If Apple copied the Swiss railway clock design, they didn’t do it well

Since these news have been filling the Swiss newspapers, I thought I’d take a look at the topic in a little more detail. SFR claims, that Apple stole their iconic design of the simple, rudimentary Swiss railway clock designed in the 1940’s. I’d say if they did, they didn’t do it well.

The similarities

  • White background
  • Black numbering
  • Red second hand, with a dot at the tip

The differences

  • Length of hands
  • Width of hands
  • Thickness of minute strokes
  • Length of minute strokes
  • Shape of hands
  • Difference in hands thickness

Why do I say they didn’t copy it well? The differences that they didn’t copy are what make the Swiss clock so well designed for its purpose. The hands are subtly shaped to point in the pointing direction, while the Apple version are perfectly straight, not guiding the eye. The hour hand is thicker, so the eye immediately finds it. The minute strokes are thick, so they can be read from afar and the hands are longer and reach farther into the minute markings, so there is never any doubt what stroke they are pointing too.

All in all Apple didn’t copy all those qualities of the original, they just used a generic basic clock design, that’s been around for ages and put it on the phone app. They didn’t apply even remotely the same attention to detail the original designer did. If they stole the design, they should get a better eye doctor, because they kind of missed all the important usability points of the original design.

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