If the only thing you’re concerned with is knowing what time it is, it’s hard to argue with the utility of a digital timepiece. But often we sacrifice that legibility for style, wearing watches that only mark certain hours, say, which means it takes us just a fraction of a second longer to read them when we look down at our wrists. The Lithe clock takes that aesthetic sacrifice to the next level. Its elegantly drooping minute hand, made of a long length of piano wire, can be tough to read at a glance, the designers admit, but intentionally so—it’s a clock that nudges us to reconsider how we relate to seconds, minutes, and hours.
The timepiece was designed by Shay Carmon and Ben Klinger, known together as the Tel Aviv-based Studio Ve. The duo’s last time-keeping object, the Manifold clock, was similarly unorthodox, unfurling as the hours passed like a Chinese fan. The hands of that clock, completed in 2010, were made of piano wire, and the stuff has been scattered around Studio Ve ever since. One day, Carmon recalls, he picked up a long length of the wire and gave it a wiggle. "The motion was very free and fascinating," he remembers. "The vivid motion reminded me of something alive."
Thus, the Lithe clock was born, an object with an emphasis on displaying the passage of time rather than merely tracking it. Carmon and Klinger worked with all sorts of lengths and widths of wire to find just the right aesthetic balance—when both hands were long and drooping, they looked too much like "bug antennas," Carmon notes—and eventually settled on the combination of a short hour hand and a long minute hand that struck the right note between elegance and readability. The thin, delicate minute hand, Carmon says, is a pleasingly "organic form, like a reed in the wind."
For the base, they wanted something that had a bit of presence and could actually give some indication of the different hours without taking attention away from the minute hand. After trying wood, concrete, and steel, the inspiration for the final form—a softly dimpled circle of plaster—came from an unlikely source: a squash Carmon noticed one day when he was in the market.
But just as noteworthy as the aesthetic daring of a clock with hands many times longer than its face is the thinking behind it. "We do not want to make clocks that are rigorous, that tell us to do this and that," Carmon says. "We want to make clocks that attract our attention to time, to understand that it is soft and fluid." And what better way to grab someone’s attention than a meter-long length of wire rising, wilting, and sweeping across your wall.
The duo currently has a Kickstarter campaign underway for the clock—a pledge of $85 will reserve you one of the first units.