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on June 20, 2014 at 3:00 PM, updated June 20, 2014 at 3:03 PM
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – A local business is hoping to show the world what true endurance looks like next week at the American Institute of Architects Expo in Chicago.
On display will be a custom-made tower clock, the well-known Swiss railway clock and West Michigan’s manufacturing culture.
The Grand Rapids commercial clock manufacturer, LUMICHRON, will take part in the June 26 -28 exhibition as part of a convention for licensed architects and other industry professionals in the professional membership association.
While they primarily hope the convention exposes their work to influential architects, owners and East Grand Rapids residents Ian and Karen Macartney said it’s also an opportunity to display their ability to “make things” and make tower clocks, exterior clocks and custom clocks that last.
It’s a trait characteristic of area businesses, the Macartneys said.
“People forget it’s the ability to make stuff that keeps the entire economy moving,” Ian Macartney said. “The ability in West Michigan is unbelievable.”
Although LUMICHRON uses Swiss controls for the clocks he crafts, Ian Macartney said he prides himself for his Michigan-made product.
Still, the Swiss railway clock that the Macartneys will exhibit is a wonderful example of a great, lasting clock design, Ian Macartney said.
“It’s just an icon of a clock,” he said. “It’s enduring. It is just simply perfect.”
The famous clock design, created by Hans Hilfikker in 1944, became even more recognizable in recent years after Swiss Federal Railways, known as SBB, reached an agreement with Apple for its use.
LUMICHRON is a U.S. distributor of the Swiss clock maker MOBATIME, a trademark the Swiss railway clock’s manufacturer, Moser-Baer Ltd, Switzerland.
Although he praises the enduring designs and features this and his own, custom-made clocks, Ian Macartney’s own business has proven some longevity.
The business opened in Grand Rapids in 1984 and, for a time, included a neon sign and clock business called Neon Americana.
While he closed his Leonard Street store in 2009 for a merger with a bell and chime maker in South Carolina, the deal did not move forward as planned. He later returned to the area with a focus on large-face tower clocks.
The company has since been responsible for the restoration of the Seth Thomas clock atop the Kingsley Building on Lake Drive SE in Eastown. Custom-made LUMICHRON clocks are also at the Grand Rapids Amtrak station and the Fulton Street Farmers Market.
The change in focus also meant increased interest in the Swiss, and overall European, approach to clocks. Now, Ian Macartney said he hopes his presence at events, such as next week’s expo, helps encourage the idea of public time.
He said public, analog clocks can make counting down the time left between train rides or flights easier and said it helps people know the exact time, down to the second.
“It’s such a nice accent piece,” he said. “It’s a very comforting feature, especially in anything related to transportation and travel.”
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