Clocks: round, practical things, which tick and occasionally ding. But can they also function as decoration? The idea is certainly not new, though until today it seems never to really have caught on. As far back as the 60s and 70s, George Nelson came up with a range of sculptural designs. Famous examples include his iconic “Ball”, “Sun Burst”, “Eye” and “Spindle” Clocks. In keeping with the modern craze for anything ‘mid-century’-modern, these and similar clocks have now experienced a solid revival.
But why would you want to hang a clock on your wall, instead, of say, a cool painting or a set of nicely framed family photographs? According to the literature, wall clocks have some genuine advantages: they are functional (well, as long as they work properly), add interest to the decor (after all, your houseguests may well be left wondering, “why a clock?”), might be intricate pieces of art themselves and/or can turn an empty wall into the focal point of your space. Of course, they can also be added just for fun (see e.g. George Nelson’s colorful ball clock, or the modern cuckoo clock below), or even to help children to learn to tell the time.
Without really paying any particular attention to it, over time I have hung more and more wall clocks in my home. It’s not exactly that I ran out of other options. It’s rather that I liked the shapes and kept adding to my little ‘collection’ whenever I found a specimen that interested me. Below I want to introduce you to a few them, as I try to recall why I bought them in the first place. As a ‘bonus’ I want to relay a fantastic idea a friend of mine had, ideal for the cosmopolitan travelers among us: we call it “Lance’s Minimalistic Newsroom Clock.” (Catchy, I know.)
Cool design with matching color scheme
We had just finished building our house and while fully furnished, many white walls that called for some decoration to “de-minimalize” the space remained. One day, as we were browsing local design shops for inspiration, I came across this striped black-and-white glass wall clock. It was love at first sight. Playing it safe, to make sure it fit, I went home first to think about where best to hang it. It is now happily hanging in the hallway where it adorns one particularly tall wall, visually stressing the height of the latter and thus adding to the overall sensation of height in the space.
A Statement Clock That’s Hardly There
Less is more, right? An empty white wall to the right and another to the left, together framing the space between the dining and living rooms. Although I was always hesitant to put anything on the left wall, as it also forms part of the hallway, I felt that the right wall needed some decor.
To maintain the visual balance between the two walls I looked for something that was “hardly there” – and finally found it on the Spanish clock designer site nomon. Again, I was stricken with love (unfortunately, the price tag complicated the relationship somewhat.) I slept on it for long time, but eventually swallowed my qualms and ordered it. I can’t say I regret that decision.
A couple of weeks later, the clock arrived Ikea-style in bits and pieces, assembly instructions in Spanish, with a rather funny English translation thereof in small print. We were thoroughly amused, at least, until we tried to actually put it together (after which we were merely bemused.) The process was, despite the funny pictures and the attempt at multilingualism, an authentic pesadilla. To our credit, after a good hour spent struggling with so little material – it amounts to practically nothing – it now hangs precisely where it’s supposed to and is, in my opinion at least, a real stunner.
The (non-functional) pendulum is a piece of art in its own right. It’s super heavy (being solid metal), beautifully finished, and of a good size. As unassuming as the Péndulo may appear on the white wall due to its delicate design and chrome finish, it strikes almost all our visitors. It is a statement piece despite the fact that it does not technically carry much visual weight, offering the best of both worlds.
In case you were wondering whether after all this effort spent on design nomon actually thought to make the clock functional, I assure you, it works like a charm!
The Gift – Modern Cuckoo Fun!
I haven’t bought all my wall clocks myself. They have a sneaky tendency to find their way into one’s home in the guise of unexpected gifts. Last year, friends of ours visited us for a week, and to thank us they surprised us with a wonderfully thoughtful souvenir from the Black Forest: a clock! And a beautiful one at that, complete with cuckoos, pendulums, and weights.
I’m not the biggest fan of the traditional cuckoo clock, but ours is radically a-typical. Indeed, aside from the weights, it has a very modern, strikingly minimalistic look: the body is a simple black box, the cuckoos a pair of roughly carved sparrows and the pendulum and ‘flower’, in true Bauhaus tradition, consist of a red rectangle capped by a black square. Simply beautiful. Interestingly, while one would expect that the weights would also feature some geometric form, those were left in the traditional pine cone shape. In all, a brilliant way of giving the traditional a distinctly modern touch. We found a good nook for it and are currently in the process of trying to figure out how to adjust it such that it will actually keep the proper time. (Random cuckooing has become a fact of life, though to be honest, it’s quite cute. The clock really has its own personality!) Apparently, it requires finely adjusting the distance of the ‘flower’ from the bottom of the pendulum. Periods, momentum, physics… yikes! I just want it to cuckoo on the hour!
The Infinite Wall Clock – Cheap, Sticky, and Infinitely Chaotic
No pendulums, no cuckoos… just sticky numbers, and more physics. I found this clock in the catalog of an online store selling mid-century modern furniture and accessories. The price was fantastically low, so I did not expect too much, but I loved the idea of being able to cover the entire wall of my art study with a clock. When painting, time flies … and for this reason alone, it was worth adding a timepiece to that particular space. All the better if it was art itself!
While the numbers and clockwork were supposed to be stuck to the wall in decal fashion, most of the adhesives did not hold and so part of the clock slid down again fairly quickly. Mildly exasperated at this point, we took a glue gun to the wall (take that, gravity.) Now the numbers stick. In fact, trying to take them off would probably tear some rather unsightly holes into the plaster. Much to my relief, the clock works extremely well (though it is hard to read it at times – but that’s entirely my fault. I placed the numbers in a bit of a silly way – a clear case of design over function, I am afraid…)
The Newsroom Clock
In their beautiful Scottsdale (Arizona) home, friends of mine experimented with wall clocks, too. Their inspiration and execution were, however, a little bit different from mine: function definitely takes priority! I find it perfectly brilliant:
Lance explained his creation to me this way:
I love the news. Every morning the first thing I do is check various news sites, conservative, liberal, moderate, local, and international. Then I check my emails.
I love the images of newsrooms, rows and rows of typewriters (showing my age) and desks, the wall of clocks showing the times of major cities across the globe.
I also am highly time conscious, needing to know what time it is at any point of the day.
Doing a mashup of all that, in my office I created a minor version of the newsroom wall of clocks, reflecting the cities where my family and I work and live.
Now, what do you think? Convinced by the case of the clocks yet?
If you have a cool design of a wall clock that you would like to share, please feel free to email us, or post a comment! Looking forward to hearing from you.