In 1944, Hans Hilfiker designed a unique, easy-to-read clock face for Swiss Railways operator SBB. Mondaine, a Swiss watch and clock maker has held an exclusive license from SBB to produce watches and clocks with the iconic design since 1986. On September 19th, 2012, Apple launched its new IOS6 operating system which included a clock application resembling the SBB Swiss Railway clock design without permission.
Mondaine has created global awareness of the design over the years through the marketing and sales of their watches and clocks. The clean, easy to read design is recognizable worldwide. Although originally designed in 1944, it is considered a modern-looking piece with solid stick hands, markers and iconic “red dot” seconds indicator which was created in reference to a Swiss Railway Guard’s signal disc.
Initially, Andre Bernheim, co-owner of Mondaine, and SBB were excited that Apple used the iconic clock design creating more awareness of it through the use of over 80 million iPhones and iPads. However, because Apple failed to obtain permission to use the design before the release of their new operating system, negotiations were held to resolve the issue.
Although the details of the agreement will remain confidential, Apple will be permitted to use the design under a special license.
The design is still utilized today at Swiss Railways Stations, as well as through Mondaine’s watches and clocks including installations at London’s Design Museum, Museum of Modern Art in New York, Japan and Seville, Spain. Variations of the design have also been created by Mario Botta and can be found in the Mario Botta for Mondaine Collection.