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Dekad and Lost Art of Simple Design

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I bought a clock about a month ago. I owned this clock before but it broke due to being overwound and since I have no knowledge of clock repair (and the price was so cheap it could just be repurchased) I decided to throw it out. The clock I refer to is the DEKAD alarm clock from IKEA. Why am I writing an article about this clock you ask? It is because I admire something in it that was lost in the modern world about sixty or seventy years ago: Elegance in the Design of Simplicity.

Dekad Alarm Clock

          Take one look at this simple piece of engineering and if you are anything like me you will understand exactly what I am referring to when I say the words Elegance, Simplicity, and Design. The clock takes you back to a world without the hustle and bustle of electricity, of emails, of phone calls, and especially…of the neon glowing poor performing radio alarm clocks of today, or the built in cell phone alarms that have you scrambling to shoot someone the moment it goes off! No batteries, no speakers, no electricity required. Just wind her up once a day and listen to her rhythmic ticking, slow and steady and without worry of what weather nor calamity may befall your grid or internet connection. Heck…this machine doesn’t even have a second hand or the ability to set the alarm to the exact minute! This clock could actually be said to mock the very modern world by showing you that you do not need to be connected and continuously paying for the power…only for the ability to wake up in the morning! The Dekad is a really cheap clock… I paid about $8 for it here in Philadelphia and she has served me loyally for many days now, and I… keep her wound up, clean and on display prominently next to my bed. She serves me constantly as a useful clock and as a reminder that the world does not, and should not be obsessed with seconds, minutes and the rush of needless busywork. The Dekad tells me in not so many words that we can build a better place that focuses on quality of work, craftsmanship and meaningful careers.

For most of us, the world we live in has us getting up and running around, slaves to the exact minute at work, slaves to a constant stream of electricity, advertising, phone calls, artificial lighting and many things in this modern world that first started as a good idea only to be morphed into something horribly antihuman in execution or use. This little clock shows me that some technology will never be outdated, nor will the concepts that created her be antiquated. She exists because someone said that there was always a better, simpler and less complicated way of doing something that could and should last longer then the lifespan of the person who thought it up. A wind up clock is and does exactly that. The designs and systems engineered to make a clock have been around for hundreds of years, and if you include water clocks and sundials…thousands. That in itself proves the design, that if this clock were frozen in time and transported another four hundred years…she could still do the job required of her. Show me a phone from even one hundred years ago that is now still compatible with the phone company? Could you plug her into the wall without some expert to assist you?? I doubt it very much. How about televisions? Not even close.

That is why I love this. It is a masterpiece of Zen engineering. It has a purpose: to tell time and to wake you up. And it adds nor needs to add, anything external for it to be functional. Her instructions take little to understand and are intuitive. On many levels….even if the world fell apart, someone could open her up if she broke and repair her in short time. I know of almost no modern day material possessions that could say the same.. How many people could fix a television or laptop or cell phone without special equipment? Not too many. Granted…a clock can and does often need some special equipment…but the internal components are mechanical and you can see them move if you open her up…you can see what parts go where and which may be damaged. How many circuit boards can you open up? How many people can tell if a resistor or capacitor is damaged without a potentiometer?

We need more things and people to create more things like this clock again. Imagine a car that most people could figure out and fix without more then a handful of equipment, which could be included in the trunk? Imagine sneakers and shoes being designed again to be made longer lasting and repairable? Every little bit that we take back, that makes us less dependant on other systems will make us a more resilient culture. If the power goes out for a week….will you be able to wake up and get to work when all your clocks, computers, televisions, radios, cell phones and watches lose power? Will your business be able to ring up a cash sale without electricity for a customer?? Independence is not just about being able to survive without the modern world…it means being able to thrive in it and being happier that your world doesn’t need those things to function. We need to make the world easier to exist in with less complex systems. We need more Zen.


Written by Josecito

February 14, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Well, I share your thoughts. I too have the same wind-up clock. I dropped it on the parking lot just as I left IKEA. It never worked, but I didn’t throw it out. I too loved the idea. Simple… honest…. and pretty. I never threw it out. Just collected dust.

    2 week-ends ago. I took it apart. I’ve never touched a timepiece insides without making it worse. I had nothing to loose. Yeah it took a few tries. But now it ticks. And the black button that sits on the shaft where the hands are rotates as a second hand. I discovered that and glues my own “hand” from a green snipped tie-wrap.

    I still haven’t put it all together. I love to hold it’s ticking fragility in my clumsy hands. The balance wheel… the hair spring.

    Simple and honest…


    February 4, 2012 at 10:39 pm

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