When Hans Christian Ørsted discovered Aluminum in 1825, it would have been very difficult for him to have foreseen the many domestic uses and aesthetic applications that the material would ultimately take-on in the modern age. It was hardly one century ago that architects and designers truly began to capitalize on the use of raw, exposed, industrial metals on a massive scale. Using iron, steel, and aluminum in undecorated ways to flaunt the natural beauty of metals is an arguably new trend in consumer design theory, and one that hardly existed prior to Art Nouveau and Art Deco. But when Apple released the first aluminum G5 series in 2003, so began the new era of chic aluminum.

Tube Concept x Contemporary Style


I recently came-across Blub, a “Modern-retro Tube Clock” from the mind of Duncan Hellmers, an Industrial Designer from Sydney, Australia. This design really caught my eye because it fits in that seemingly-shrinking niche of boutique products that are actually as useful as they are enjoyable. An admirer of refined lines and contemporary design, Hellmers has a deep passion for objects that “…fit in well with today’s aesthetic trends but still retain that sense of nostalgia and sentimentality”. In so many ways, that emotion is probably one that most designers can relate to, as it pays homage to past, and tribute to the present. Adding elements of contemporary design to that mindset, as Hellmers has done with Blub, offers respect to the future, and invests in progressive modernism.


While there are a number of tube-clock designs floating-around on the net–both for sale, and as DIY hobbyist projects–the style of Blub is markedly different from others; inspired by Hellmers’s drive to fuse the tube concept with contemporary style. The body of the device is CNC-machined from a single block of aluminum, which is then bead-blasted and clear-anodized to harden the surface. Close to the heart of many design purists, the exterior of the clock epitomizes truth and honesty in aesthetics with its delicately-balanced rugged and delicate parts bonded to a form fastened by screws left entirely exposed.


The Nixie tubes that produce the visible numerals function at a low temperature and require no fans. Additionally, the operation is noiseless. Unlike most other retro clocks, this one offers some nice integrated features like an alarm, date, twelve or twenty-four hour time, temperature, and nighttime sleep mode. Currently, Blub is a project on Kickstarter, but it is quickly gaining a cult-following. For ~$323 USD, you can donate to the project and receive a Blub of your very own.


(All images via Duncan Hellmers)