Kickstarter Goes Tube Clock Crazy, Pick Your Crowdfunded Retro Timekeeping Poison

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Kickstarter has a fever at the moment, and the only cure is more tube clocks. For those unaware of this type of gadget, a Nixie tube clock uses heated cathodes in a glass-encased gaseous mixture to display the time, and there are currently two undergoing crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter, both of which launched in the past week.

The two clocks share the same basic technological premise, but have very different design sensibilities, so fans of retro chic can choose between them based on whether they’re more Steampunk or more modern. The Steampunk Nixie Clock is a Vancouver-based project that just launched, and is seeking $6,000 in funding, and the Blub (which is the more modern of the two) has already blown past its $5,000 funding goal.

For the minimalist, the oddly named Blub (play on ‘bulb?’) is the clear clock of choice. It features a very Mac-like aluminum rounded rectangular casing, with a simple light to indicate operational status and four tubes for rendering the numbers to tell time. It’s smaller than you might think at first glance, fitting neatly in an average-sized hand, and it not only tells the time and provides an alarm, but also detects and displays the temperature with the press of a button.

The Blub ain’t cheap: it’ll set you back around $320 US for a pre-order, plus an additional fee for shipping. Blub designer Duncan Hellmers anticipates shipping the first units in May of 2014.

For those more committed to the vintage aesthetic, the Steampunk Nixie Tube Clock offers a lot of wood, some brass, and plenty of extraneous rivets, screws, grills and knobs to drive home that special blend of fantasy and uselessness that makes Steampunk such an appealing design phenomenon. The Steampunk Nixie is more complicated, however, and that means it’s also more expensive: The regular backer pre-order price is $549.

The Steampunk has some special tricks up its sleeve, however, including an LED backlight for the Nixie tubes that provides changeable color options, and each is hand-made. The going price for elaborate Steampunk creations like this tends to easily wander into the thousands, so this is actually a very reasonable ask from project creator Kyle Miller.

The anticipated ship date for the Steampunk Nixie Clock is June 2014, so it’s about on par with the anticipated ship date of the Blub. Whether that means there’s a fairly standard turnaround time on the creation of clocks that use Nixie tubes, I couldn’t tell you, but it means time shouldn’t play a role in your decision between the two.