Analogue Design

Recently I was listening to the CBC Radio program Spark. Do you know it? I’m a big fan. The show is about technology and how it influences our everyday lives. Spark touches on matters of design often, which is one of the reasons why I enjoy it so much. The episode “Spark 204: Timekeeping, Testbeds, Speed”, which you can stream or download from the CBC website, included a discussion about the obsolescence of the wristwatch now that almost everyone is carrying a cell phone with a time display. Do you still wear a watch? I do and can’t imagine abandoning it anytime soon. I got to thinking about the watch and about other greats of analogue design.

This is the Tissot watch I wear everyday. It fits my stringent watch criteria: 1. Must have all 12 numbers. 2. Roman numerals preferred. 3. Must be by a manufacturer that specializes in timekeeping. I don’t do licensed fashion watches. 4. No bling and as few bells and whistles as possible. I love my Tissot and it only leaves my wrist while I shower or swim.

This is the watch I covet — a Cartier Tank. The Tank watch was introduced in 1917 and its rectangular face shape, which was innovative at the time, was inspired by the WWI era Renault Tank. Its sleek geometric lines and machine-age modernity make it an icon of Art Deco design. I think these are the epitome of chic and so have famous wearers such as Jacqueline Kennedy, Yves Saint Laurent and Michelle Obama. There are many versions of the Tank now. I’d take any one, but hold the diamonds please.

But let’s get back to phones for a second. How about this gem? I actually own one of these vintage phones reconditioned to work with today’s phone jacks — but I haven’t had a land line in over 6 years. It’s the 1938 Bell System/Western Electric 302 design by Henry Dreyfuss. To my eye it’s the best-looking phone ever designed — better than anything by Samsung or Blackberry or Apple (gasp, yes, I really think that). Of course, it’s just a phone, not a high-functioning computer you put in your pocket, so these comparisons are a little apples and oranges.

I’ve also just recently returned to writing with a fountain pen. In that category, no writing instrument can match the elegance of the Montblanc Meisterstück 149. This handsome devil was launched in 1924. The top one here is the classic in black resin with gold-plated rings and nib. The bottom one is a modern interpretation in white lacquer with platinum accents and a rhodium-plated 18K gold nib. It’s a thing of beauty with a four-digit price tag.

For now I will content myself with this aluminum fountain pen from Muji that I picked up last week when I was in New York for the much more affordable sum of $15.50. Very analogue, very Mujified (an adjective I use to describe items imbued with the simple elegance associated with the Japanese brand).

The cast iron skillet is holding its own much better than most analogue design greats. Ask any chef his or her favourite tools and one of these will surely make the top five list. (They certainly please our food editor Eric Vellend.) Every kitchen should have one. If you need further convincing, check out this great blog post at called Ten Reasons for Cast Iron.

Do you still wear a wristwatch? Do you cook with a cast iron pan? What other greats of analogue design do you use? Comment below!

Photo credits:
1. Tissot Classic Dream Jungfraubahn, via Times Circle
2. Cartier Tank
3. J.J. Sedelmaier for
4. Meisterstück 149, Montblanc
5. Aluminum Round Fountain Pen, Muji
6. Lodge Cast Iron 10″ Skillet, Crate & Barrel

0 ratings