Photo from Oakland Library Archive.
A delicate pyramid balancing effortlessly upside-down at the top of a golden column marks the corner of 17th and Broadway. Blue neon lights outline a circle at the apex of the figure, illuminating the face of a distinguished clock. It keeps silent watch of the city, content and unassuming. The clock seems almost out of place, standing alone and unattached. Why this corner for this clock? Yet the clock charms, something beyond its elegant design.
Commissioned by Davidson & Licht Jewelry Co in 1930, the geometric structure containing the clock originally stood in front of the family-owned jewelry store a few blocks away at 1318 Broadway. Benjamin Davidson, a diamond broker and Arthur Licht, a watchmaker’s son, custom-built it to increase attention to their high-end jewelry business. In the first half of the 20th century, standing clocks served jewelry stores as red-and-white-striped poles served barber shops: announcing the store’s presence from afar. Between 1930 and 1947, the Davidson & Licht Jewelry Co moved twice, and took the clock with them, until they landed at 1635 Broadway.
Over the next three decades, Davidson & Licht Jewelry Co grew to become a five-store chain, supplying East Bay residents with Omega and Rolex watches. But, as the recession of the late 1980s hit, Davidson & Licht decided to reduce to two stores, closing the location in Uptown Oakland and abandoning the stoic art deco clock. Soon after, a car hit the clock, mangling its face.
The clock stood impotent and embarrassed for close to thirty years. As Oakland experiences its current renaissance, interest in the restoration of Oakland’s secret art deco gems has peaked. In early 2014, local charities raised $10,000 to fix the quieted city treasure, restoring it to its former ticking glory.