I found something rather odd by Nora Schmidt today on Dailytonic. Designtide, a big Tokyo event, starts Friday. Hironao Tsuboi, a very clever Japanese designer with a faceless wristwatch to his credit that displays the time by way of concealed LEDs in a mysteriously abstract fashion, will be showing his "Sun" clock. A series of them can be seen in the graphic borrowed from her post. I tried to pursue him, but the path ran cold. Actually, the path turned into solid Japanese, which does seem reasonable for a series of Japanese websites.

Schmidt quotes Tsuboi as saying, “A day begins with sunrise, it end up with sundown. The concept of time was originally discovered from the movement of stars like the sun.” Well, saying that the day begins with sunrise and ends with sunset is harmless enough, depending on where it leads. It leads to a very peculiar statement about the discovery of time. Did man discover time? Did he discover it only after making the equation between stars and sun? Tsuboi undoubtedly means celestial time, something far more specific. He continues, "In modern society, it has been recognized simply as numbers of clocks or measurement of the day. It is totally separated from the movement of the universe." In other words, the standard clock with hands and face is somehow connected to, or reminiscent of, the celestial motions, and we have forgotten that. Time has become arbitrary. "'Sun' is a clock that reminds us the time as dynamism of the universe by showing sunrise/down on its dial, according to passage of time." The "Sun" clock puts us back in touch with the origins of time. It does this by somehow indicating or demonstrating to us the times for sunrise and sunset. You can get that same information on the Weather Channel — there must be a Japanese version of that — or in most newspapers. "Also by using several of them, they enable us to intuitively compare day and night of the world."

I looked at these clocks for a very long time before abandoning the search for meaning. There seem to be purple, red and blue dots. I'm guessing that one color means sunrise and another sunset, so whichever color remains must represent… twilight, dusk, daytime, nightime? Those wristwatches that were so very popular for a while made it perfectly clear that dark was night, light was day, and if the moon was up it was visible, and if wasn't, it wasn't. On the very expensive watches you could follow the phases of the moon. On the cheaper ones the moon just sat there, but it still reminded you of its existence. They also had little gold stars on the face which was helpful in areas of light pollution. They did pretty much all they could within cost constraints. As for intuitively comparing day with night around the world, my intuition is completely incapable of grasping how the clock works in the first place.

If the dots actually represent sunrise and sunset, are they seasonally adjusted? You know, the sun rises at a slightly different time each and every day of the year. Those adjustments differ from place to place. Has he accounted for that or did he just take my advice and check the Weather Channel before placing the dots?

"The compact size is suitable for collection such as world clocks in hotels." I absolutely agree. It's a nice looking bunch of clocks. I especially like the rounded ends on the hands. But, what would it communicate to passersby? Would they stop and ponder the dots? Would they wonder why the cities are in the order they are? Or would they say, "Hmmm, Boston, Stockholm… Oops. Ten after. I'm almost late."

One hopes that the fault lies with the translator and not the designer, because the Great Designer had infinitely more on His plate than sunrise and sunset when He willed the Primum Mobile to action and set time itself in motion.