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Iconic Schoolhouse: IBM Clock

Category: All Category: Lessons Category: Spotlight

The 1960s IBM Standard Issue Clock is a good reminder that some clocks do more than just keep time.“I’d always loved the old electrical clocks and the ‘60s version of this IBM clock just kind of held a special place for me. There’s just something about how these materials were put together. It reminds us of something, maybe from when we were a child or in school or at the office.” says Brian Faherty, founder and owner of Schoolhouse. 

The clock in your car, on your phone, or on your wrist all insist on urgency. They make you ask, “can I make it? Do we have enough time? Should we get going soon?” But a wall clock is different. A wall clock is a celebration of staying, waiting, of taking in the details and appreciating the passage of discrete moments. The IBM Clock is as direct and essential an interpretation of the wall clock as you’ll find. It’s simple and analogue and inspired by a product that proved its value over decades. The face is mostly unadorned except for the bold contrast of the hands and numbers that are easy to read from a distance. Hand-made from quality materials in the United States in a painstaking clock making tradition that few companies still bother with, it’s a true heirloom-quality piece that only garners more affection with time. It’s everything that Schoolhouse stands for.

Even if you can’t place where you recognize it from, you might experience a sense of familiarity towards the IBM clock. That’s because it was based on IBM Indicator Clocks that were first released in 1947 and became popular in the 1960s. Many of these iconic time pieces could be found in schools, offices, churches, and elsewhere throughout the last half of a century. (It’s likely there are a few around to this day.) 

This is something of a pattern for IBM. The company has long produced innovations of technology and product design that have shaped the world in ways that are recognized more for their functionality than their aesthetics. From the personal computer to the credit card to the UPC barcode, their designs are so ubiquitous in modern society that they blend into the background. They blend in, that is, until you take the time to notice the bold simplicity of their products.



When the 100-year anniversary of IBM came around, the company turned to Schoolhouse for a re-imagination of the Indicator Clock, and we were excited to take up the mantle. Schoolhouse is now the exclusive manufacturer of these legendary clocks. “IBM is such an amazing, iconic American company, so we were really proud to be a part of their 100-year anniversary,” says Brian. Taking on the project was no small task. The clocks needed to retain the classic look and dependability of the original, while offering the hand-made, heirloom quality that we put into all of our products.

“[IBM] wanted to make sure that the quality was there and that it really was true to the original form as much as we did, so it was a really nice partnership,” says Brian. Look at the result, and you’ll see that the designers brought the vision to life. The case, made from spun steel and finished in a textured slate gray, projects out from the wall, lending a more substantial profile than other wall clocks. Under the dome of the glass lens, the minute and hour hands stand up like charcoal obelisks against a white smoke background. The continuous sweep of the red second hand adds color and motion to the composition. Just below, the slab serif IBM logo and “Made in U.S.A.” tell you where the piece comes from; the graphic treatment is retained from the original 1947 design.

Each of these pieces is hand-assembled in our Portland factory. Workers must painstakingly check and recheck and check again the clearances of the hands because even the slightest discrepancy will result in the clock losing accuracy. The quartz movement is tested and no errors are tolerated for clocks that ship to customers. While the piece may be simple in appearance, bringing an heirloom-quality piece like this to the customer requires an exacting attention to detail and commitment to excellence. 

Adds Brian: “As much as we know what time it is, it’s nice to be reminded by a piece like this that time isn’t just standing still. It’s constantly moving...”. The IBM Clock brings the industrious spirit of the last century into the present, and time has never felt more dynamic.
 


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