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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A clock by any other name

The Noguchi Ball Clock? I'm sorry, but that just doesn't sound right.

I found a humorous account on attributed to the book George Nelson: The Design of Modern Design by Stanley Abercrombie. This is so interesting that it bears retelling.

George Nelson recalled the iconic design of the Ball Clock as being a result of a night of drinking with friends and associates Isamu Noguchi, Buckminster Fuller and Irving Harper. According to Nelson:

“And there was one night when the ball clock got developed, which was one of the really funny evenings. Noguchi came by, and Bucky Fuller came by. I’d been seeing a lot of Bucky those days, and here was Irving and here was I, and Noguchi, who can’t keep his hands off anything, you know. It is a marvelous, itchy thing he’s got. He saw we were working on clocks and he started making doodles. Then Bucky sort of brushed Isamu aside. He said, “This is a good way to do a clock,” and he made some utterly absurd thing. Everybody was taking a crack at this…pushing each other aside and making scribbles.

At some point we left. We were suddenly all tired, and we’d had a little bit too much to drink, and the next morning I came back, and here was this roll [of drafting paper], and Irving and I looked at it, and somewhere in this roll there was a ball clock. I don’t know to this day who cooked it up. I know it wasn’t me. It might have been Irving, but he didn’t think so…We both guessed that Isamu had probably done it because he has a genius for doing two stupid things and making something extraordinary…out of the combination….or it could have been an additive thing, but, anyway, we never knew.”

According to, many years later Irving Harper claimed that he was the actual designer of the Ball Clock, but since nothing was officially written down on paper, the mystery will always remain.

Ball clock, Model #4755, 1964

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