Despite the craftsmanship behind generations of timepieces, your classic 12-hour watch has a pretty arbitrary method to display the time. Time isn’t circular. It may have a repeating pattern, but 1 p.m. today is different to both us and the larger universe than 1 p.m. tomorrow.
Lineær (PDF) is a concept by Norwegian University of Science and Technology student Audun Ask Blaker that measures out the time with a rolling measuring tape, rather than circling us round and round. “There is a strange connection between time and space, and I cannot seem to find a sufficient and easy conceptual model of what time REALLY is,” Blaker writes Co.Design. “I realized that many (including me) think of time in a linear way, just like on a measuring band.”
So Blaker shows us the time as many of us think of it, a momentary tick on a ruler without end. The bare-bones presentation is scientifically elegant: Each number is an hour. Each hash represents five minutes. (So there are 12 hashes per hour, much like there are 12 unique hours in a day.) As soon as you adopt the base 12 system, Lineær is entirely clear.
Though that might be Lineær’s fatal flaw: In a country that still refuses to go metric, it’s hard to imagine Americans measuring time in anything but inches and feet.