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The Copal Caslon 101 - Japan's first digital clock

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  • The Copal Caslon 101 - Japan's first digital clock

    The Copal Caslon 101 - Japan's first digital clock was introduced to the world in 1965 by the Copal Company, Ltd.

    Known as The Nidec Copal Corporation since 1998, the company began operation in 1946, with the production of photographic shutters which persist as one of the company's best-known products. The company remains a well established manufacturer of optical, electronic and mechanical equipment, still, primarily for the photographic industry.

    The designer of the Copal Calson 101 was the world renowned designer, Riki Wantanabe.

    Pioneer of Japanese design, Riki Wantanabe
    ジャパニーズデザインのパイオニア 渡辺力

    Riki Wantanabe 渡辺力 (1911 - 2013) was a distinguished Japanese industrial designer (often compared to the American designers Charles and Ray Eames) who passed away in 2013 at 101 years of age. Considered a pioneer of post-Second World War Japanese design in a time when the word or concept of "design" was little used in Japan, Wantanabe was initially made famous by furniture design. The Watanabe name eventually became established and well respected in the clock and watch design world.

    In 1964 Wantanabe designed the COPAL Caslon (キャスロン) 101. As described by Wantanabe, the clock is a leaf type table clock made by applying camera shutter and motor technology. A typeface called Caslon was used for the digits, from which the product derives it's model name. Wall hanging types of the Calson 101 were also produced.

    see the article for more information.
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  • #2
    Video with some history of the company and designer of the clock as well as disassembly.

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    • #3
      Hello, all! This is my first post and I'm relatively new to the forum. But I'm a huge flip clock fan, of course, and have been slowly building my collection over the years.

      I've got a clock I purchased off of eBay that has me a bit puzzled. The clock was listed as "Vintage Electric Sunbeam Flip Clock Model Japan" and branded as such. However, I recognized the design as superior, even though I didn't know what it was yet. Then I noticed on the photo of the bottom of the clock, the word "COPAL." And immediately purchased it.

      What I don't understand, I hope someone can help me with, is the fact that the clock is clearly a Copal Caslon 101 design. Furthermore, after carefully removing the remnants of the paper Sunbeam label, the clock is embossed with "COPAL CASLON 101 MADE IN JAPAN." In short, the only difference from that model is the missing word "COPAL" on the face, a larger knurled knob, the word "Sunbeam" on the glass, and of course, a completely different typeface.

      Is anyone familiar with this model?

      These pictures are from the original advertisement.

      Thank you!


      • #4
        This is great. I was wondering about that clock and now you've answered a question I had (I thought it was suspiciously similar to the Caslon 101). . All they did was just re-brand the copal caslon 101. Very interesting stuff.
        ~ Mackey Site Administrator
        If you have any questions/comments Contact Me
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        • #5
          That's observant of you typogeneator to notice that connection. Would you say your case is a Red or more of a Red-Orange color?

          Click image for larger version

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          I ended up collecting four colors of these sunbeams as I thought they looked cool and for US branded clocks showed some color. Here's what I know about them.

          Sunbeam is a company that started in Chicago IL and probably best known for kitchen appliances like mixers although sold a wide range of household items. I believe there are at least two other flip clocks with sunbeam branding that use existing case molds from Japan.

          -White and Lime Green have a paint filled japan mark further down, both different sizes. Orange and yellow have a raised japan as part of the case mold just above the bottom vent.
          -The face is plastic not glass on these. Not sure why my lime green model is missing the logo, assumed to be a DIY replacement.

          Kinda funny but the bottom sunbeam label "don't touch these screws" is almost always missing on these clocks or partially destroyed. That put a screwdriver here slot, which is also on the caslon 101 is often damaged, being that the screws needed to open the case were behind the label and people would try to pry that slot before checking...On top you see the lighted dial gold sticker, which unlike the bottom label seems super robust. I'm not sure why the original buyers opted not to remove it, but its very common to see them still attached.

          Colors best to my knowledge: Red-Orange, Yellow, White, Lime Green. Some get sold as creme so that's a possible fifth color, although it may just be the white version with UV damage that so many white plastic cases suffer from. I haven't found any documentation on how much they sold for or what was the full color offering was.