Shopping basket  Shopping basket
0 Item(s) in basket
Total £0.00
» Checkout

Mickey Mouse Time

Quite soon after The Wall Street Crash, in 1929, Herman Kamen was recruited by Walt Disney to find new ways to promote Mickey Mouse merchandise. By 1932, he had hatched a plan with Ingersoll to produce a Mickey Mouse wrist watch which was launched at The Chicago Exposition entitled “A Century of Progress.” At the same time, queues of thousands lined up outside Macy’s Department Store in New York and within two years, over 2 1/2 million watches had been sold.

This not only saved the Ingersoll Watch Company from financial ruin but also established a new marketing phenomenon using cartoon characters (and later human celebrities) to decorate or endorse every day, household products. The relationship with Disney lasted for almost forty years and in 1957, after several design changes, the 25 millionth Mickey Mouse watch was presented to Walt Disney himself.

The Mickey Mouse watch was also the first novelty watch in the world and a year after its launch, a British version was introduced in 1934. It was virtually identical to its American counterpart but inscribed on the face “FOREIGN MADE” because it was manufactured in the U.S.A.Originally costing 15/- (75p), this is now a highly collectable, much sought after and therefore valuable piece.

Fifty years later, on 1st March 1983, the first Swatch watches appeared. Made in Switzerland but made of plastic with a then revolutionary quartz movement, these watches could be sold at an affordable price with quirky, colourful face designs. The initial sales targets were 1 million in the first year and 2.5 million in the second. Twenty years on, over 300 million Swatch watches had been sold and today the number must be approaching half a billion!

Designers, architects and artists from all sorts of backgrounds and disciplines have created Swatch watches. The painter Keith Haring was one of the first and others include the Japanese film director, Akira Kurosawa, and the music making DJ, Moby. Together they have produced  an “art gallery on the wrist.”

Whilst thousands of novelty watches have followed in Mickey Mouse’s footsteps, many architects have been keen to design more serious and higher quality watches and one Swiss manufacturer, Pierre Junod, has established a string of relationships that produces innovative and distinctive designs. An architect will never be able to see all of a completed building, however small it may be, in one go. It will always be seen in parts and from different angles. It is, however, possible to hold a watch in the palm of the hand and see the design in its entirety and appreciate its complete form. It is hardly surprising then that so many architects and designers like to work in this medium and to this smaller scale.

The watch “Echo” was recently created by Fredi Brodmann and is clearly inspired by an archery target and an echo sounder but also features a Swiss movement and a non-reflective sapphire crystal glass lens.

Of course these designs are not novelty watches nor do they follow in the colourful Swatch pop art tradition but without that first giant step by the mouse with the big ears and big feet, the sheer variety of watches would simply not exist today.

Slowly Does It

Let’s face it, we are generally obsessed with speed. We’re fascinated with Usain Bolt’s recent world 100 metres record of 9.58 seconds. We are impressed by the latest fibre optic cable broadband that can download the average length film in less than 20 seconds or all the episodes of “Friends” in under 10 minutes.

We marvelled at the first Japanese high speed “bullet” train that travelled from Tokyo to Osaka at 130 m.p.h. and cut the journey time from 4hours to a little over 3 hours. We were proud when British Rail introduced the “125” trains in 1967 even though these trains travelled slightly slower than the famous Mallard which set the speed record for the fastest steam train in the world of 126 m.p.h. back in July 1938 which stands to this day. Continue reading →

To Bin Or Not To Bin, That Is The Question

One of the many legacies of the Industrial Revolution is the system of canals and waterways that runs through our towns and cities. Once they were home to warehouses and wharves with fleets of barges carrying colossal amounts of goods to and from ports and between destinations primarily in The North and Midlands.

In Holland today, 45% of the freight received into the port of Rotterdam is still transported onwards by canal. It’s the same for the port of Antwerp and from Amsterdam, over 45 million tons of cargo moves along its canals every year. In America, the New York State Canals have demonstrated that shipping freight by canal is more than 30% cheaper than moving it by truck and in addition there are huge environmental benefits: far less air and noise pollution and far less road congestion. Continue reading →

The Secret’s In The Holes

It’s wonderful to discover that it takes a Yorkshireman to invent a new way of making a great tasting cup of coffee. George Sowden was born in Leeds in 1942 and studied engineering before architecture. He was more likely to drink a strong brew of tea or a pint of bitter than a cappuccino but after living in Italy for more than forty years, he turned his attention to making a perfect full flavoured cup of coffee.

He had admired the English teapot which has been pretty much unchanged since the days of Josiah Wedgwood in the mid eighteenth century. The teapot is a wonderfully flexible piece of equipment that doesn’t need instructions on how to use it and makes a cup of tea just as you want it. As much as you like, as strong or as weak as you want and at the temperature that suits you. To George, it was bewildering that there wasn’t a comparable easy coffee maker. Continue reading →

Festival of Britain

Sixty-six years ago, you may well have been planning your visit to the Festival of Britain. If you fancied making the journey to London, you would have joined the 8.5 million visitors to the South Bank of the River Thames who encountered thirty pavilions showcasing various aspects of Britain’s life that had been constructed around the new Festival Hall.

The Festival of Britain was a celebration of Britain’s dominant position in the arts, science, technology and industry and provided visitors with the opportunity to be educated, bask in Britain’s culture and history and see the very best in modern industrial and decorative design. The government had allocated £14 million as a budget and the Deputy Prime Minister, Herbert Morrison, had appointed Gerald Barry to spearhead the project. He turned to Hugh Casson Continue reading →

1 2 3 6