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Eight great clock designs
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Eight great clock designs

Friday, 04 October 2019
By Hope Frost
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Hope Frost

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9 min read

These days, we can check the time on our phone, ask Siri what the time is, even listen to clock ticking ASMR to fall asleep. Why not take a step back from these modern distractions and join us in celebrating some of the best wall clocks that enjoy time in its purest form.

Wall clocks are a celebration of time. They hang in our kitchens, offices or classrooms, there to glance up at and, hopefully, enjoy. Unlike the watch on our wrist or the clock on our phone, they aren’t meant to be used on the run, when we’re commuting or rushing from one meeting to the next. Hence the importance of great design to mark those moments when, if not time, then we at least can stand still. In no particular order, here are our favourite wall clocks that make those rare stationary moments all the more pleasant.

George Nelson’s Ball Clock

After a long night sketching designs with friends, George Nelson found this iconic clock among his scribbles the next day. This was the 1950s, the ‘atomic age’ of design when artists in all disciplines, like the rest of the American population, were in the grip of the space race. This was also the heyday of what we now call Mid-Century design, defined by clean, uncluttered lines. These space-age and understated Mid-Century modernist influences must have been in the minds of Nelson and his friends that night, judging by the wooden balls attached by metal rods to the central dial; a minimalist take on the atom.

L'Épée Time Fast D8 Clock

L’Épée’s Creative Art line aims to surprise, and this vintage race car-desk clock combination is no exception. Designed by Georg Foster, a newcomer to the Maison, it is the ultimate desk-top boy’s toy. The design is inspired by Foster’s boyhood dream of becoming a racing driver, and the clock perfectly references these childhood memories with a maniacal motor that is wound exactly like a toy car, by pulling it back. This is a clock that demands to be played with, if only because the eight-day mechanical movement needs to be “filled up” once a week. The shape pulls from the forms of vintage cars by the likes of Ferrari, Talbot-Lago and Maserati. Foster has incorporated some delightful details such as the foam-filled rubber tyres that compress in the same way the tyres of a full-size race car would, under its weight. The Time Fast D8 is a reminder to let our inner child out to play.

Daniel Weil Collection for the Design Museum, London

Daniel Weil created this series of clocks for London’s Design Museum to coincide with an exhibition of his work that included designs from across his career as well as three clocks made specifically for the show. Each one is intended to disrupt the conventional way that clocks are presented. Weil does this through satisfying design elements such as suspending the battery by metal wires outside the mechanism, with the wires arranged differently in each clock. In one, for example, they give the impression of an instrument. Another is arranged so as to invoke the idea of the constant motion of life, with wires bouncing off the corners of the clock’s plywood frame. On each clock, spheres around the edge of the frame are a nod to George Nelson’s Ball Clock. This reference to an earlier clock contributes to Weil’s desire to play with time by incorporating moments from the past and having them interact with a modern, deconstructive design. Literally and figuratively, Weil joins the dots of history.

IBM Wall Clock

This is a clock that celebrates rather than rushes through time. A wall clock is not meant to be used on the go. It doesn’t count down the seconds of your daily commute or while waiting in line for your morning coffee. A wall clock is made to be glanced up at; to adorn the walls of your home, school, workplace, or anywhere you stay for a while. First made in the 1960s and a feature of classroom and office walls ever since, it is reassuringly familiar. This is a ubiquitous design that most people will recognise, although they may not remember where they saw it first. It is a celebration of simplicity and craftsmanship, handmade in the United States from high quality materials. From its design to the very methods used to craft it, this clock reminds us of the simple art of creating quality products that do their job, and look great. It is as much a time capsule as it is a timekeeper.

MB&F and L'Épée 1839 T-Rex

Max Büsser and Maximilian Maertens are behind the eleventh co-creation from MB&F and L’Épée. Standing nearly a foot tall and composed of over 201 palladium-plated brass, bronze, steel and blown-glass components, T-Rex is a towering desk clock that plays with time and space. It is a coming together of design elements inspired by childhood throwbacks, space travel and, closer to home, a Christmas bauble on legs that Büsser used to keep on his desk. Jurassic Park was the original inspiration for this dinosaur design, being one of the first movies Maertens remembers watching as a child. This idea then evolved into a backstory of a starship pilot who travelled too far into space. His only way back was through a black hole that time-warped him to the age of the dinosaurs, where his ship merged with a hatching Tyrannosaurus Rex egg.

T-Rex © MB&F & L’Épée 1839
T-Rex © MB&F & L’Épée 1839

A closer look at this fascinating timepiece reveals the remnants of the starship as the body and L’Épée 1839 movement of the clock, while the dinosaur’s legs are seen emerging from the egg. The black hole has been ingeniously incorporated into the design by the Murano glass dial that sinks inwards towards the centre. Büsser and Maertens studied 3D scans of fossilised Tyrannosaurus Rex bones when designing the legs and taloned feet, which are made from polished and blasted steel to give the impression of movement. The complex biomechanical design is offset by the simplistic two-hand dial, that appears almost to glow thanks to the mouth-blown glass. Like the T-Rex itself, this clock could soon be extinct with only 100 pieces each in deep blue, green or red.

SWNA Life Clock

SWNA describe themselves as “three-dimensional thinkers, innovators and ground breakers” and this clock defines just that. The Life Clock is an outwardly conventional clock that contains basic emergency relief goods such as a torch, a heat blanket, a whistle and a guidebook explaining how to cope in disaster situations. SWNA designed the clock after a series of natural disasters hit Korea, and as a global climate crisis looms, our home appliances and accessories may need to start catering to new needs. The Life Clock could be the first of many everyday items that double as storage for the equipment we would need in the event of an emergency. As the climate crisis becomes more and more pressing, the Life Clock becomes something of a symbol for the state of the planet. As time ticks on and we move further into climate crisis, the chances we might one day need to open the clock and use the emergency kit become more and more real.

SWNA Life Clock
SWNA Life Clock
Baccarat and L'Épée 1839 Sun Clock

Here is a clock as dazzling as its fans, given that it famously graced the Manhattan home of Arthur Miller and Marylin Monroe, after Miller spotted it in the window of the first Baccarat boutique in New York. The first sun clock was designed in 1948 by Georges Chevalier and was re-released in 2017, with additional gold beams and powered by a L’Épée 1839 movement. Its design is the epitome of opulence – understandably, considering it was inspired by King Louis XIV, the gold-obsessive and self-professed Sun King. The 2017 reincarnation measures a substantial 38 inches in diameter while most of its 90lbs in weight comes from the huge Baccarat crystals that are trimmed with hand-applied 20k gold. The centre of the dial is skeletonised to reveal the manually-wound movement. This is the perfect wall clock to make the passing of time feel more luxurious.

Sun Clock © Baccarat et L’Épée 1839
Sun Clock © Baccarat et L’Épée 1839
Sebastian Wrong’s Font Clock

This clock takes a pared-back yet playful approach. The design is based on the ubiquitous Grayson flip clocks that many will recognise from the walls of public buildings such as post offices, libraries and stations. Wrong believes his clock offers reassurance because it is based on such a recognisable design, adding that the sound of the display flipping over has become a constant his family now associates with the feeling of being at home. Along with this comfortingly repetitive sound, Wrong has incorporated a satisfying sense of surprise as each number and word has a different font – 12 in all – to create an ever-changing and random design. Sebastian Wrong’s clock is a study on time, fonts and sound that succeeds in making something as mundane as telling the time exciting.

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