Pio Manzù (also known as Pio Manzoni) was born in Bergamo, Italy in 1939 and died in an automobile accident in Brandizzo, Italy on May 26, 1969. He was the son of renowned sculptor Giacomo Manzù and his first wife Tina.
After graduating high school in Milan, Pio Manzu studied at the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm and was the first Italian to graduate. While still a student in 1962, he won first prize with Michael Conrad an International Competition “Année Automobile” to design a car that would be built by Carrozzeria Pininfarina. In 1965, he presented the design of a family car: the Autonova Fam and two years later, again with Conrad, he won a competition in Hamburg, (West) Germany for the design of a city bus. Beginning in 1967, he became a consultant to Fiat, which gave him the confidence and ability to freely plan, experiment, and design. He designed the City Taxi el’Autobianchi Coupe, and eventually the Model 127 for Fiat. At the same time, he continued at Ulm as an assistant. In the late 1960s, he designed the Cronotime clock for a Fiat year-end present, which was later issued by Ritz Italora and later still reissued by Alessi.
He collaborated with Achille Castiglioni on the Parentisi lamp (Flos, 1970), which contains enough plastic to show up on this blog…look for it soon.
With Google Translate’s help and my cursory knowledge of German, I’ve done my best to translate an article in Form magazine that talks about the Cronotime clock. It made the cover of the magazine in May, 1969. Originally made for Fiat as a giveaway, Ritz Italora began production in 1968. Form is a great magazine by the way, and its archives are available online. Click the link below to check it out.
Clock with a twist: flexible “Cronotime”
The movable housing orients the dial
The Fiat factory sent out the Cronotime clock as an annual gift, and for this purpose it was originally designed. The Cronotime is a clock with a moveable housing, that is, it has a changing body shape.
What appears initially as a gimmick turns out in practice as very well thought out and useful. Instead of an adjustable mechanism or movable feet, in the Cronotime the most favorable view is accomplished by a small twist: The two parts of the housing are movable and can be rotated against each other, resulting in different orientations of the clock and the desired viewing angle. The dial can be set by moving the upper ring at the same time with the movement. This part can be easily pulled out and contains a button on the back, which - pressed - is used to set the time, pulled out to turn off the clock.
Because this amusing technical and formal solution, table clock as “Fiat-present,” found so large a response, the Italian department store La Rinascente decided to make the Cronotime part of its catalog - its price: 9,500 lire.
(In Germany, it will soon be offered by Bisterfeld + Weiss, Stuttgart.)
The Cronotime flexible clock consists of three parts together: the two rotatably connected housing parts made of molded ABS plastic and the dial ring as a carrier for the transistor battery-movement with a sight glass made of Makrolon.
The assembly is held together with no screws, only by pressure, as is the movement for time regulation with a simple locking mechanism easily reached.
Their colors: white, yellow, red and black, the dial in white or black.
A letter published in the December, 1969 issue of Form indicated that while 9,500 lire (approximately 60 Marks) was the price indicated by the earlier article, the German store was selling them for 125 Marks.
The casing of the Cronotime clock is made of ABS polymer with metal clockwork. The clock is 8.5 cm tall by 7 cm in diameter. It features a modernist face with austere, bold numerals. Halfway down the base is a swivel that allows the relative position of the face of the clock to change. The Cronotime clock has been reissued by Alessi and is available new in black and orange for around $78 from many retailers. It was also reissued in white.
Alessi reissue of Cronotime clock in orange. Image source: Century Design Shop, RAIRAI Online. Below: removial of clock face from tube.
Alessi reissue of Cronotime clock in chrome. Image source: Relax Living.
Ambasz, E., ed. (1972). Italy: The new domestic landscape: Achievements and problems of Italian design. New York, NY: Museum of Modern Art, NY, p.72.
Retrieved November 10, 2010 from GAMeC Web Site: Pio Manzu e l’Industrial Design, http://www.gamec.it/Files/PDF/Didattica/PioManzu/PM_secondarie_intero.pdf
Eine Uhr mit dreh: flexible “cronotime”. (May, 1969). Form, 46, 14-15.
Manipulationen mit der flexiblen Cronotime?. (December, 1969). Form, 48, 76.