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THE ICON

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DESIGNER WRITER NICOLE SWENGLEY CELEBRATES THE ICONIC SWISS RAILWAY CLOCK, NOW IT ITS 70TH YEAR.

Here’s to the minimalist Swiss clock now 70 years old, that keeps a nation on schedule.

Switzerland’s international reputation for punctuality owes much to a 70-year-old clock displayed in most of its railway stations. Designed in 1944 by Hans Hilfiker, a Swiss engineer employed by Swiss Federal Railways, and produced by clock manufacturer Moser-Baer under the Mobatime trademark, the Swiss railway clock instantly became a design classic. Today it features in collections at London’s Design Museum and New York’s Museum of Modern Art and is used by homeowners around the world.

Visual simplicity and technical ingenuity account for its iconic status. Despite lacking numerals, the striking monochrome clockface can easily be read from a distance. Originally, only minute and hour hands were deemed necessary, but in 1953 Hilfiker added a red second hand, cleverly shaped like the signaling disc then used by railway guards, to highlight the Swiss rail network’s impressive efficiency, as it allowed passengers to see precisely when trains arrived and departed.

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