Saturday, March 7, 2015

UTINAM - Conceptual, Subversive Clock Making

UTINAM, located in Besançon, the capital of French clock-making since the 18th century, is ingeniously reinventing the existent. Specialising in the manufacture of large clockwork, this Franche-Comté-based company sets itself apart in the art of creating singular timepieces with assertive designs. More than three centuries after its invention, the "grandfather" clock has a new lease on life, rejuvenated and uplifted in the inventive spirit of UTINAM's founder Philippe LEBRU.

With a resolutely innovative approach and unusual character, these creations combine the timelessness of the clock with the latest technological advancements. UTINAM represents the renewal of a three-centuries-old clock-making tradition in the heart of its birthplace, Franche-Comté. Today, the city of Besançon is the European centre for micro-technology and the world capital of time and frequency metrology.

Since it was founded in 1993, the Besançon-based company UTINAM has produced more than 600 contemporary clocks and three monumental clocks. UTINAM has produced several monumental clocks that are also works of art. Since its installation, La Matrice, located in the concourse of the new TGV station of Besançon, has been stealing the show from another spectacular clock piece installed on the pediment of the Musée des Beaux-Arts of the same city. In 2015, a 4m x 5m clock, specially designed to resist earthquakes, will mark its time in the heart of Tokyo. It is named after the area where it will be installed, AoyAmA.

Philippe LEBRU- Explorer of contemporary time
The Besançon-based designer has been reinventing the clock since 1993. Putting his training as a coppersmith to work for his two passions – metal and grandfather clocks – cultivated in this land of Utopists (Proudhon, Fourrier, Pasteur and Courbet) has given him a taste for telling time. Time is something Philippe Lebru tells like a story, with a magical touch.This visionary, innovative inventor applies an approach developed over years of practice, honing his clockwork to poetry in motion. In a scrupulous observation of traditional methods to better turn convention on its head and reinvent the art of clock-making, Philippe Lebru shares the accomplishment of his private rapport with time through these exceptional pieces. For his invention of the self-balancing pendulum movement, Philippe Lebru was awarded the overall Grand Prix at the Lépine competition and the Gold medal in clock making at the 2005 International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva.

Patented Self-Balancing Pendulum Movement
In 2005, Philippe Lebru developed the self balancing pendulum movement. The invention was awarded the Grand Prix at the international Lépine competition in Paris, and the Gold medal of clock-making at the International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva. Ingenious in its simplicity, the entire mechanism is liberated from the traditional wooden case to freely exhibit itself. The cogwheels and axes are an integral part of the clock’s aesthetic appeal. Suspended in the balance, the perfect alignment of the movement is based on gravitational force which guarantees irreproachable exactitude. To the hypnotic back-and-forth rhythm of the pendulum, the seconds tick off as precisely as if they were issued by a life force. A unique mechanical heart beats away at the central motor of time's cycle within the clock. The movement, suspended in mid-air, is self balancing. Its measure of time thus obeys the laws of universal attraction, offhandedly proposing the answer to three centuries of historic pendulum calibration à la Morbier and, incidentally, simplifying the installation and adjustment of the clock.

Clock Making in All Its Facets
After three centuries of existence, clocks get their own French Revolution. Forgoing traditional walnut cases, clockworks reveal themselves as light and airy. Choose from steel or glass and discover a rainbow of bubbly, fun colours: orange, red, lime green and plum. These objects have retained only the essential from their native land of clock-making tradition: the beauty of movement and the soothing tick-tock of their pendulums. These rebel clocks, the subversive, liberated children of Franche-Comté expertise, confront their heritage with today's fluid lines and tomorrow's materials. The result is a surprising decorative object both resolutely oriented to the future and virtually timeless. Like a moving work of art open into infinity, Philippe Lebru's creations herald the concept of mechanical works that embody the poetry in motion of passing time. UTINAM presents four collections for as many variations on this unique concept: Hortence, Constence, LaLa and Pop Up. Each collection includes a wall-mounted and long case version in various shapes and unique colours. All pieces are numbered.

The Météorite watch
Philippe Lebru does not just apply his genius to large-scale clockwork. He also created the limited edition Météorite watch collection. Just eight examples of this exceptional watch exist: rare shooting stars that speak of relativity, one of the fundamental principles of time. The Météorite is a unique concept: its dial is cut from a chunk of 4.5 billion-year-old iron and-nickel alloy that literally fell from the sky. The understated appearance of this infinitely poetic timepiece is enlivened by the signs of the zodiac along the sides of its case. It is the quintessential embodiment of the rapport between UTINAM and its precious raw material, time itself.

Monumental Clocks
Since 2010, the Besançon-based company has made it big with its immeasurably imaginative time measurement projects. Falling back on tradition and springing forward into innovation, UTINAM projects mark their time in the heritage of artistic clock-making.

Pendulum Clock at Place de la Révolution in Besançon (2010)
The first monumental clock-making work by UTINAM was designed to count down the hours over the period of a year from the installation of the new Rhin-Rhône TGV line to its inauguration. Installed on the pediment of the Musée des Beaux-Arts on Place de la Révolution in Besançon, this pendulum clock is topped with a luminous device. Its hands turn every fifteen minutes in a counter-clockwise direction with the movement as time inescapably escapes in a mad dash to the last minute.

La Matrice, a monumental clock in the TGV station of Besançon (2011)
The oversized work La Matrice, also named Clémence , hangs over the concourse of the Besançon TGV station. Its measurements are as extraordinarily bold as its design: at six metres high and weighing six tons, the work features a four-metre pendulum and exposed cog wheels up to three metres in diameter. In an environmentally friendly spirit, the energy that drives it is supplied by a TGV motor rotor. In all, a dozen different companies of FrancheComté participated in the manufacture and assembly of this monumental clockwork piece. The "tick" and "tock" that can be heard are human voices, symbolizing time as man's invention, and softening the tone of the time ticking away in the concourse under this mother of all train station clocks.

AoyAma Monumental Clock, Tokyo (2015)
Named after the district where it will stand, AoyAma, or “Blue Mountain", is UTINAM’s third spectacular monumental clock. It was designed for the Land of the Rising Sun. Made according to anti-seismic specifications and able to resist typhoons, this new monumental clock features impressive measurements: five metres high and four metres wide, weighing in at more than half a ton, this exceptional timepiece will be hung nine metres from the ground on the pediment of a concept store in Tokyo. This new member of the UTINAM family of oversized clocks will bear the same French inscription as is marked behind the hour wheel of the Matrice of the TGV station: "We are children brought up by time in the circle of life," translated into English. AoyAma, the third monumental clock by UTINAM, will be installed on the pediment of a concept store in the heart of Tokyo.

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