Apple Watch designer describes thinking behind $12,000 limited edition hourglass

Marc Newson, the London-based industrial designer who joined Apple in 2014 as a senior vice president, has created a $12,000 limited edition hourglass for Hodinkee, the online magazine for watch aficionados. Made of hand-blown borosilicate glass (also known as Pyrex), inside are approximately 1.25m spheres, or ‘nanoballs’, made from solid stainless steel with a fine copper coating.

“Sometimes you see an object and it just captivates you. You can’t look away. You can’t even really explain what you’re looking at either,” says the site in its introduction. “Marc Newson’s Hourglass is one such object. It takes the idea of one of the most basic time-measuring instruments ever devised, and pushes it to its limits. Every little bit of the Hourglass has been carefully engineered and refined, and from the first time we saw one we were smitten.”

Newson originally designed an Hourglass for Ikepod, the watch brand he co-founded in 1994, and subsequently left in 2012, but only a handful were made. The new Hodinkee version, whose timer is set to 10 minutes, will be limited to 100 pieces and, said the magazine, no further editions of the Hourglass will be issued.

“Watching the Hourglass is a multi-sensory experience that cannot be communicated in words. The combination of watching those first few nanoballs bounce around the bottom chamber, the flow begin to change surface patterns in the top chamber, and the unique sound of the nanoballs flying around, hitting the glass and one another as they settle at the bottom, is utterly mesmerizing. Invariably, the first time we show it to someone, there’s a gasp, a big smile, and sometimes even a little giggle as they lean in and get ready to watch for the full 10 minutes.

“In very much the same way that an exceptional mechanical watch is just as much about the art and craft put into engineering and finishing the movement, as it is about telling time on your wrist, so too is the Hourglass about more than the passing of 10 minutes in a glass vessel. It’s about enjoying a beautifully designed object that starts with one of the oldest mechanisms humans devised for measuring time, and takes it to its superlative logical conclusion, making sure every detail is given ultimate care and attention.”

Newson is a longtime friend and colleague of legendary Apple designer Jonny Ive. “Marc is without question one of the most influential designers of this generation,” Ive said in a statement to Vanity Fair on his appointment to Apple in 2014. “He is extraordinarily talented. We are particularly excited to formalise our collaboration as we enjoy working together so much and have found our partnership so effective.” The two subsequently worked on the Apple Watch and other projects.