The familiar octagonal Colgate clock, facing Manhattan, dates back to 1924 and is a reminder of the time when factories dominated the city's waterfront. Its design was inspired by Colgate's Octagon Soap. The surface of the clock is 1,963.5 square feet and 50 feet in diameter. The minute hand is 25 feet, 10 inches long; the hour hand is 20 feet long. The timepiece can be adjusted and is maintained to stay within one minute of accurate time. There was a small master clock in the Colgate building that was checked against the US Naval Observatory in Washington, DC The clock's mechanism is like that of a traditional wall clock with weights and wheels but is powered by twenty-eight large-volt batteries that are recharged.
The octagonal clock replaced an earlier smaller clock designed by Colgate engineer Warren Day and built by the Seth Thomas Company for the centennial of the Colgate Company in 1906. The clock, thirty-eight feet in diameter, was made of structural steel and its face of stainless steel slats. It was part of a sign set on the roof of an eight-story warehouse at the southeast corner of York and Hudson Streets also built for the anniversary. Engineer William P. Field designed the sign reading "COLGATE'S SOAPS AND PERFUMES" in 20-foot-high letters. The 200-foot-long, 40-foot-high sign was illuminated at night by 1,607 bulbs and was visible from 20 miles away from the Jersey City waterfront to Staten Island and the Bronx. It received acclaim as an identifying symbol of the company along with its practicality. When removed for the new clock, it was retired to Jeffersonville, Indiana.
The Colgate's Soap and Perfumery Works, later Colgate-Palmolive Peet, was founded by William Colgate in New York in 1806. When he moved his company to Paulus Hook (Jersey City) from New York, it was referred to as "Colgate's Folly." The Colgate-Palmolvie factory complex was completed in 1847; it made chemically produced soap and perfume but eventually gave up perfume production. The Colgate-Palmolive Company became a very successful and modern plant for its time and expanded over a six-block site by the 1950s.
With the clock overlooking the Hudson River, the Colgate structure and signage had become a Jersey City landmark. The signage was altered in 1983. A toothpaste tube, noting one of Colgate's best selling products, replaced the lettering for soap and perfume.
In 1985, Colgate decided to leave Jersey City, and the complex, excepting the clock, was razed. The site is part of the redevelopment of the Jersey City waterfront at Exchange Place that began in the early 1990s. The clock remains on a soon-to-be developed lot awaiting a decision whether it will be made a part of the frontage of a new building or replaced by a new clock as part of new building on the lot. Time will tell!
source: Jersey City past and present,