Return of a Hallmark Design

Arne Jacobsen

By Theresa Valbæk

Designing timepieces as part of an overall total design was integral to the philosophy of one of Denmark’s most celebrated architect, Arne Jacobsen (1902-1971). His architectural wonders are grand designs that feature unique clean-lined interiors and furnishings, many of which have become classics. Among his definitive architectural designs in the international modernist tradition are the Royal Hotel (1960) and the National Bank of Denmark (1971), both located in Copenhagen. Over the past decade, Arne Jacobsen’s furniture designs have been the subject of great newfound interest and his iconic chairs, such as the ‘Egg’, the ‘Swan’ and the ‘Ant’, still embody the notion of modern, liveable Danish design. And now we see the revival of some of his most accomplished timepieces – the ‘Bankers’ (1971), ‘Roman’ (1942) and ‘City Hall’ (1956). All three designs are wall-hanging clocks. And whereas the ‘Bankers’ clock was integral to the design of the National Bank of Denmark, ‘Roman’ was created for the city hall of Denmark’s second-largest city, Aarhus, while ‘City Hall’ was designed for the municipal seat of Rødovre. With licence holders showing little interest, these three clocks have been out of production for a number of years, but now Danish design company Rosendahl has given a new lease of life to these unique timepieces that represent very different phases of the designer’s prolific career.


Only the best

For design buffs and timepiece cognoscenti – and for the family-owned Rosendahl firm in particular – the revival of Arne Jacobsen’s three famous wall-hanging clocks is something of a scoop. Arne Jacobsen was a demanding and ambitious designer who made no compromise when it came to quality. An illustrious producer of designs by many of the nation’s most celebrated designers, Rosendahl has committed itself to creating copies of Arne Jacobsen’s wall-hanging clocks that are true to the originals in both spirit and style. The design company has therefore entered into partnership with one of Arne Jacobsen’s most trusted employees, designer Teit Weylandt. An award-winning architect in his own right, Weylandt headed Arne Jacobsen’s production development and was later assigned to another of Denmark’s leading architectural firms, Dissing + Weitling. Teit Weylandt now has the final say over Rosendahl’s own production developers. “My interest in entering this project hinged entirely on the willingness of the manufacturer to go the whole way. I have been allowed to put my foot down throughout the process and to guarantee that the products are as true to the original designs as possible,” says Teit Weylandt and adds “Everything has been scrutinised minutely: the hands, the case and the shape of the glass – we’ve been over it all.”

Original flaw

The only small deviation from the original designs is that the new clocks have been issued with the name ‘Arne Jacobsen’ featured at 6 o’clock. Arne Jacobsen wanted to be known for his designs rather than his starchitect name, but following careful consideration, Teit Weylandt finally accepted this modification on the condition that the signature was to be featured discretely, using grey lettering in Arne Jacobsen’s own font. However, there is a small error in the original ‘Roman’ dial design – either by chance or as a graphic gimmick devised by the designer himself. The ‘X’ in the Roman numeral XI has been inverted and so the most natural thing would be to amend what is ostensibly a mistake. But Rosendahl and Teit Weylandt decided to stay as loyal to the original design as possible and kept the inverted ‘X’.


New beginning

Teit Weylandt also inspired Rosendahl to develop a new collection of wristwatches based on the designs of the original wall-hanging clocks with added hallmark signature. As with the clocks, the Arne Jacobsen wristwatches are made with integrated dial and casing. Seen from the side, they have the same UFO shape as his clocks. The new wristwatches will be launched in late 2009, marking the beginning of a new generation of adaptations of Arne Jacobsen’s iconic designs that have inspired the world.