Chromachron screensaver

This screensaver is a version of a fascinating watch designed in the early 1970s by engineer and designer Tian Harlan. I’ve made a 24 hour analog version as a screensaver for MacOS X, using Quartz Composer.


The Chromachron time display method was invented by artist and designer Kristian Harlan in the 1970s. ‘Tian’ Harlan was born in Berlin, in 1939. He studied Architecture in Berlin and became a qualified engineer. In 1972 he designed the Color Time sculpture for the Olympics Games in Munich. In 1973 he released the first Colour-Time graphics and objects. The Colour-Time watch, which had a mechanical movement, was manufactured by Chromachron A.G. in Germany.

On a Chromachron device, the time is indicated by the color and angle of a slit in a rotating disc. Beneath the disc the circle is divided into 24 sections (in the original 12 hour version, the disk was divided into 12 sections). Time is indicated both by the color of a slit in a revolving disk, and by the angle of the slit (similar to the hour hand of a conventional clock). The disc revolves at the speed of one coloured segment per hour, so that it is not possible to read the exact time: five minutes before twelve is read as a short time before yellow. This approximate time measurement system was described as ‘ending the dictatorship of the exact time’. In total, Harlan designed approximately one hundred different watches. His work has been exhibited in Berlin, London, Amsterdam and Paris. It’s said that his Colour-Time watches were worn by, amongst others, Ringo Star, Max Bill, Charles Aznavour, and Carlo Levi.

More about the Chromachron here:

Java applet version of Chromachron

gchrom, a Chromachron software clock for X GNOME

Chromachron for windows

I’ve finally managed to work out how to add some options, so there’s a noon at the top option, a digital readout, and a way of adjusting the thickness of the coloured rim.

Put the contents of the Zip archive in your screensavers folder. You can edit this file in Quartz Composer. If you make any interesting improvements, let me know!

Download (MacOS X only)


One comment

  1. Grüezi!
    By chance I found your chromachron version as a screensaver! In the 80’s I introduced Tian Harlan’s watch to the market, a “time/colour festival in Tian Harlans home. I also published a screensaver (on a floppy) and launched it at the büfa (Bürofachausstellung) in Zürich and the Hannover Fair. Max Bill, Celine Dion, Peter K. Wehrli, Luigi Colani (I promoted his watches too) and the current Miss Schweiz as well as dozens other VIP’s got the watch from me, also the museum of modern art in New York and the watch museum in Neuchâtel/Switzerland. I also still have the very first 1 sq.ft. cheap wall clock which Tian turned into a model for the Chromachron, as well as the zero numbers of the manufacturers and the book the watch was sold in, as well as a wall and desk model. Gottfried Honegger and many other artists donated an oeuvre for an auction for “holidays for handicapped kids”. I still have three pieces of art I bought myself. If you are interested I would be willing to sell some of it as I have to move to a smaller house soon (try to retire).

    My uncle and godfather, Jean Herbst (now 96), designed the first watch showing the compass to Mecca, later manufactured by Porsche Design.

    With kind regards Rene

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