The Interview: Jim Read of Newgate

Internationally celebrated for their thoroughly British and truly iconic designer clocks, we were thrilled to interview Jim Read, co-founder of Newgate clocks.

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The Interview

Newgate are celebrated worldwide for their thoroughly British and exceptionally crafted Newgate clocks. Run by Jim and Chloe Read, Newgate has been creating iconic designer clocks for over 25 years.

Fuelled by a passion for great design and beautiful objects, we interview Newgate co-founder, Jim, to find out more about how it all began.

Q: How did Newgate begin?

A: Well the truth is I was kicked out of Art College which marked the end of my dream to become an artist! Soon after that, I met Chloe on a blind date that was set-up by my aunt and we dreamt and plotted about starting our own business together. We figured out our strengths between us and decided I would paint pictures and, along with reproducing old postcards and prints, we would create framed artwork and sell it wholesale to gift stores.

Jim Read Interview - Jim Read portrait

I had a Mini Moke which I sold for cash and we headed to a wholesaler in Manchester to buy some picture framing machinery. The twist in fate was when I bought some clock movements, painted some dials, and put them in picture frames to make a clock. The clocks were quite fun and eclectic and we subsequently exhibited at our first trade show over 25 years ago at Alexandra Palace in London. We then took orders for clocks from distributors all over Europe as well as Harrods. We were in business and Newgate was born!

Q: Where does your passion for design come from?

A:I think it comes from looking; it's so easy to pass through life not looking at or appreciating things. When you start looking around and noticing the great, the good and the bad, you start to want and need to see more of the great. Once it clicked with me as to how and why things look good or bad, it became a life's work to try to make things, mostly clocks, look great. It's great fun, a challenge and an adventure! It's a buzz when people buy the things you've designed and created and that's the draw; to try and make products better, more stylish and more innovative.

Jim Read interview Newgate designer clocks

Q: How would you describe the Newgate aesthetic?

A: I'm fascinated by time, it's such a massive subject and I am lucky enough to make the instruments that measure it. The aesthetic begins with making machines that tell the time, historically these tend to be masculine which suits my design style down to the ground. I naturally lean towards making clocks with crisp lines and stout proportions in heavily contrasting colourways - I'm obsessed with creating a style which I hope is instantly recognisable and blends classic, vintage and contemporary design influences.

Q: Some of the Newgate collections have a vintage feel, is there a particular design era that inspires you?

A: I love the design of the 1940s design era, it was the first time that designers loosened up and became more cool and casual, making functional products from simple but great quality materials. Our large open-plan offices at Newgate are full of original 1940s wooden desks, tables and accessories. Most of the desks are oak, and they are all unique with tambour front cupboards, secret drawers and extending work tops for extra desk space.

Jim Read interview - Newgate chrome clocks

Q: What is it that you love about British design specifically?

A: I love everything about British design and Britishness! Spending time in London and walking through works of architectural brilliance like Regent Street is truly awe-inspiring and there’s nothing quite like it elsewhere in the world. I love British design for its smartness, its quality and its understated sophistication.

Q: What kind of things do you keep in the forefront of your mind when you are designing a new clock?

A: It has to be better than any clock we have made before it and be a design that I couldn't resist buying for my collection. Symmetry and practicality is key as well as luxurious materials that look smart and edgy.

Jim Read interview - Newgate Pluto Clock

Q: What kind of interior scheme do you think Newgate clocks works best in?

A: I hope we make a variety of clocks covering so many looks, at least that's what I try to do. We understand the variety of interiors out there and really want as many people as possible to enjoy a bit of ‘Newgateness’! But I guess a good example of a perfect Newgate interior would be a classic home with tall ceilings, white or grey walls and a mix of contemporary furniture, art and quality period antique and vintage finds.

Q: How would you describe your own style?

A: My own style is a mix of purity, quirkiness and vintage classic. I'm a frustrated perfectionist and I like things to be 'architecturally' considered. I'm also colour blind so I lean towards greys and neutral colours and I like honest materials and, as I get older, I like honest finishes.

Jim Read interview - wood clocks

I think one thing is very important: to keep changing and be adventurous with your style. Have fun and step in different directions now and again. Create a theatrical features like statement walls covered in an eclectic mix of clocks, or a rack of shelving full of mantel clocks for a look that is utterly unique.

Q: What do you love to use when you are decorating a room?

A: I’m drawn towards a muted colour palette so I’ve used a lot of grey paint in my home with some very dark charcoals and lighter accents of dove grey. My latest interior design project is our kitchen and I’m creating bespoke kitchen units using haberdashery shop fittings with white marble tops. I also love our battered Georgian eight-leaf table which could do with a full restoration but we’ve decided to embrace the aged aesthetic, plus we don’t need to stress about the kids getting glue, paint and orange juice all over it!

Jim Read interview - Newgate coloured clocks

Q: What do you like about working with Houseology?

A: The people of course! I guess a lot of people won’t have had the good fortune of meeting the Houseologists. Take it from me, behind their gorgeous website is a group of the most devoted, hard-working and lovely people you could ever meet. And thanks to their super-clever buyers, stylists, researchers and developers, we all get to shop the most amazing products for our homes…Yes, I shop at Houseology too!

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