You'd be surprised how much junk email you get as an editor in the form of pitches from PR agencies that aren't remotely relevant to your vertical. I mean, I get that some CRM is mechanically and automatically attaching my name to an email, and no sane publicist is actively thinking that I, the "watch guy," am simply desperate to review a new vacuum cleaner, dog collar or spermicidal gel, but sadly, I made up exactly zero percent of those scenarios.
One slightly left-of-center pitch I did receive recently, however, made me pause — it was for an alarm clock. Now, I haven't used an alarm clock since high school — my phone is simply much too convenient, and portable — but I love the idea of one: Something analog and well designed that gently awakens me from a deep, editorially-induced slumber, but tastefully, and without the brash ZINGGGGGGGGG that's invariably part of the Foley in films from the 1940s. Something Dieter Rams drew up on a piece of graph paper while sitting on a marble toilet during the Cold War. You know what I mean.
It's called the OneClock — God only knows why there would be multiple — and it's described by its designers (or overworked copywriter) as "a minimalist analog timepiece with waking music based in science, designed for a disconnected bedroom." Now, I don't have time for science and my bedroom is most definitely not disconnected — I'm pretty sure that if the Mossad wanted to know everything that goes on in here they could simply flip a switch and download it all, given all the electronics present in my apartment — but again, I love the idea, the philosophy of analog.
Then, I saw that OneClock's music was composed by Grammy Award-winning multi-instrumentalist Jon Natchez. Jon plays the bari sax....I played the bari sax. (I haven't touched one since some kid roped me into a session at Berklee in which they needed a dude to hold down the low-end during "Chameleon," but that's a story for another day.) TL;DR — I decided this was the alarm clock for me. I had to try it. It was speaking to my philosophy.
The OneClock comes in three colors (white, black or red) — the black one showed up at my door. The dial on the clock is the same in all three versions (black), whilst the front of the clock is cut from a piece of oak. It's a handsome, Braun-looking object, though if I'm being nitpicky — and I'm going to be nitpicky, because I'm in a mood right now — I'd say that Oneclock needs to be more careful about the oak panel: It's fine to have someone use a hole saw to cut these things out by hand, but then you have to sand the edges down, or you risk shipping a product that looks like a high school Arduino experiment. (I almost got a splinter!)
Other than that quibble, the build quality seems great — powder-coated aluminum plates, knurled knobs, a glass cover over the analog clock, and bright, plastic clock hands that recall classic midcentury designs. It ships with an attached USB-C cable (which, in the future, will allow you to download new music to the clock) and a wall plug, and has three rotary controls (two on the back, one on the front), some of which have push-pull functionality.
Because of the multi-functionality of of these controls, you really need to scan the QR code on the inside of the box and watch the instructional video in order to properly set the clock. Doing so is kind of a mindfuck: I held down one button as instructed and the clock set itself to the correct time — the hands simply jumped. HOW DID IT KNOW?! (No, for real though, how did it know the right time?) Unlike many other analog alarm clock designs in which you pull out a knob and slowly rotate it to set the hands, the hands on the Oneclock are motorized and begin zipping around the clock face — you turn the knob to slow them and then set the knob back to its center detent to complete time setting. This takes some getting used to, but is super cool once you've got the hang of it.
A speaker knob on the back sets the alarm music's volume, so nothing complicated there. An alarm-setting button on the front works similarly to the time setting button — when held down momentarily, the clock hands jump to your set alarm time. Turning the setting buttons allows you to set the alarm, after which the hands will return the clock to the current time. Neato! (Holding down this button for one second will confirm your wake time, while pressing and releasing it turns the alarm on and off. A small light on the clock dial confirms this status.)
There's an accelerometer within the clock housing, and if you quickly tap it above the clock dial, a dim night light comes on for five seconds. Lastly, if you turn the "wake" (alarm-setting) knob on the front panel all the way to the left, then press and hold for one second, a voice speaks to you through the clock and plays through the different songs. (These play randomly when you wake up, but you can preview them via the button.)
The whole package is most decidedly "retro-futuristic." (Forgive the cliché, but I don't know how else to describe it.) Simultaneously midcentury-esque and most forward-thinking, Oneclock is nothing if not streamlined/simplified/disconnected — there's no USB charging for your phone, no digital readout, no nothing. It's just an alarm in which the actual ringtone is meant to wake you gradually and pleasantly from sleep.
These ringtones fade up in volume over 30 seconds, such that you don't feel like you've been struck with a ball-peen hammer at 5:30 AM. Compositions also build in intensity, feature analog mixed in with electronic instrumentation, and employ a sonic range that generally encompasses human speech patterns. The result is decidedly pleasant, if admittedly somewhat dreamscapey and Wes Anderson-esque. (I kind of feel like angels pull their espresso shots to this type of music.)
I have to say, I really dig the Oneclock — it beats the shit out of the alarm clock from the '80s that I used growing up, and the modern, black Sony one that was so difficult to set and had so many buttons on it that I eventually got rid of it. It was you out of your dreamscape pleasantly and without (literal) fanfare, and it's relatively easy to control, once you get the hang of the multiple functions of some of the knobs.
Besides the cheap-feeling front wood panel, my one wish is this: I understand the streamlined design of having a single USB C port for both power and downloading of new ringtones, but I'd much prefer the clock to have a USB A charging port for a phone — regardless of whether this necessitates an internal transformer for a conventional power supply — plus a USB C port for downloads. (I have no idea how power works. I'm spitballing here from what I remember from an Electronic 101 class in college that I got a C in. But basically: I want a phone charging port.)
You see, I get that the whole point of the Oneclock is to detach from your phone — love it. But it's 2021, and I'm gonna charge my phone next to my bed, anyway. I'd prefer not to have 18 wires running into the wall next to said bed, and so I love designs such as a lamp with a discreet USB port in them. My first request of the Oneclock team would thus be to allow me to charge my phone via the back of the clock — there's already the USB-C port back there — so we're not exactly committing sacrilege.
My other request would be the option of a white clock dial on the white-cased model — this is a cleaner, more pleasant look, to my mind. It would also be nice if you could set how long the night light stays on — maybe, say, 5, 10, or 15 seconds. This, to my mind, would you to get up out of bed and actually get something done. Five seconds is really only enough time to realize that your clock is glowing.
So would I buy myself or someone else a Oneclock and insist that that person gets "back to nature" somewhat — or at least, back to analog? I think I would. It would have to be for a very specific type of person — the type who's not bothered by the loss of modern conveniences, such as digital controls, phone charging, etc. But the innovative design, calming music and thoughtful touches are enough to make this one of my favorite alarm clock designs ever. And that, my friends, is a sentence I thought I would never utter during the course of my adult life, let alone publish.