Bitossi George Nelson Howard Miller Meridian Clocks — Our growing archive

Howard-miller-meridian-clocks-lead-imageKate and I are building an archive of Bitossi George Nelson Howard Miller Meridian clocks. Now isn’t that a mouthful? And there’s good reason — all three of these storied companies — plus Raymor — were involved in the creation and sale of these gorgeous clocks. Read on, and we’ll explain.

We love these clocks’ wide variety of colorful, whimsical, yet earthy designs. We also love the unusual material — using ceramic stoneware for the base of a clock was probably not very common in mid century America. This substrate gave the designers at Bitossi tremendous opportunity to have fun with the material and glazes. And, having a ceramic clock — something different! These clocks seem to sell for at least $300 each — usually much, much more.

Who is responsible for the design elements of the Howard Miller Meridian clocks?

This clock was a collaboration: Ceramic clock faces by Bitossi, clock hands by George Nelson, branded by Howard Miller, wholesaled by Raymor. Details:

  • The Meridian clocks were sold by the Howard Miller Clock Company of Zeeland, Mich.,  beginning around 1964.
  • We don’t know how many designs, in all, were produced. We would LOVE to get our hands on a sales catalog!
  • Howard Miller was a son of Herman Miller. Source: http://www.georgenelsonfoundation.org/george-nelson/index.html#clocks
  • George Nelson — who was design director for the Herman Miller Company at this time — also became a designer of large number Howard Miller clocks designs. These Nelson clocks for Howard Miller are all pretty famous and collectible today.
  • The first George Nelson design for Howard Miller was now iconic Nelson Ball Clock in 1947 (*affiliate link). There is a funny drinking story associated with the Ball Clock’s design: Seems like a bunch of famous designer buddies were together drinking and talking. They get to talking about clocks and start doodling. On cocktail napkins, may be! They wake up hungover the next morning — and George Nelson can’t remember whose doodles are whose. One thread I read had him giving giving Isamu Noguchi credit for the Ball Clock.
  • Despite “names” later being attached to all George Nelson/Howard Miller clocks, initially they were identified only by number. Perhaps Howard Miller gave them names for retail marketing purposes? *requires more research.
  • I emailed Bitossi’s PR contact, and she replied to me 5/13/2013 that indeed, Bitossi Ceramiche designed and produced the ceramic clock faces. In a follow up email, another person from Bitossi Ceramiche wrote:
    These clocks were surely designed by Aldo Londi and made at Bitossi in the early sixties. These Meridien clocks were then sold to a US wholesaler of big Bitossi customer, Raymor, owned by Mr. Irving Richards. The clocks were then sold by Raymor to Howard Miller, a U.S. still existing clocks manufacturer from Zeeland, WI. There the clocks were assembled with George Nelson designed clock hands.
  • Did you catch, in the email: Clock faces shipped from Italy to Michigan, where the hands were added. That’s how I read it, at least.
  • Richards Morganthau, Inc. was the official company name of Raymor — Irving Richards, super famous in mid mod world. But I am confused. (1) Did Raymor import the Bitossi clock faces to sell to Howard Miller? Or (2), did Raymor sell the assembled Howard Miller clocks out into the marketplace? Or (3), both? *I need to do more research to clarify this.
  • The all-blue clock is a beautiful example of the Bitossi Riminu Blu line that I have written about extensively and which was our 2012 Retro Renovation Color of the Year.
  • In threads on Design Addict, various folks continue to express their belief that George Nelson must have had some involvement in the design — or at least, the final clearance of designs — by Bitossi. But, in the thread listed above, one commenter also says that Vitra, in their book about George Nelson, “tirelessly” researched to try to ascertain Nelson’s involvement in the Meridian line. I need to get the book and read it (I think it’s expensive, ugh, maybe I won’t be buying it any time soon), but it seems Vitra book says that George Nelson was involved in supplying the clock hands of the Meridian clocks and that. is. it.
  • And this thread shows some other Bitossi ceramics designed into furniture by Nelson. We can also see stand-alone “Raymor” marked decorative housewares that clearly have the Bitossi provenance.   It’s cool to see the familial relationships of the furniture pieces to the clock designs.
  • Lookie these: Collection of 18 Meridian clocks sold for $10,000.
  • How long did the Howard Miller Meridian clock line continue? So far, I have found one clock marked as late at 1974. http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/16805536_midcentury-howard-miller-and-a-meridian-ceramic-clock

George-Nelson-meridian-clock

Photo courtesy of Ebay seller barrymn (Barry).

vintage-george-nelson-clock

Photo courtesy of Ebay seller barrymn (Barry).

vintage-meridian-blue-and-green-clock

vintage-meridian-blue-and-green-clock-side-view

vintage-meridian-blue-and-green-clock-close-up

Photos courtesy of Ebay seller mojo14

Bitossi-George-Neslson-clock-blue-and-greenPhoto courtesy of Ebay seller ctz1846.

howard-miller-Meridian-clock-argyle-detail

howard-miller-Meridian-clock-argyle-detailPhotos courtesy of mid century specialist Ebay seller owashtanong

Vintage-Howard-Miller-fish-clock vintage-howard-miller-fish-clock-close-upPhotos courtesy of mid century specialist Ebay seller owashtanong

vintage-howard-Miller-Ceramic-Clock-Copper-handsclose-up-howard-Miller-Ceramic-Clock-Copper-handsPhotos courtesy of mid century specialist Ebay seller owashtanong

vintage-howard-miller-meridian-ceramic-clock-orange vintage-howard-miller-meridian-ceramic-clock-orangePhotos courtesy of mid century specialist Ebay seller owashtanong

vintage-howard-miller-meridian-clock-orange-yellow-grey-side-viewvintage-howard-miller-meridian-clock-orange-yellow-grey-side-viewPhotos courtesy of mid century specialist Ebay seller owashtanong

White-Raymor-ceramic-clockWhite-Raymor-ceramic-clock-close-up

Photos courtesy of Ebay seller Supreme1562.

Howard-miller-meridain-yellow-flower-ceramic-clock
meridian clockPhotos courtesy of Ebay seller 50s-60s-70s. Sold for $691.89 on April 28, 2013.

Bitossi-George-Neslson-clockPhoto courtesy of Mod Livin.

Howard-Miller-george nelson bitossi clock

Photo courtesy of Ebay seller justmyjunketcetera.

Note: I am not an expert on these clocks including each and every design ever made. I cannot tell if a clock is a “fraud” — repainted — or not. Buyer beware.

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Comments

  1. midmichigan says

    I’ve never seen them before but you sure could find one style to fit anywhere.

    The guys in Zeeland are great. I bought a vintage world clock on ebay that needed some work and a new paper scroll. They had new paper scrolls for it that they sold me.

    • pam kueber says

      This reminds me. I have a world clock in the attic that I need to get working! Thanks for the reminder – I am pledging this summer to finish long-undone tasks – and this is one of them!

  2. John says

    I’ve got the square one in shades of teal and aqua that you feature here. I bought it for $20 about ten years ago! It was hanging on the wall of an old TV-Radio repair shop that was going out of business (the shop had been in business since 1955). I was there buying TV tubes and parts for my 1963 Zenith console television (yes, it works and I have even attached a hidden away DVD player to it…a story for some time when you do a feature on vintage TV sets). Anyway, the clock was there on the wall very dusty but running. Since the shop was going out of business I asked the owner if the clock was for sale. He said “yep, for twenty bucks, as is. It’s been there a good many years.” I gladly paid the twenty, took it home, gently cleaned it and it’s on my living room wall above the 1963 Zenith. They look great together!

  3. says

    Oh, my goodness. I actually found one of those Bitossi Rimini Blu clocks several years ago at the Goodwill. I saw that Howard Miller label on the back and did a little Happy Dance, right there in the store.
    It was five bucks. 😉 The guy behind me in line kept asking “Is that something? Is that something?” I played dumb (easy for me) and just said I liked the color. Which I did.
    Naturally, I sold it on eBay. I believe I got 200-something for it, for which I was very happy. A very nice gentleman wanted it for a restaurant he was opening.
    I did have a kind of evil plan, though. I decided that if the person who bought it turned out to be a pain in the you-know-what (all too common for ebay buyers), i was going to ship it with the $5.00 Goodwill price sticker still on the back! Luckily, I never had to do that.
    That clock must have weighed 15 pounds.

  4. bev says

    Hi there:

    From the research I have done, Howard Miller and Herman Miller are not related in any way. Apparently in Zeeland Mi they were located across the street from each other. They collaborated on clock designs, however, they only co-incidentally shared the last name.

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