The Ball Clock

Wall clocks are a staple in many busy households. One of the most iconic wall clocks is the Ball Clock, designed in 1949 by George Nelson Associates. This colorful timepiece consists of a disc with two hands encircled by 12 orbs connected to metal sticks. The clock was the first of more than 150 clocks designed by George Nelson Associates for the Howard Miller Clock Company, which sold them from 1949 through the 1980s. George Nelson Associates designed a range of products for many clients, including the legendary furniture company Herman Miller.

There is a great debate about who actually designed the clock. The truth is, no one really knows. Design lore has it that George Nelson attended a dinner party with designers Isamu Noguchi, Irving Harper, and Buckminster Fuller. It turned into a night of heavy drinking and sketching among the designers. In the morning, the sketch for the Ball Clock was found on a roll of drafting paper. “I don’t know to this day who cooked it up,” Nelson said. “I know it wasn’t me.” Nelson went ahead with the design. Harper would later claim that the design for the clock was his, though most of his life he’d told the story that he suspected it was actually Noguchi‘s.

The clock is made from wood and metal with an acrylic finish. Its molecular, futuristic form became a symbol of American progress in the 1950s, when the United States first headed into space. The furniture company Vitra started producing the line of clocks again in the 1990s, and they are still in production.

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