Treasure: Unusual German model ancestor of flip clock

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

Mike O’Keefe of Clinton Township had a younger brother who lived in New York’s Greenwich Village. “He liked odd things and collected a lot of things,” he explained to appraiser Brian Thomczek recently during an appraisal session at the Michigan Design Center in Troy.

Unfortunately, he told the appraiser, his brother died young. “I remember being fascinated with the unusual flip clock he had in his apartment,” O’Keefe said. “When he passed away, we were all encouraged to choose something and I said, ‘I want that clock.’ I’ve been curious about it ever since.”

O’Keefe identified it as a Plato flip clock, which he thinks is about 110 years old, filling the appraiser in on what he knew about the item and its origin.

“My kid brother left it to me and I’ve had it about 30 years,” he added. “Through the years I’ve taken it to a variety of repair places and everyone has been afraid to touch it because they just didn’t know enough about it.”

The clock has date on it of about 1903, says O’Keefe. An internet search turned up some similar models, which appear to have been made in West Germany and marketed by a company called Estyma in the United Kingdom.

“How it ended up in Greenwich Village is anybody’s guess,” Thomczek said.

Thomczek said the clock is very interesting and dated the style and manufacturer to about the turn of the century or early 20th century, which would track with O’Keefe’s estimation. “These come to market occasionally, but you don’t see them a lot,” he told O’Keefe. “There are definitely people who collect vintage timepieces, including clocks. Some of these go for about $500-$600, but I’d estimate yours to $200 to $300.

“These are essentially the predecessor to the flip clocks that came out in the 1980s. But it’s good you have all of the parts and didn’t’ take it to the wrong person. Overall, it’s in good shape,” Thomczek said.

“It came to me years ago and it’s just been sitting in my house since then,” O’Keefe said. “I don’t have any intention of selling it, but at some point I may think about donating it to the Detroit Historical Museum or someplace similar. I could see it in their Streets of Old Detroit exhibit, maybe. One of these days I may run it down there and have them check it out.”

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About this item

Item: Vintage flip clock

Owned by: Mike O’Keefe, Clinton Township

Appraised by: Brian Thomczek

Estimated value: $200-$300