Sunday, December 10, 2023


I spent quite a long time deciding whether to buy a Braun wall clock, and perhaps that was entirely appropriate. Despite its present focus on grooming and hair removal, the Braun brand is synonymous with the tactile, functional design aesthetic fostered under Dieter Rams, who joined the company in 1955 and was its head of design from 1961 until 1997. 

The iconic designs of Braun radios, clocks, hi-fi systems and cigarette lighters may initially feel like a technological equivalent of Ikea furniture – in the 1960s, Rams also designed the Vitsœ modular furniture and shelving system that remains on sale to this day – but they came at the point where these items ceased looking like furniture, becoming desirable entirely on their own merits. Braun has made its name in design as much as Philips in the Netherlands made theirs in innovation.

That is how I feel with my Braun BNC006MSF clock, an evolution of the ABW30 clock designed by Rams forty years earlier. Its face is clear and legible without being plain: the ring of numbers and markings is raising from the centre of the clock face, the resulting ridge being met by the hour hand while also casting a slight shadow to emphasise the different lengths and thicknesses of the hour and minute hands. With this model being radio-controlled, the addition of a two-digit digital display can show the date or act as a “second hand”, having previously decided that having the right time involves removing yourself from setting it []. I have essentially bought into a design classic, taking pride of place behind my television.

But as much as the “brAun” logo is displayed, itself a design dating back to 1935, the clock itself is built under licence by the Hong Kong-based clock manufacturers Zeon. Braun audio systems and speakers returned in 2019 via the British radio company Pure, while Braun food processors are from De’Longhi of Italy. Having been bought by the Gillette razor company in 1984, itself becoming a subsidiary of Procter & Gamble in 2005, Braun today makes only haircare products themselves, the rest of the company acting as an agent for its own intellectual property and design history. Ironically, the consumer arm of Philips is now in much the same position, and it is them I usually think of first if “hair removal” comes to mind.

Does any of this matter? Evidently not, as far as my clock is concerned. It is exactly what I wanted, it is officially a Braun clock, and is identifiably a Dieter Rams design. I may not be able to afford one of their original Atelier hi-fi systems, but if new systems from elsewhere have a similarly clean design, it is clear where they took their lead. 

Braun Atelier hi-fi system, from Braun product catalogue

No comments:

Post a Comment