“What you make is important.”

When I slept in the boys room to accommodate the aforementioned patient, I reacted badly to the clock that seemed fit for a Pink Panther episode. There I was, too tall for my bed, too much on my mind, with a pillow over my head to block out the tock, tock, tock. I finally rose to remove the battery after lying there forever not wanting to get up and praying for sleep.

It was down for days, but the inhabitants complained, and now it is back. But I do think there needs to be something new. Better. Possibly the George Nelson Ball Clock. Ubiquitous perhaps, but classic nonetheless.


George Nelson graduated with a degree in architecture from Yale in 1928. He traveled extensively in Europe over the next few years and returned to the States, “a convinced modernist.”

He was an accomplished writer and advocate of the modern movement as well as a designer. His hanging “storagewall” brought him to the attention of, and eventually into business with, the Herman Miller Company.


He introduced the ball clock in 1950, though the clocks were only identified by numbers at the time. He designed an estimated 150 clocks during his partnership with Herman Miller. The company produced the clocks into the 1980’s until they were discontinued. Vitra resumed production in the 1990’s.

What has become known as the “eye” clock, below, was originally pictured at an angle in the catalogue, not horizontally as it is usually placed today.

We visited one of Mr. Blanding’s friends in Chicago many years ago, certainly before mid-Century was the rage, and her husband had a collection of Nelson ball clocks in nearly every color. She made him hang them in the garage. I remember seeing them on the way out to dinner and thinking, “fabulous.”


But while I consider the ball clock for boys 1 and 2, and am so tempted by the owl for number 3, it is the desk clocks that have captured my heart. Jennifer at the Peak of Chic posted this picture of domino editor Sara Ruffin Costello’s bedroom last May. The Flowering Quince from Clarence House certainly dominates the shot, but I zeroed in on the bedside clock.


Not exactly the one I had my eye on, though I love the tripod base.


The more I post, the more aware I am becoming of my own taste. These desk clocks are so sculptural.

I want one on my desk, but as I’m in the habit of watching the digital clock in the corner of my screen, I might have to place the clock in front of it.


This is the one. Black face, white dots in place of numbers, and red second hand. I couldn’t design it myself as I am not a 20th century icon. But, if I could, this would be the one. As I said, Vitra has reissued many designs and there are dozens of on-line vendors standing by. This handsome number is vintage. He stands patiently, on 1st dibs, waiting for someone, me perhaps, to take him home. Nelson thought a collection should be permanent, not “scrapped for every new trend.” I think he would be satisfied.


Image top is the logo that appeared on many of the Herman Miller catalogues. The quote that is the title is from Nelson.

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12 thoughts on ““What you make is important.”

  1. As you stated, it is what you make, so why not have those cleve blandings boys make one! They will surely come up with something to stand the test if time and be the tick-talk of the town!

  2. Patricia, you have such an eye for the sculptural. I think it may be your thing. Look at your Christmas gift choices!

  3. I love the ball clocks. When I got my first apartment my grandparents gave me an orange one from 1950 that they had in their laundry room ( since 1950! ) and I LOVED that clock….till it stopped working and I sold it on ebay when I bought my first condo. I really miss it though, I’ll probably break down and buy one of the reproduction Vitra ones – love the multi-colored balled one.

  4. I agree with you about the “one”! That’s a great one. Although, it would have to go on my desk rather than my bedside table. I’m too dependant on my digital clock.

  5. I have very simple ones in the kitchen that show the time in Baltimore and the UK. It helps me keep connected with friends/family over there.

  6. Oh, Mrs. B…..
    SO happy there are no LED’s in sight!
    (Lowtech is my thang….!)

    Your black with white dot Nelson goodie is top shelf classic.
    Quite fab – a pure and simple beauty – best like you’ve shown, without the dome-y clear face cover it comes with.

    Ironically enough, #1 son recently requested a new alarm clock…..not any ol’ alarm clock…..one with clattering bells on top…..Remember Westclox BigBen old school type?
    While clattering bells are a good har-har in the comics, I personally don’t like the jolt.

    We found the perfect option to clattering bells, AND with old school styling.
    His new alarm clock has a labrador retriever whine-n-woof wakeup and a big old square jawed chocolate lab face on the clock face.

    Kitschy, oh, yes….But not big-eyeball-swinging tail-cheshire-grinning-KitKat-clock tacky…!!!
    Cheers, Alison

  7. Change – the advantage of the new ones, I think, is no cord. That would be handy. I love that your grandparents kept theirs and passed it along. I blush to remember that I sold two Nelson bubble lamps for almost nothing that flanked the windows of the bay in our old house. I had no idea what I had.

  8. Alison – the clock sounds hilarious. We have several big bens in the house in Colorado. I’m always tempted to stick one in my suitcase – but the alarm is jarring.

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