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BDDW's Retro-Modern Clock

The digital clock that doesn't look anything like one.

BDDW's Retro-Modern Clock
Photograph by Levi Brown
Photograph by Levi Brown

Hate watching time tick away on plasticky digital clocks? The furniture company BDDW may have just the fix: the Nixie desk clock, a hand-welded bronze behemoth of a time-teller, fitted with numerical displays that resemble vacuum tubes. Nixie tubes "are like the original digital display," says BDDW founder and designer Tyler Hays. "Some of our tubes are old, some are new reproductions, because there are still things that use them, like military equipment."

Inspired by machine-age aesthetics and the grain of raw wood and metal, Hays and his team of Philadelphia-based craftspeople have been busy creating digital clocks that are anything but disposable. Despite the retro exteriors, the chip-controlled guts inside are thoroughly modern. Each clock is made by hand, and the company makes just two to three units at a time. Today, BDDW offers three models: desk clock (pictured, $2,500), wall clock ($3,700), and grandfather clock (from $12,400), in your choice of blackened, silvered, or natural bronze. (The grandfather and wall clocks also come in white oak, osage orange, claro walnut, and American holly.)

"Each case is guaranteed for 20,000 years," boasts Hays. "This is for a customer who wants something that's overbuilt." There is, however, one caveat: "You have to replace the bulbs — they only last a couple of years — so it's a bit of a masochistic thing."

A version of this article appeared in the December 2010/January 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine.