Tick tock: classic kitchen wall clock designs are influencing a slew of modern watchmakers
The super-slim hands and clean dials that define utilitarian post-war kitchen and factory clocks are natural inspiration for classic watch design. Legibility is key when quickly glancing at your wrist, and the graphic characteristics of Max Bill’s 1956 wall clock for German brand Junghans, Dieter Rams’ clocks for Braun, and Henning Koppel’s 1978 wall clock for Georg Jensen are a pretty perfect starting point for any modern watch designer.
London-based Uniform Wares cite original Smiths Sectric kitchen clocks as a primary inspiration when they started designing watches, and now the Nomos Glashütte brand has followed suit with its homage to 1960s domestic design.
It has recently launched the Lux collection that’s crafted in gold, and has both the tech and aesthetic credentials of Bill’s early design. In fact, Junghans’ clock was originally so successful that it was quickly followed by a line of wristwatches. During the mid-century consumer boom, German watch design tended towards a scientific aesthetic - a necessary marketing tactic in a packed arena.
Bill, during his directorship of the Ulm School of Design, designed the clock in conjunction with his students, following the rationale that form must follow function. The dial design of the hand-winding model, with an interior ring of hours surrounded by an outer ring of minute markers, was taken from the school’s original drawings.
Last year Junghans integrated it into a sizeable 38mm automatic wristwatch to allow for more clean space on the dial, whether in graphite or black. Georg Jensen is also rumoured to be launching a new line of Koppel watch designs at Baselworld watch fair this Spring.
The Nomos Lux gently mirrors Bill’s 1960s wall clock-with-timer. Sword hands sweep around a white dial surrounded by a choice of 1960s Formica colours - pale blue, canary yellow, claret or lilac-grey. The tonneau-shaped case meanwhile is reminiscent of Bill’s organic, inverted-teardrop timer design.
Cult minimalists Uniform Wares reworked the simplicity and functionality of British factory wall clocks from the same era for their M-line range. ’As a progressive British brand, a lineage of great British design and style influences our thinking,’ says co-founder Patrick Bek. ’We use subtle identifiers throughout the collections to highlight the quirks.’ English manufacturers Smiths Sectric and Gents’ of Leicester are two such inspirations - an ultra-clean dial bears nothing but hour and minute hands and slightly chunky indices. And, following Rams into permanent-collection territory, Uniform Wares M37, the line’s cornerstone piece, is a steady fixture in San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Architecture and Design collection.