The art of the hour
26. July 2019 | Interview
Neatly ordered cogs in various sizes are arranged on the workbenches; the milling and drilling machines are still. This morning, like every morning, the workday in Trimmis, Switzerland, begins leisurely with a cup of coffee and a croissant. Florian Schlumpf sits together with his employees, chatting about how the kids are doing at school or about plans for the holidays. Customer orders and production plans are put on hold for the moment.
Florian Schlumpf first started slowing things down in 2011. “I sold the production rights for the bicycle transmissions I developed to a German company, and suddenly I had some time and some money on my hands. I felt liberated,” the 62-year-old managing director recalls.
The idea for these clocks, or Time Machines, was something that had been floating around in his head for some time. “In the past, almost every home had some kind of grandfather clock or wall clock ticking away inside it. Unfortunately, you hardly ever hear this beautiful, homely sound any more.” As an experienced engineer, and having trained as a sculptor in his younger years, Florian Schlumpf only needed two weeks to build his first prototype: a Time Machine with a complete clock movement but no hands or dial. It was a visually appealing piece of furniture – and, according to its inventor, standing in front of it was the perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine without having to see time passing by. “Whether the hours pass quickly or slowly is a very subjective perception. Our sense of time is something very relative,” philosophises the Graubünden native.
Now, he produces his masterpieces of mechanical precision already in small lines of 5 to 50 pieces and in various designs. “We produce both standing clocks and wall clocks, and I’m currently working on a weatherproof outdoor version,” reveals Florian Schlumpf.
All the components are made of high-quality materials: from the refined aluminium of the cogs, to the bronze bearings, to the mirror-polished
chrome steel, or even custom-made gold-plated parts. The meticulous craftsmanship ensures that the Time Machines require almost no maintenance and are made to last. Florian Schlumpf’s Time Machines are not designed as a decorative accessory – they are simply the result of perfectly functioning components coming together.
“Whether the hours pass quickly or slowly is a very subjective perception. Our sense of time is something very relative.”
Master of time
The Time Machines from Graubünden can now be found all over the world, from Europe to the USA and Australia. “Interlocking cogs and moving components have an almost hypnotic effect on people – they fascinate across all cultures, age groups and social classes,” says Florian Schlumpf. “One of my first customers was a businessman in London. He was looking for something for his office that visitors from all over the world would see and be captivated by from the very first second, something that would generate conversation,” says the creative mechanical engineer. “The fact that you can’t simply read the time off the clock obviously helps.”
However, some buyers do want a timepiece that subtly shows the time. Upon request, the resourceful Swiss provides hands and an hour ring as simple, removable magnetic parts. After all, it is important to Florian Schlumpf that the Time Machines can be transformed back into timeless objects of art in next to no time. This is in line with the motto that the Graubünden native has internalised and lived by for many years: You should always be the master of your own time. And not the other way around.