They say it’s bad luck when a black cat crosses your path – except for when you see a certain ticking American icon grinning at you from the wall. That’s right, I’m talking about the Kit-Kat Clock. “Kit-Kat” is what the clock is actually called, and although it’s unlikely that most of America knows that, all you have to say is “that cat clock” and virtually everyone knows what you mean. The Kit-Kat Clock conjures a certain vintage nostalgia, but its manufacturer, the California Clock Company, is very much alive and well. In fact, the company and its prized intellectual property have kept on ticking for the past 87 years.1
It hasn’t been without the occasional setback – more than once Kit-Kat has found himself up a tree. By the 1960’s, the Clock Company’s prime distribution channel of five-and-dime stores was beginning to lose serious ground to the likes of Wal-Mart, and so they elected to test sales in the larger stores. One of the major retailers, however, knocked off Kit-Kat to produce cheaper copies in China, so the CCC nixed that strategy fast.2 ME-OW!
The Clock Company also faced a challenge as electric motors petered out of production and they had to reconfigure the mechanism which made the clock run (and the eyes and tail switch – critical!). CCC President Woody Young roped together some inventors at a conference, and together, they pulled off a battery-powered solution. To this day, the clocks are all produced in California, 100% in the U.S.3
And thanks to Young’s perseverance, the brand is still going strong. Superstars Katy Perry and Taylor Swift have featured Kit-Kat Clocks in their music videos, and giant Kit-Kats have graced the window at MoMA’s Soho design store. Kit-Kat has been in countless movies, including Back to the Future and Honey, I Shrunk The Kids. Not bad for an off-beat, “kit”-schy timepiece that got its start during the Great Depression (its original price was $3.95).4
Kudos to the CCC for being great stewards of an iconic brand, and keeping it made in the U.S.A. I look forward to Kit-Kat brightening people’s days for many years to come.
Buchanan, Leigh. “How This Company Turned Its Cat Clock Into an Icon That Has Endured for 87 Years.” com, Inc., 30 May 2019, www.inc.com/leigh-buchanan/california-clock-company-main-street.html?cid=hmsub1.