Revisit your alarm clock from 1989 with this mondo E-Ink wall clock

ClockOne, a digital wall clock that uses E Ink for its display, officially goes on sale today. Twelve24, the company behind this home and office accessory, has launched a Kickstarter campaign where you can pre-order one for $400, with shipments expected in May 2015.

Using the same display technology as the one found in Amazon’s Kindle ebook reader, ClockOne (the company stylizes it as ClockONE, to emphasize it’s the first E Ink clock) is a jumbo four-digit clock that measures nearly 40 inches wide, 14 inches tall, and weighs 4.6 pounds. It comes preassembled in five colorful bezel options (white, pink, orange, green, and blue), and the only thing you need to do is install the small magnetic mounting system onto the wall (it tilts so you can easily adjust it without leveling first). You can display time in either 12- or 24-hour modes, and setting the time is as easy as pushing the two big buttons on the front.

By now, you must be wondering, why would anyone pay $400 (the price of a new iPad) for a simple clock? Andy Mitchelides, the founder of Twelve24, acknowledges that it’s not going to appeal to the mass-market. He told us that ClockOne will resonate with people who want something that’s high design and unique for their home or offices – people who are more likely to read Dwell Magazine and shop at Design Within Reach, and are willing to spend the money for those products.

Prior to the Kickstarter campaign, Twelve24 showcased ClockOne prototypes at the International CES tech show, as well as the Dwell on Design and the International Contemporary Furniture Fair design shows. At CES, Mitchelides found that people loved the technology (they wanted to know how the shape was cut, and how it was powered), but were completely turned off by the price. But at the two design shows, price and technology were not part of the discussion; instead, that audience loved the emotional connection they had with this statement piece.

“To design folks, it’s magical,” Mitchelides said, who also found interest from elementary schools and day-care centers.

But as simple as it is, Mitchelides told us that there are some notable technology innovations when it comes to E Ink. Prior to starting Twelve24, Mitchelides had worked at E Ink on how to use the technology in non-ebook products, and the clock came to mind (Twelve24 was spun off from E Ink). With ClockOne, it shows how E Ink panels can be cut into shapes, and how thin you can make it (ClockOne measures less than an inch). It also demonstrates how a large, high-contrast active matrix display can be powered by a small watch battery, for up to a year. Other challenges include getting all the E Ink components to meet in the middle of a process control box (PCB) within the thin confines. There’s also no glass, so it’s shatterproof (but we don’t suggest you drop it).

ClockOne

“Any 2D shape you can draw, you can make into a display,” Mitchelides said. “But at the time, we didn’t know how big or how much can be powered.”

Since demoing the prototype, Twelve24 has made some improvements for the final product. It managed to shave off some depth, changed the battery compartment (in the prototype, it found that the battery kept getting sucked out when detached from the wall mount), and enhanced the contrast by optically coupling the display for improved readability. Mitchelides says the hardware itself is expensive, and the Kickstarter campaign will help fund the tooling process; Twelve24 has a funding goal of $200,000.

As unique as ClockOne is, Mitchelides said Twelve24 is not in the clock business (in its press release, Twelve24 is described as “a company that creates new products inspired by technology”). The company is looking into products that utilize flexible displays and new battery technology.

“We launched a disruptive design in a crowded clock marketplace, but we didn’t set out to make a clock,” Mitchelides said. “We want to visually show industrial designers what they can do with [the technology], to get designers to think of what to do with the display first.”

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