Though we mainly discuss timepieces that are strapped to the wrist, it should be of no surprise that clocks are of interest to w&w as well. As objects that occupy one’s home or office, are likely seen daily and might very well be a permanent fixture, the look of a clock must suit one’s tastes very well. And if you are a watch person, chances are mechanical things interest you. Well, if so, the Chain Clocks by Needlessly Complex might be exactly what you are looking for.
The line consists of variations on a single theme: a large 44″ tall armature that supports a fairly small “industrial synchronous A/C” motor, which powers a mechanism, either gears or ratchets, of laser cut acrylic, which in turn rotate a bike chain with laser cut acrylic numerals mounted at even intervals. Though it sounds more complicated than it appears, ultimately, it is a hybrid electro-mechanical clock with a distinctly industrial look. It is at once machine made, lacking in human touches, and an aestheticized contraption that could only have come from a tinkerer. The motor that powers it is unadorned and was intended as an internal component, thus placing it on a wall, on a sort of pedestal, is an aesthetic gesture unto itself, as if to say there is an inherent beauty in an object of pure purpose and engineering. The same can be said for the 44″ armature that mounts it to the wall, and the bike chain itself. The chain has gone through no beautification, save the addition of acrylic numerals, and even has a nice layer of bike grease on it, to keep the chain loose. It’s the acrylic gears and numbers that bring a bit of external style to the clock. The gears are cut from a ghostly transparent grey acrylic that plays well with the black metal of the bike chain, and the numbers are cut from a black acrylic (special colors can be had by request for an additional cost). The font used is strong and legible, with even widths for each numeral; I believe it is from the Din Schrift family.
Henry, the brains behind the Chain Clocks, kindly supplied me with a “Big Gear” model for experiencing first hand. It arrived in a large box, and required some, though minimal, assembly. Namely, the mechanism needed to be attached to the armature, and then the whole thing needed to be mounted to the wall. Once setup, and plugged in, I set the time… Which basically means I waited for the top of the next hour and positioned the chain such that the correct time was at the highest point of the chain’s path. The most surprising aspect of the clock is that despite the size of it, and the industrial trappings, it is amazingly serene. Motion is nearly undetectable through out the mechanism, though one can perceive rotation of the gear closest to the motor. The lack of active seconds or minutes makes this less a clock one tells the time with and more a clock that gives the sense of time passing. Furthermore, there are no indicators between the hours, so everything is an estimate. Like with a one handed watch, this is less about getting places on time and more about perceiving time as something more general.
Overall, the Chain Clocks are certainly unique timepieces that exist between clock and living sculpture. At $225 and up, depending on a few options, they are relatively expensive for a clock, though not expensive for a home furnishing or art. If the mechanical aesthetic suits you, and precision time is not what you seek from a clock, these make for very interesting conversation pieces. In terms of style, I’m not sure if this is something I’d personally put in my bedroom or kitchen, but I’d certainly put it in my workspace. I see these as being terrific companions for home-shops or studios, where one loses themselves in their projects and would rather reflect on the passing of hours than minutes, and have a timepiece that speaks to ingenuity rather than pure looks.
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by Zach Weiss