A History of the Detex Corporation

For almost two centuries, the use of watchclocks can be traced as an integral element in the protection of people and property around the world. During the most recent 100 years, Detex Corporation has played a pivotal role in the development and sophistication of these unique and fascinating instruments.

Detex has its origins in a predecessor company established in 1878 by Abraham A. Newman to manufacture and sell stationary watchclocks. This was a period before watchclocks of the portable type had gained wide usage. Through the Newman name, Detex has observed over 130 years of involvement in the watchclock industry and proudly continues the name for two of its products.

Mr. Newman initially sold his watchclocks in the market from Boston to Philadelphia. During the 1890's, he moved to the Midwest and expanded his business to include the sale of German-made portable watchclocks. By 1896, his Newman Clock Company was well established in Chicago.

But Mr. Newman was more than a salesman. He was attentive to his customers' suggestions and he was inventive. In all, he received more than 30 patents in the United States, most of them related to watchclocks. In 1901, he received a patent on a technique by which an embossing type on a station key and a mating die inside the clock would emboss the paper recording chart.

A watchclock of this design was introduced to the market in 1902. It also featured for the first time in America a full-face dial and hands, so that the watchman could use it to tell the time. The "Newman" watchclock revolutionized the industry, and nearly overnight made all earlier models obsolete. It markedly improved the usefulness and especially the reliability of portable watchclocks.  It was the first portable watchclock to receive the unqualified approval of the insurance rating organizations.

In 1906, Newman incorporated the Newman Clock Company and then sold it in 1909 to Charles E. Renshaw, a New York businessman. In 1910, Newman founded a competitive company, the Chicago Watchman's Clock Works.

The Eco Magnetic Clock Company of Boston marketed its first portable watchman's clock in 1906 a device whose recording mechanism was made in the U.S. and installed in an otherwise complete clock imported from Germany.

A Chicago firm, Hardinge Brothers, entered the market in 1907, and in 1908 introduced the "Alert" watchclock, which was based on principles similar enough to Newman's to require Hardinge to pay royalties to the Newman Clock Company. In 1909, Hardinge brought out the "Patrol" model, a watchclock that avoided infringement of the Newman patent.

In 1916, Mr. Renshaw acquired the Eco Clock Company of Boston. Then, in a series of aggressive moves in 1923, he acquired the Watchclock Division of Hardinge Brothers and the Watchman's Clock & Supply Company of New York, a dealer-distributor organization that originally marketed the products of Mr. Newman's Chicago Clock Works. Renshaw merged these with the Newman Clock Company and the Eco Clock Company, forming a single firm that he named the Newman Watchclock Corporation. This was the first-known American use of the term "watchclock."

Two months later, the name was changed to "Detex Corporation" to emphasize to existing Hardinge and Eco users that the company wasn't the old Newman Clock Company. The term "Detex," believed coined by Philip H. Haselton, Sr., was suggested by a watchclock's detector feature, which marks the recording chart automatically when the cover of the clock is tampered with or opened. The corporate name was soon amended to "Detex Watchclock Corporation" to highlight the company's product offerings.

Detex consolidated its product line, retaining the "Eco" (from Eco Clock Company), the "Alert" and "Patrol" (from Hardinge Brothers) and the "Newman" (from Newman Clock Company). The Detex name was universally used in conjunction with the names of the four models to differentiate the new version of each model from the old version. The works of each were also completely re-engineered. Now, each model had the same look, the same high quality of movements and cases, and many interchangeable parts, but each with its own distinct station-registering system.

One of the early Detex coups was to manufacture its keys to standard specifications. Earlier keys had been specially hand-made, making it necessary to return the entire clock for service if a key were lost or worn out. Now, a standardized Detex recording key could function in any Detex clock of the model for which the key was made.

In 1912, a German company had approached Newman with a new idea: instead of using dials as a recording medium, why not use a paper tape? Dials had to be changed every day, but continuous tapes could maintain an ongoing record that would cover several days of duty.

The Newman Company rejected the idea at the time; but in the early 1930's, a Detex competitor started importing a crude device that incorporated the paper-tape principle. Detex responded immediately by starting to design a tape watchclock of its own. The result would be the company's highly successful "Guardsman" model. The Guardsman profiled a 12-hour tour on just six inches of tape.

Abraham A. Newman died in 1915, long before the emergence of Detex, and Charles E. Renshaw retired in 1923, shortly after forming the new corporation; but their individual contributions to the industry were reunited nearly 50 years later when, in 1958, Detex bought the Chicago Watchclock Division of Great Lakes Industries (formerly Newman's Chicago Watchman's Clock Works).

Through a series of product improvements over the years, the company modernized its mechanical watchclock line. Now there are four models: the "Guardsman" tape model, with the capability of continuous registration up to 96 hours; the "Detex Newman" Watchclock, a 24-hour dial model; the "Saf-T-Chek," a stationary clock with a 7-day dial registration, and the "Newman Quartz," a 24-hour dial model with quartz movement.

Detex remained principally a manufacturer and distributor of Watchman's Clock Systems until 1963, when it first introduced a new line of security hardware products and entered the builders' hardware field. These products are designed primarily for use in the control of exits and entries in industrial, commercial, institutional and educational buildings. As a result of this broadening of interests, the word "Watchclock" was removed from the company name in 1964, and "Detex Corporation" was once again the corporate designation.

In 1981, Detex consolidated its Chicago headquarters and manufacturing operation, and its New York City financial operation, under one roof in New Braunfels, Texas. These facilities consist of approximately 39,000 square feet of manufacturing and 13,000 square feet of office space from which the company conducts its worldwide business.

Detex continued to diversify when, in 1990, it responded to the growing demand in the market for electronic watchtour systems by forging a partnership with Securiton Electronics (now merged into Group 4 Falck) to distribute the "GCS" line of electronic guard tour systems exclusively in North America. Detex has since been a key player in this market by applying its unique brand of service and support to the rugged and popular GCS products.

"History of Detex Corporation" first published in Marking Time Magazine, Third Quarter, 2003, Volume 4, Number 3.