From the Cold War to Contemporary Craftsmanship

Nuvitron, a Houston-based company founded by Juan Camilo Arellano, uses vintage electronics—and timeless design—to make the “coolest retro gadgets.” Its range includes a Bluetooth Sound Machine that combines an old-school “waveguide” and 19th-century steel horn tube with Bluetooth technology, as well as the Luminous Electronic Bargraph Clock, which integrates gas discharge tubes from the Cold-War era with modern electronics. “Many companies make vintage-looking electronics, but we strive to use real retro components as the core of our in-house designed circuits,” he explains. “Being real and authentic takes time and practice, but our customers value that. And if it’s important to our customers, it’s vital to us.”

Camilo fell in love with vintage electronics when he was studying electronic engineering at Universidad de Los Andes in Bogota, Colombia. “The beginning of the 20th century was a wonderful time because of the technological advances, and especially the field of electronics, which was a newborn science, amazed everyone. It was a time when everything was new and people watched in astonishment as the world rapidly modernized.”

He became particularly obsessed with so-called nixie tubes, an obsolete technology that displays numbers and symbols that was manufactured decades on by the former Soviet Union. “They were once ubiquitous across many countries, and many companies were keen to manufacture them,” he explains, “but not anymore. Significant amounts of nixie tubes were abandoned in basements as leftovers of a not-so-pleasant, military-driven time period. We have nothing to do with communism, but it was certainly an epoch for continuous experimentation and worthy-to-admire advancements.”

Camilo then started to develop a circuit that could work inside new consumer products, and after a few attempts and the help of two expert carpenters, he unveiled The Vintage Nixie Tube Clock in 2014. “Nuvitron was born as a way of paying tribute to the beginnings of the electronic era,” he says, “when appliances were decorative elements that caused astonishment.”

Vintage Nixie Tube Clock

The Vintage Nixie Tube Clock is still the company’s bestseller, and it’s easy to see why: The clock displays time through the warm orange-glow of nixie tubes, which are housed inside an Art Deco-inspired wooden enclosure made by skilled artisans. The clock casing, which takes more than 30 hours to create, features richly grained teak wood from renewable forests that is sanded smooth and nourished with linseed oil. “The final result,” Camilo describes, “is a timepiece that blends with the environment and stands out for its charm.”

But the most important feature of the Vintage Nixie Tube Clock—as well as all of Nuvitron’s products—is that it tells a story. “To be a Nuvitron enthusiast, it is essential to be curious,” Camilo says. “Using curiosity as our best ally, we tell unexpected stories through each design.” In order to do that, Camilo and his team research and source inspiration from the past, exploring movies, music, art, vintage recordings, advertisements, architecture and literature from each time period. “Behind each Nuvitron product, there is a way of life that people yearn for,” Camilo explains. “Based on this feeling, we are able to respect the old and bring it back again to fulfill the wishes of dreamers such as ourselves.”

Bluetooth Bell Sound Machine

Just like in college, Camilo still obsesses over vintage electronics. He has filled his home with retro gadgets sourced from bazaars and flea markets—“the places where treasures are hidden,” he describes. He collects old vacuum tube radios, and enjoys tinkering with a 910 dynamo that generates static electricity. But his favorite piece is a 1904 Edison phonograph that he restored to perfect working condition. “It’s amazing to listen to audio recordings in wax cylinders that are more than a century old,” he says. “It’s a window into an era when technological advancements changed the world.”