⟨ Object ⟩

Twemco

Sound-making clocks

Words / Phaedrus Lam
Illustration / Furze Chan
Translation / Ian Tsang

翻牌式資訊板是一種令人再三回味的裝置,其獨特的機器結構,以及翻牌時的「啪噠」聲,在過去往往是大型車站、機場航廈的背景音。時光荏苒,今日的翻牌式裝置均被大型LED資訊牌取代,想重新體驗這種機器的獨特魅力,不妨去物色與翻牌式資訊板一脈相承,被喻為「啪噠鐘」、「有聲音的時鐘」的翻牌式時鐘裝置。

世上首個翻牌式時鐘由義大利品牌Solari推出生產。在1950年代,Solari就開始生產翻牌式資訊板,其後在1960年代找來義大利建築師Gino Valle設計翻牌式時鐘「Cifra 3」,其偌大、清晰的24小時制面版顯示;圓邊不起角的廓型;塑膠的製作材料,奠定了翻牌式時鐘的理想型態,其後來更被納入為紐約現代藝術博物館、倫敦科學博物館的館藏,所以也有「Museum Clock」的美譽。隨著年代更迭,翻牌式時鐘的功能與設計多有添減,然而還是離不開「Cifra 3」的簡約韻味。

眼前這一黑一白、一大一小的翻牌式時鐘,是香港品牌Twemco的出品。Twemco始創自1956年,是現在世界僅存的翻牌式時鐘製造商,其推出的時鐘設計與Solari的款式類同,保留著1960年代初面世時的面貌。此中,黑色一台用24小時制顯示時間,白色那台更附有月份、日期及星期,一目瞭然的方式令人感覺良好。使用時唯一要注意的是,翻牌聲儘管悅耳卻也響亮,如果把時鐘擺放在臥房,啪噠聲很可能會妨礙入眠;不過想當然地,也是有人覺得聽著入睡倍感安心。

Split-flap display is a device that keeps capturing your interest. It boasts a unique mechanical structure and the flapping sound made by rotating flaps used to be the background music of major stations and airport terminals. But these are bygone days. Today, flap display boards have been replaced by large scale LED information boards. If you would like to re-examine the distinct appeal of this kind of device, you might try to get yourself a flip-clock, which is also known as “flapping clocks” and “sound-making clocks”. They are cut from the same cloth as split-flap display boards.

The first ever flip-clock was manufactured by Solari, an Italian brand. In 1950s, Solari began to produce flap displays, and later in 1960s, they commissioned Gino Valle, an Italian architect, to design a flip-clock, which was later named Cifra 3. It has a huge and clear 24-hour display; a round and even edge; and is made of plastic. These features all contribute to establish the ideal outlook of a flip-clock. The product later made its way into New York Modern Art Museum and London Science Museum as exhibits, thereby earning it the reputation as “Museum Clock”. Over the years, the functions and designs of flip-clock have undergone slight changes, yet never deviating from the simple and clean style of Cifra 3.

The two flip-clocks shown here, one in black and one in white, one big and one small, are the creations of Twemco, a Hong Kong brand. Established in 1956, Twemco is one of the few remaining manufacturers of flip-clock around the world. The design of the clock is similar to that by Solari, having retained the outlook of the first ever flip-clock that came into being in the 1960s. In particular, the clock in black uses s 24-hour display, and it can even display months, dates and days of the week. Its easy-to-see display makes one feel good. The only point to note while using it is that even though the flapping sound is crisp and pleasant to the ears, if you put it inside your bedroom, the flapping sound might make you unable to fall asleep. But certainly, there bounds to be some people who manage to sleep more at peace listening to that sound.