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United States Playing Card Company Clock & Tower

The Cincinnati Watch Company has a great affinity for the former United States Playing Card Company factory in Norwood, this is where the Gruen Watch Company leased space for their own movement making machines from 1948 and possibly until 1957, with certainty from between 1948 - 1950. Gruen had to get special permission from the Swiss government to be allowed to produce Gruen's own mechanical watch movements. Time Hill did not have the factory floor space the machining tools needed so leasing space inside of the old United States Playing Card Company factory in Norwood was a great solution.

Making Watch Movements in the United States

Gruen produced their own movements in Cincinnati, Ohio starting 1948; pictured below is the 21 Jewel, 335C Gruen movement created inside the old United States Playing Card Company factory between 1948-1950. The American made movements would have then been driven the short distance to Time Hill in Walnut Hills where Gruen horologists would assemble and test the watches.


Here is a watch that came out of Gruen at Time Hill with the movement manufactured and assembled at the United States Playing Card Company in Norwood, Oh. A Cincinnati made movement, assembled in Cincinnati, and sold directly to jewelers.

The most Cincinnatian made watch in history.


Save The Clock Tower!

The United States Playing Card Company factory clock is massive and on a massive building. In the early 20th Century the belief in what time it actually is, was often measured in part on the building the clock is on, the size of the clock, the distance the clock can be seen,and the trust in the company who owned the building; at least in the case of the workers at the United States Playing Card Company, this clock was the clock you set your watch by!

In this case for at least the workers at this factory, this clock was the clock you set your watch by!

In this post you'll see pics of the clock tower's gravity driven mechanical movement that powers all 4 of the clock faces on the clock tower. The images are blurry as they are screenshots taken from a video provided by two urban explorers who posted their unscheduled urban excursion of the factory on YouTube.

You'll see a very nice drone flyover video of the clock tower as well as images of the Cincinnati Union Terminal Clock Movement for comparison.


Demolition work on the former United States Playing Card Company factory in Norwood June 2020


Drone Flyover of the Clock Tower

This terrific drone footage video below found on YouTube One Take Tommy is a must see. Ariel video of the massive factory and office headquarters focusing magnificently on the clock tower on the Unites States Playing Card Company; this video is fantastic. Thank you One Take Tommy!

Please like this awesome video and consider subscribing to One Take Tommy's Youtube channel for this delight.



Urban Explorers Exploring (Climbing on) the Clock Tower Movement

Below is a screenshot of the video from a YouTube channel called TENZING showing a scene from when the characters "urban explore" the tower and the clock. They briefly show images of the weight driven mechanical movement powering the giant 4 clocks facing North, South, East, & West - since there is very little online about the movement powering the clock, screenshots from the video will have to suffice for now.

What interests me the most is the mechanism above the movement that splits the power and timing into four directions equally and accurately. Amazing that one movement can power 4 clocks perfectly.

Complex Simplicity. Beautiful!



By 1900, The United States Playing Card Company moved from downtown, to a newly built factory in Norwood, then, an early suburb in the north-east part of Cincinnati. The four story bell tower was added at the main building entrance in 1926, and housed 12 carillon bells, which ranged from 1 1/2 feet to 5 1/2 feet.[LINK]

One weight driven all mechanical movement- ingenious hardware of functioning beauty keeping accurate time on 4 giant dials 15 feet away in every direction turning giant hands accurately to the second. Mind Blowing simplicity.

Did this movement also power and time the ringing of the Carillon bells?

A Clock Tower Tour

The video below shows two urban explores climbing in and around on a tour reserved for no one. Their shots of the clock mechanisms and the space that would have housed the Carillon bells is a sight worth seeing.

It would be great if there were official clock tours. If anyone has any information about this clock we would love to sign up for a tour!

In the video below that starts at minute:second 5:12, these kids urban exploring a factory that has been closed for years, wearing a camera on their chest, set off to explore the clock tower.

Especially watch at 6:05 when the minute hand rod is turned - watch the minute hand's smooth motion as the hand turns on the outside of the glass with ease, they rotate half an hour and back from the simple turn of a wrist.

Warning, turn your sound down. Loud sound to start Video.


The Tower Clock's Weight Driven Movement: Mind Blowing.

The quad mechanism of the movement is incredibly durable and precise yet stretches 15 feet at least, propped up on the other side by the metal wireframe of the clock & glass and clock dial. A small pivot holding up the other end of a rod, the minute hand, attached securely and turning the large radius through the turning of the long rod.

No grinding sound, no creaking, just exquisite.


We are elated that the clock tower is going to be preserved. There is a 100 million investment going into the location of the former United States Playing Card Company factory. The designs call for saving and preserving the clock tower, a part of the old factory, the the iconic smoke stack.

The new owner of the factory is considering mixed use residential commercial space and intending to save the clock tower. The rest of the structure being demolished. Check out this video from urban designers PLK showing the designs & plans for making the old factory site a part of the community of Norwood. What do you think?



We can not express our appreciation that the clock tower and movement are to be preserved and restored. We have many questions about the clock and are always looking for more information. If you have something to share about this clock including personal stories please share with us.

Thank you!






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