If you’ve been to Switzerland — or just watched The Eiger Sanction or The Bourne Identity — you may have seen the clocks of the venerable Schweizerische Bundes Bahnen (SBB), or Swiss Federal Railway service. The clock design, created in 1944 by then-SBB employee Hans Hilfiker, is instantly recognizable. Black points stand starkly against a clean white dial. But it’s the odd bulb at the tip of the red second hand that makes the design unique. The bulb looks out of place, so it draws the eye. That’s the genius of Hilfiker’s design — because Swiss trains run to the exact second. Run a few seconds late? You’re on your own.
The Swiss Railway clocks gained visibility (and some notoriety) with the recent iPad clock app debacle. Last September, when Apple’s latest mobile operating system appeared, its clock app bore a striking resemblance to the SBB design. A coincidence? Well, Apple was silent for a week or two, but in the end they signed a licensing agreement with SBB just so you could keep the clock on your iPad.
Swiss watch brand Mondaine is the only company actually licensed to use the iconic SBB design for their timepieces, and they make ample use of it. Mondaine has dozens of versions of desk clocks, wall clocks and wristwatches, all looking like they just fell right off a train platform. They even have a miniature 8-¼-inch-tall replica of the Meeting Point clock in the Zurich railway station. But the piece that will truly turn your kitchen into the Hauptbahnhof is their 40-centimeter wall clock ($400), slightly less poetically known as the A995.CLOCK.16SBB. The only differences between this clock and the real thing are the brushed metal bezel ring, the Mondaine logo and the shrill whistle of the 10:05 to Basel in the background.
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