Retro Clocks: The Starburst Clock
One of George Nelson’s earlier designs, developed in 1949, the Starburst Clock shares many design elements with the iconic Ball Clock. It uses simple yet striking geometric design elements that were common in many retro designs of the period to create a clock that is not only functional but attractive. Sixty years later, this clock (and a wide range of similar clocks) is still popular and is considered a classic retro clock.
A very influential designer during his time, George Nelson is considered to be one of the fathers of American Modernism (also called Midcentury Modern). He designed a wide range of innovative furniture, lamps, planters, room dividers, and of course clocks.
Born in 1908, George Nelson attended Yale and received degrees in both the Fine Arts and Architecture. He then traveled to Europe with the intention of interviewing European Modernist designers. These meetings and discussions had a great influence on his later work. Upon his return he did indeed write a variety of articles as well as a book”, Tomorrow’s House: A Complete Guide for the Home Builder”. Through his writings and unique designs he became well known throughout the design world.
George Nelson started working for the Howard Miller Company in 1946 and remained with the company until 1972. During that period he also operated his own design company. Over those 25 years he designed or helped design almost 300 clocks, including the Starburst clock. Like the Starburst clock, the majority of his clock designs were wall clocks, although he did design some smaller clocks.
Accurate reproductions of George Nelson’s Starburst clock cost over 300 dollars. These are elegant models made in Europe and consist of painted aluminum and varnished natural solid oak. Fortunately for those who are on a budget, there are much less expensive models available that are “in the style” or “inspired” by Nelson’s Starburst Clock. These can be found for less than 20 dollars. Interestingly, many of the current models mix elements of the Ball Clock with the Starburst Clock. Although these can’t really be classified as a true retro starburst clock, there are some unique and interesting designs available.