Swiss Rail Company to Meet With Apple Over iPad Clock Design

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When Apple finally decided to add a clock app to the iPad, it included a classic, timeless design - one owned by the Swiss national rail company (SBB) since 1944. Rather than take umbrage at the move, SBB is looking at the bright side of life and seeing the potential exposure the app can have for the company. It will, however, be meeting with Apple to discuss the situation.

iPad clock and SBB clock side by side

With the release of iOS 6 last week, it didn't take long for people to recognize the simple elegance of the iconic Swiss Federal Railways clock. Over the years, the design of the clock has been licensed to third-parties for uses such as wristwatches, but this time Apple apparently didn't ask before taking.

SBB spokesperson Patricia Claivaz told AFP that there has been no agreement to this point, but that they will be talking with Apple about it. She dismissed the idea that SBB would be seeking monetary compensation and said that it didn't plan to "upset [Apple] by asking for money."

Instead, Claivaz said "We're rather proud that a brand as important as Apple is using our design."

No specific date has been set for this meeting, but it is expected in a matter of days or weeks. Claivaz emphasized that the point of the meeting was to come to an agreement that both companies would be happy with.

"There are a lot of brands that use the SBB logo, though nothing like Apple. It's not just about exchanging money, rather drawing up a contract stating where the logo can be used, under what conditions, and for how long."

With millions of iPads across the globe, that's a lot of exposure for the SBB clock face that was designed during World War II by Swiss engineer Hans Hilfiker. It's also still widely used in Swiss rail stations.

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Lee Dronick

Sounds like there will be a win-win settlement.

James Leo Ryan

To say that the clocks are “identical” is not quite true. To say that they are “similar” is correct. There are a number of little differences. All one needs to do is to see the two side by side to see those differences.


Many thanks for following up on this, Julie.

It’s good to see that, not only are the Swiss showing characteristic class and calm, but that Apple at least appear to be acknowledging that there is a legitimate issue here that requires a proper solution.

That clock really is a national icon. It’s one of those symbols that reminds one that they are in Switzerland whenever one rides the rails. I have a special fondness for that place and its people.

Please continue to keep us posted.

Lee Dronick

James they are not an exact match, but in my opinion they are close enough. Specifically the red second hand with that red dot finial. Had that red dot not been there then it would be a generic clock face. Apple could gave used a fine tipped second hand with or without a red dot counterweight and there probably would not have been a problem. Not that there is much of a problem now that the copyright owner is looking to find a win-win solution.

Ya wanna see some nice clock faces? Check out the Chronometer iPad app.

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