Marc Newson clocks in with new Atmos 566 timepiece

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When I received an invitation to the launch of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s new Atmos 566 clock designed by Marc Newson to be honest I was more interested in going along to see the superstar industrial designer that is Marc Newson than I was in this luxurious Swiss clock manufacturer.

But perhaps I should have done a bit more research into how exclusive this brand is before attending or possibly the fact that it was being held at Brown’s Hotel in London’s Mayfair should have been a hint enough. I pitched up in my usual journalist attire of jeans and converse trainers only to be met by the hotel’s butler resplendent in his top hat and tails who quickly whisks me up to the first floor into a lavish room full of suits, even Newson is in a suit, albeit a linen one with no tie and trainers. Being the only design journalist I found myself trying to make small talk with representatives from titles such as Harper’s Bazaar, fine watch magazine QP and Millionaire’s Monthly (I made the last one up). But then the launch begins with the CEO of Jaeger-LeCoutre presenting the new Atmos 566 before introducing Newson, who says a few words about his design.

The amazing thing about the Atmos clock is that it essentially lives on air alone: that is, its sole source of energy is variations in the ambient air temperature. In fact, Jaeger-LeCoultre boast that its the only object that comes close to the myth of perpetual motion. Since invented in 1930, over 750,000 Atmos clocks have been produced in many shapes and sizes and materials, but all based on the same operating principle.

Newson, who has always been fascinated by them, contacted Jaeger-LeCoultre with a proposal of redesigning it in an innovative and contemporary manner. “It is a very traditional object and I thought that there was an enormous opportunity to bring it forward and make it available to a whole new generation of people that are interested in contemporary objects,” explains Newson.

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The result of their first collaboration was the Atmos 561, which was launched in 2008. Due to its success the two collaborated once again on the Atmos 566. Although it is an evolution of the design and carries much of 561’s DNA the 566 is also far more complicated to make as this one has a new movement which, in addition to driving the hour and minute hands, also powers displays of the month and the equation of time, along with a view of the sky above the Northern hemisphere complete with indications of the cardinal points and the signs of the Zodiac. “It is an order of magnitude more complex in terms of how it is made and what it costs,” smirks Newson as this object will set you back a whopping £78,000. The process of manufacturing the glass, which holds the clock in a crystal-like bubble, was also no easy feat to make by the Baccarat glass specialist.

Newson is very proud of his design and refers to it as a wonderfully sustainable object. “I am always asked about the sustainability of the products that I design and it dawned on me that this is probably one of the most ecological products that I have ever designed on a number of levels,” he comments. “It requires no level of intervention, it’s the kind of thing you buy once and you will literally have it for generations and generations and it will always work.”

With the press conference over I went up to take a closer look at the Atmos 566 and I was really quite mesmerised by its beauty but when I turned around too quickly and almost knocked it off its plinth, I decided it was time to hot foot my converse trainers out of there.