dedication of the company’s owner to keep it Made in the USA. Read on for more about the fabulous Kit-Cat clock.

Made in the USA — for 80 years

One of the things that I learned in my conversation with the California Clock Company, is that the only changes to Kit-Cat clock in the past few decades have come when various component manufacturers started moving their production overseas. But Woody Young, the owner of the company, did not want such a famous piece of Americana to have made-in-Wherever parts — he wanted everything Made in the USA (with occasional exceptions, such as the special-edition clocks made with Austrian crystals.) So,  there have been some redesigns to the internals to make sure the company could get all the parts here. That is: They spent money — they went the extra mile — to keep the jobs in America. Wow. The Kit-Cat clock continues to be super popular today — not only in the U.S. but also all around the world. An export! There’s even a fan club and a Kit-Cat® Creed:

Put a smile on everyone’s face;
Love in everyone’s heart;
Energy in everyone’s body;
and Be a positive force in everyone’s life!

History and how to date of a vintage Kit-Cat clock

The Kit-Cat clock was born in the 1930s, during the Great Depression. And while it’s had some minor modifications over the years, it’s pretty much the same swingin’ cat. The Kit-Cat history page is excellent at providing info about marks and features that can help you date a vintage clock (tip: Dinner and a movie are always appropriate.) Here’s just a tidbit:

If the back of the clock states “Portland, OR” it is late 30’s.
If the back of the clock states “Seattle, WA” it was made in the 40’s if it is a metal back.
If the back of the clock states “Seattle, WA” with a plastic back and no front paws it was made in the early 50’s.
If the back of the clock states “Seattle, WA” with a plastic back and has front paws it was made mid to late 50’s.
The bow tie was added about 1954.
etc….see the website.

kit cat clock with a helmet

You can buy new Kit-Cat clocks today straight from the California Clock Company. They come in a large number of colors, and the company comes out with several special editions every year. There are also upgrades — like a Kit-Cat with a football helmet — oh, and increasingly, they have sports team colors on the clocks, too. Hmmm, Father’s Day is coming up, this gives me an idea.

You also can find vintage clocks at places like ebay (affiliate link):

 Thank you, California Clock Company, for all the fabulous information and photos. May you have another prosperous 80 years of the Kit-Cat Clock!

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Comments

  1. ChrisH says

    I really like that they came up with a battery movement when they could no longer get American made electric movements.

  2. Wendy M. says

    I love these…my grandma bought me one in the late ’80’s. Sadly, when I plugged it in the last time the motor only ran for a minute and gave out. I need to contact them about the possibility of retrofitting it with a battery-operated motor…thanks for reminding me I need to do that!

    • Retrosandie says

      Wendy, check the Kit Kat web site that Pam gives a link to. There’s lots of info about repairs, etc. Hope you get yours working!!! 🙂

      • Wendy M. says

        Thanks Retrosandie- I will!
        My kids really want it in their playroom, but if it was battery-operated, I could put it up in my laundry room. That way I would get to enjoy it more (and it would be less likely to be knocked off the wall! 🙂

  3. Leslie says

    I have always loved his cute clock and finally bought one several years ago. I knew the history of the clock but not the “made in USA” piece. Great news!

  4. JKaye says

    I have loved Kit Kat clocks since seeing one in the bedroom of the little girls I babysat for way back in the mid-70s. I’ve often thought I would like one. I still have some Christmas gift money, and maybe a Kit Kat clock is the very gift to give myself. Hmm, what color?

  5. Katie B says

    I have a cute mini pink one, complete with eyelashes and pearls! Although it no longer works, it still looks fantastic on the wall.

  6. Jennifer says

    Great to see these today! A black one is my “Kitchen is Done” last purchase “prize.” My aunt had one in her kitchen that I always loved. Wonderful to see they are Made In America – I didn’t know that!

  7. Ann-Marie Meyers says

    Who can forget their first Kit-Cat clock? My room-mates got me one for Christmas back in the early 80’s. It was a vintage one. It was electric, had no bowtie, and did have front paws, so that would put it at from the early 50’s. It was black.
    It gave out early in my marriage, somewhere around 1985, and my husband and kids got me a new one in the 90’s, but I have no idea what happened to it.
    Guess I need to buy myself one. I will put it on my list of possible birthday presents for myself!

  8. Retrosandie says

    Pam, what a delightful story!! I think you should somehow add one of those cute little working kit-kats onto your page!!! Wouldn’t it be cool if it could show the correct time whenever someone stops on your blog??!! Now I’ve added a pink clock to my list of “wants” (“needs, gotta-haves”!)!! 🙂

  9. says

    Too fun, Pam! Especially this big!

    My parents gave me a Kit-Cat for Christmas last year—I’d long wanted one, and they found a Route 66 one to celebrate my two successful shoots! Receiving one of these wonderful clocks made me so happy I got all choked up and almost cried. (Sap here.) He now hangs on the kitchen wall, and it’s true—you smile every time you see him! Now I just need more and more and more of them. It’s a whole new kind of crazy cat lady!

    BTW, their customer service is really fabulous. Everyone should have a Kit-Cat! Or twelve.

  10. Sherry Holdridge says

    Oh wow, I had no idea the clock was Made in the USA. Now I love it more. I spent a lot of time staring at it as a kid. Thanks for featuring it.

    Sherry Holdridge
    OHSAY USA

  11. Jamie Farone says

    I love my kit kat clock also!! unfortunately with it being 2 C batteries, its not strong enough to move the eyes and tail.. it makes me very sad.. the mechanics inside are so easy for the batteries and moving parts.. i cant figure out why it isnt strong enough ever to move the eyes and tail….. ive even tried different brands of batteries.. I wish they could remake the electric ones.. saves the cost on batteries too!

    • gsciencechick says

      Mine won’t move any more either.

      When I was little, our big department store had the Kit-Cat clocks in every color. I even remember an orange one!

  12. says

    Great article Pam! The Kit Cat clock is really an American icon. Other iconic American brands would be Fiesta, Wigwam socks, Allen Edmonds shoes to name a few. Please stop by my blog if you have a minute to check these brands and other U.S. made products at simply-american.net. Thanks, John Briggs

  13. Just another Pam says

    I have a bright yellow vintage Miss Kit-Cat but until I can find the time to get her to stop dropping rhinestones, the old glue ain’t what it used to be, she’s been tucked away. She works well and there’s even a plug at the right height in the middle of one kitchen wall. There’s an old school clock there right now but my granddaughter wants Miss Kit-Cat back there….nag nag nag ;o)

  14. CrabbyAbby says

    Love Love Love the Kit Cat clocks! My husband bought me 2 of the turquoise ones for Christmas–one for home, one for the office–because he knew how much I adored them. For those having problems with the eyes and tail moving, try checking out their website. They have a link that says Dr. Kit Cat (or something of that nature) to help you diagnose and fix any problems. Such a great product, and yes, it makes me smile too everytime I look at my clock!

  15. says

    I love my Kit Cat clock and can’t wait to hang it up in my new, retro teal and yellow kitchen! (Just moved 3 days ago) I’ve had it since my 11th birthday when I picked it out in a catalog and put it on my birthday list. The clock works fine, but the eyes and tail only move a tiny bit. I’ll have to check out the Dr. page on the clock website. I think there are magnets in there that have lost their strength.

  16. Ann Clark says

    I have the regular size black cat clock which I bought at a clock store in Mesa, Arizona a few years ago. The problem I have had is the tail and eyes have stopped working. It is still keeping the correct time. Do you think if I but new batteries in it, it would start to work properly or does it need to be serviced? Please reply thank you.

  17. joe says

    I buy and rebuild old used kit cat,s you can get all the parts and help

    from california clock company on line…. and they have helpful videos

  18. Shirley says

    I can’t keep the batteries in tight enough. They keep slipping and then I have to remove it from the wall and try to put them back in place. What can I do?

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