Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Alarm Clock, Arne Jacobsen, 1939.

Arne Jacobsen (1902 – 1971) was a Danish architect and designer, although apparently he would not want to be called the latter as he famously disliked the term. His industrial designs usually came about through his architectural projects, such as at the SAS Royal Hotel, where he designed both the building and its internal fittings including chairs, textiles, door handles, ashtrays and cutlery. His collaborations with manufacturers like Fritz Hansen (eg. the ant, egg and swan chairs) and Louis Poulsen (eg. the AJ lamp) have become sought after classics with Jacobsen now widely recognised as one of the pioneers of twentieth century Scandinavian modern design.

Image ref: Jacobsen standing in front of the SAS Royal Hotel
Image credit:

As Jacobsen was not currently represented within MoDiP’s collections, I began to research his catalogue of work to see if there were suitable objects that we could acquire. I discovered that some of his well-known armchairs did actually employ a moulded plastics frame as well as synthetic foams for comfort, but I thought it might be difficult for MoDiP to display these as the parts we would be most interested by would be hidden and there was no way I was going to cut one in half in order to see the innards!

Image ref: AIBDC : 008680
Image credit: Katherine Pell

And then I came across his alarm clock. Not as well-known as his three metal wall clocks: Roman (designed for the Aarhus Town Hall in 1942), City Hall (designed for the Rødovre Town Hall in 1956) and Bankers (designed for the National Bank of Denmark in 1971), this smaller, electrical mantel clock was made of compression moulded phenol formaldehyde and so perfect for MoDiP. It was originally designed by Jacobsen for the house he had also designed for H. J. Hansen, the director of Lauritz Knudsen, a Danish electrical appliance manufacturer. It was exhibited at the spring fair in Charlottenborg, Copenhagen, in 1939 and can be seen on the desk in the image below, taken at that display.

Image ref: The original clock on display at the Charlottenborg spring exhibition, 1939.
Image credit:

Lauritz Knudsen soon began mass production, offering the clock with nickel-plated legs in either ivory or black colours with Arabic or Roman numerals. It was equipped with a 1.5 metre long cord with a plug that could be connected to a standard light socket for power, and had a luminescent dial and hands.

Image ref: Lauritz Knudsen brochure
Image credit:

Since MoDiP’s example has a bakelite base instead of the metal legs, I wanted to know when this adaptation to the original design might have taken place but I was unable to source any further information. I reached out to colleagues at the Danish Museum of Science and Technology and Niels Christiansen, Curator of Collections, very kindly sent me some documents from their archive that featured the clock. The first was a Lauritz Knudsen company publication from 1953, with the following translation:

In 1939 LK constructed their first synchronous clock. A small chic table clock designed by Arne Jacobsen. Later this production was expanded with wall clocks in different sizes and also for outside use. In 1948-49 the clock production stopped.

Image ref: The original clock design with metal legs.
Image credit: Lauritz Knudsen 1893-1942. Published 1953, courtesy of the Danish Museum of Science and Technology.

The second was a page
from a 1952 brochure from the clock manufacturer E. Nørgård, København, who took over the production of LK clocks under the name ENK. The original design can now be seen alongside Model 85314 with the bakelite base: MoDiP’s example.

Image ref: The original clock design alongside the version with a different base.
Image credit: ENK Synkronure Katalog No.1. Published 1952, courtesy of the Danish Museum of Science and Technology.

Although I am confident the clock itself is Arne Jacobsen, I am uncertain about the base – was this change from the metal legs his decision or did it come via the manufacturer, Lauritz Knudsen? Or possibly even E. Nørgård when they took over production in 1952? Either way, the Danish Design Museum have confirmed that they also have the same example in their collection, so hopefully we will be able to discover some further detail in the future when they re-open after their refurbishment.

Incidentally, the table clock was re-released in 2011 by the Rosendahl Design Group, who acquired the rights to the design three years earlier. It still has an alarm function but now also includes a light, with the case manufactured in ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) as opposed to the original bakelite (phenol formaldehyde). Of course, MoDiP has one of those too!

Image ref: AIBDC : 008665
Image credit: Katherine Pell

Katherine Pell
Collections Officer
ENK Synkronure Katalog No. 1. Published 1952. Courtesy of the Danish Museum of Science and Technology.

Lauritz Knudsen 1893-1942. Published 1953. Courtesy of the Danish Museum of Science and Technology.

No comments:

Post a Comment