When you think of mid century modern clocks, what comes to your mind? George Nelson clocks? I am a big fan of George Nelson clocks – they are unique, colorful, and aesthetic. All I knew was that they were designed by George Nelson (duh…), originally manufactured by Howard Miller and reintroduced by Vitra in the 1990s. My first George Nelson clock was multi-colored Sunburst Clock by Vitra. I recently acquired two more clocks (white Ball Clock and Block Clock, both by Vitra) – I thought it was about time to investigate their history a little further.
The very first clock created by George Nelson (with collaboration of other designers, aka “George Nelson Associates”) was “Clock 4755” (Ball Clock) for Howard Miller Clock Company in 1947. Howard Miller Clock Company was established in 1926 by Howard C. Miller in Zeeland, Michigan. The company focused on manufacturing chiming wall and mantel clocks in the early years. During the 1940s and 1950s, the company ventured into more aesthetic designs to incorporate postwar modernism trend. The company then reverted to more traditional designs like grandfather clocks in the 1960s and eventually became known as the largest grandfather clock manufacturer in the world.
George Nelson Associates designed approximately 150 clocks for Howard Miller. They were simply identified by model numbers such as “Clock 4755” (Ball Clock), “Clock 2238” (Eye Clock), “Clock 2202” (Sunburst Clock) and so forth. There were different color options available for most designs. All clocks were powered by electricity. George Nelson Associates design clocks are no longer in production by Howard Miller, except one: “625-333 Ball Clock,” adaptation of a classic Ball Clock. The 625-333 Ball Clock is slightly bigger (14” diameter) than the original Ball Clock (13” diameter). The 625-33 Ball Clock only comes in one color, brushed nickel center and 12 black satin balls on nickel finished rods.
Many of the designs of George Nelson clocks (licensed reproductions) are currently available through Vitra. Headquartered in Switzerland, Vitra manufactures furniture and home accessories designed by iconic mid century modern designers such as Charles & Ray Eames and George Nelson. If you are looking for a vintage George Nelson clock, check online auction such as eBay or online market place/classifieds such as Lushpad or Craigslist. If you are lucky, you may find one at an estate sale, a yard sale, etc. George Nelson Vitra Clocks are widely available at many retailers. There are many knock-offs out there as well, so be aware!