When I first heard about the task of choosing a pair of compared design objects in the Boymans van Beuningen exhibition “Design Derby” –where Dutch design is being compared to Belgium design– I thought it was going to be a long and painful process since I have never been interested in design. Especially not in furniture design which I know nothing about. It was a relief when I found out that the exhibition was well organized and the objects presented were described in an understandable manner. At first I had to take several strolls through the exhibition before I realized what my choice should be, and it was no other then the Grandfather clocks. Seeing them made the choice so easy that I even didn’t think about how hard it would be to compare them. That turned out to be difficult, since only later I realized I know nothing about the styles of design and even the point of owning one is completely unclear to me.
So these are the clocks that I ended up choosing, The one on the left is Designed by a Belgium artists Georges Hobe and architect Antoine Pompe in 1902 while the other clock at the right is designed by a Dutch designer Christiaan Wegerif also in 1902. You can see that both of the clocks are made at the same time, yet they are completely different. The Dutch designed clock is much more masculine and solid, also it has more detail and decor in general. The Belgium clock meanwhile is famine and is more about the function, It hasn’t been overly decorated and is just as complicated as it needs to be in order to serve its function. To have a general idea of what similar types of clocks look like and how they are the same or different you can visit this link that sells german grandfather clocks or this that sells grandfather clocks in general and has some background info as well.
So after the exhibition I thought to my self what the reason was of making this, (now seemingly) foolish choice that seemed so easy and clear at the moment I made it. Suddenly it clicked to me; my grandmother, she used to have several Grandfather clocks, and only now I started understanding how sad it is that I never paid attention to them. I never had the chance of asking her why does still keep them. My grand mother was very old and as I noticed, the clocks just became closer to her with time, after she got moved to an old people home, she took only few belongings with her, few pictures, bottle of cognac and one of the grandfather clocks. I guess there it served as a reminder of past and the overall importance of time.
So due to the lack of information on the specific Grandfathers clock’s of my choice I decided to do a general research and the first thing that was unclear to me was the origin of the name “Grandfather clock” why not Grandmother clock or just Tall clock? Once again it all comes down to pop music, its named after a song “My Grandfather’s Clock” performed by an American songwriter named Henry Work [x], who wrote a song about a clock which stopped working the same minute of the day when the last surviving owner died and happened to be a grandfather, you might think that this is a made up myth but let me surprise you that the chances of this actually happening are pretty high since the less expensive clocks at that time needed to be wound every day or they just stopped working. The Grandfather clock is usually 1.8 – 2.4 meters tall and is a weight driven pendulum mechanism that is located in the tower or the waist of the body, this kind of clock was first developed in 1670 by an English clockwork William Clement.
Until early 20th century these were the most accurate time keeping technologies so they were often kept by huge businesses and rich households. Now they only serve as decorative objects since it needs a lot more maintenance then a everyday wrist watch and most people now don’t have the TIME for that. Since I have a very limited interest and knowledge of history I decided to take a look at some modern day grandfather clocks, and I was rather sad to find out that with few exceptions they are not made by hand anymore and they have all become electronic. So I found very few companies that still make handcrafted clocks but only this Kauffman’s company offers to make a clock costum made just for you and how ever you want it so it has a much higher value and can relate to a specific family which in this case I think is very important. Though I must admit that the clocks made by hand then and now are not pleasing to my taste, and I find the modern ones more aesthetic and visually appealing for example this black and simple clock.
At the same time by loosing the need of a huge item that serves only the purpose of showing time they now serve new purposes that previously just couldn’t fit in the same casing with a pendulum mechanism. They can have built in drawers or be used as book shelves a and probably many other new purposes could be thought of. Here you can see the same clock as previously but opened and instead of the pendulums you have a set of drawers, that could be used perhaps for your dirty underwear that you wish to hide from the public eye.
Another great function but a rather ugly outcome.
I think the shape of clocks should not be forgotten, they just need to be redesigned to serve more purposes then showing time or they can just as well turn in to art pieces since they have such a strong image and meaning as a thing on it’s own, for example artist Maarten Baas has done few works that relate to grandfather clock directly or to time in genera. Most related to this subject would be his work “Real time” where instead of the usual clock face there is an LCD screen within the clock that shows a human inside the clock drawing the time on the clock face. Read about three contemporary artists that explore the general concept of time.
I personally don’t like clocks at all since they just keep reminding me of the amounts of time I have wasted on useless activities. So I would need a grandfather clock that goes backward and is constantly fooling me or doesn’t show time at all. Something like this…