Friday, May 24, 2013

Design is Paramount

I was on the plane yesterday, and had an interesting conversation with the man next to me.

He brought up the Kimball Electronics Group which is a global electronics company which he represented at one time or another. KEG was once Kimball International, which was one of the largest manufacturers of home organs. He remembered a conversation he had with the CEO which described their transition from organs to a giant electronics firm.

The CEO said that from the '50s through the '80s every newlywed bought an organ for their home. By the time the '80s came and went into the world of electronics, no younger person was interested in having one in their living room. They were no longer a status symbol.

To be sure, I remember them as a kid. Those home organs were everywhere. We used to have a stand at the county fair, selling Grandfather clocks next to those heavy organs thumping out "Oh When the Saints Go Marching In..." in every beat from a rumba to a disco groove.  Where did they all go?

Why don't people buy them anymore? Is it just because young people aren't interested in having a big piece of wooden furniture anymore?

I'm a musician, so my thoughts immediately go to how these things sounded. There weren't enough keys to properly play any piano music. The sound was not great. Actually, I would have preferred the reed organs that came before them, or even the more flexible synthesizers that came after.

And how do they look? I remember a lot of fiberboard covered with cheap plastic veneer.

Design is so important in today's market. Regardless of what a product does, or what kind of materials it uses, it has to look good. Another example of this can be found in smartphones.  Palm, Blackberry and Windows phones have been around since at least 2001, but almost nobody had them until the iPhone came out with it's sleek and elegant design with metal and glass casing.

It's why we, at North Coast Imports, put a very high importance on the design of our clocks. We recognize that people don't buy clocks as a tool anymore. Clocks are meant as an aesthetic accessory to your home or working space. A clock is a living kinetic and aural sculpture.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Robot Birds

Our followers who appreciate clocks are also often lovers of automata and early robots. There is a great article at The Smithsonian Magazine on a short history of robot birds. There's also a great preceding post on the history of the cuckoo clock.

 We at North Coast Imports have often pointed out the importance of the development of the cuckoo clock and it's eventual ancestral relation to the modern computer. Be sure to check out our website at for a wealth of information on the history of clocks in general.

 The Smithsonian article cites the work of Archytas of Tarentum (c. 350 B.C.) which included a mechanical wooden dove and flying, and of course the famous 18th Century automata from France and Switzerland.


[via The Smithsonian Magazine]

A Network of Websites and a Network of Dealers

We have a lot of attractive items on our network of websites. In addition to our standard line of clocks at we also have a special website featuring our /design series of clocks at PLUS there is a growing collection of collectible and antique clocks at That website also provides a host of educational information on the history of horology.

Most of the clocks on all three websites are available for purchase through our dealer network. If you are interested please email us with your postal code. We might be able to find a dealer in your area that has the clock in stock.  Otherwise, the following list (in no particular order) of premium online dealers should be able to help you:

If you are already a North Coast Imports dealer and would like to be included on this list, please email us with your web address.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Troubleshoot Your Cuckoo Clock Hands

Here's a great video from the VdS (Black Forest Clock Association) on how to troubleshoot your cuckoo clock hands. You can also find more information on this topic on our page here.

Cuckoo Bird rescued in Britain

An endangered cuckoo bird was nursed back to health and then shipped back to Turin Italy.

Water-Powered Cuckoo Clock

Here's a very interesting mechanism - especially the singing bird device. You can see a better video below and can hear the birds chirping. The clock was recently built by a retired hydrogeologist Richard Pim, who spent his long career bringing water to arid farmlands in Saudi Arabia and Nepal.

[via Daily Mail]