The second—that one-Mississipi unit of measurement—is actually a pretty young concept. Developed in the 17th century to keep order in an increasingly complex world, it’s wholly contemporary unit of measurement, tied to the precision of modern systems. But by devoting ourselves to meting out life by the second, do we lose sight of the broader shifts in the world around us?
That’s what Scott Thrift, the filmmaker and designer behind The Present believes. “I feel like we deserve a new way to tell the story of time,” says Thrift, who has spent the past year bringing The Present into, well, the present. “We’re having a 21st-century experience of time, but we’re still measuring it with an 18th-century clock.” The Present is his solution: a “seasonal” timepiece that makes a single revolution every 365 days, co-opting the conventional circular wall clock and replacing its numerical face with a spectrum of rainbow shades, each marking a different solstice.
The Present became a Kickstarter blockbuster last year, when it raised nearly three times the amount of its goal. If you weren’t among the 837 backers, fear not: After a year of research and design, the clock has finally reached the marketplace. The team is now preparing to ship the very first units to their original donors. If you move fast, you may still be able to nab one of the 2,000 limited-edition pieces.
"It’s been an incredible and incredibly difficult journey to make The Present a reality," Thrift tells Co.Design. "The central challenge was shifting how we thought about The Present, from an art project to a consumer product." As the director of a creative production company called m ss ng p eces and a filmmaker by trade, he had zero experience with the world of manufacturing and had to learn about what was and wasn’t possible along with his backers. For example, the team found that no manufacturer would "lift a pencil" for an order of 1,000 parts. So they made a bet, ordered 2,000 parts, and launched the project, working with shops in Brooklyn, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. A German-engineered internal battery keeps track of the date, and magically, when you unpack the clock, the internal battery is able to set itself.
After living with the prototype clock for a year, Thrift says the shift in perspective is hard to describe in words. "Without a doubt, the most surprising thing has been becoming familiar with the pace of the annual hand itself," he says. "I think a lot of the backers and recent customers who have purchased the clock are either excited about having the first annual clock in the world, or they love the design or the idea itself, but what they don’t know is the calming effect it begins to produce over time as they begin to familiarize themselves with the shape and scale of a year on Earth."
The Present clocks in (sorry, had to) at $299. You can buy it here.