Now & Zen

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Now & Zen, Inc. is an American company founded by Steve McIntosh in January 1995.[1] Based in Boulder, Colorado. The target market for the firm's brand is the demographic known as the "Cultural Creatives," a progressive segment of American society that has been responsible for the substantial growth of the natural foods industry. McIntosh had previously worked as an executive in the natural foods industry and sought to create consumer electronic products that would appeal to this same demographic.[2]

The Now & Zen product that first proved the concept of a "natural electronic product" was The Zen Alarm Clock, which was introduced in early 1996.[3]

The original Zen Alarm Clock is a triangular-shaped wooden clock that wakes users gradually with a series of acoustic chimes. In 2001 the firm introduced a portable, digital version of its chiming alarm clock,[4] which has now become the company’s most popular product. In 2005 the firm introduced an alarm clock and timer featuring a six-inch brass bowl-gong, called The Zen Timepiece.[5]

As of 2008, Now & Zen’s product line remains popular, with the firm continuing to exhibit modest annual growth in sales volume.[6]


McIntosh’s original intent when founding the company was to create useful household products that would reflect an emerging new "spiritual renaissance" aesthetic, combining the harmonic proportions of sacred geometry with motifs from traditional Japanese culture.[7] He set out to create products like the Tiffany Lamp, which was both an appliance and an icon of Art Nouveau design.

Manufacture and patents[edit]

Originally, the firm manufactured most aspects of The Zen Alarm Clock at its factory in Longmont, Colorado. But over time the firm contracted out a variety of subassemblies, such as its wooden clock bodies. In 2003, after rejecting an acquisition bid from Gaiam, Inc., the firm adopted a new business model under which the complete manufacturing of finished products was done overseas by third party manufactures. This new business model allowed the firm to concentrate on marketing, leading to the opening of the company’s Downtown Boulder showroom.[8]

Now & Zen holds two patents covering both the design and utility aspects of its chiming alarm clocks: U.S. Patent No. Des. 390,121, issued February 3, 1998, and U.S. Patent No. US 6,819,635 B2, issued November 16, 2004.


All Now & Zen products have been conceived, designed, and invented by founder and president Steve McIntosh.[9] Although the firm has produced a wide variety of "natural-themed" household products since its inception, its product line has now been largely limited to its acoustic alarm clocks and timers. The wood for all Now & Zen products is grown on North American tree farms and shipped to Shenzhen, China to be made into clock bodies. The electronics are made in Shenzhen, China, and the firm’s bowl-gongs are made in Moradabad, India.[10]

Now & Zen's natural-themed products are closely associated with the natural foods industry, which has made Boulder, Colorado, its unofficial headquarters.[11] Besides Now & Zen, other prominent Boulder-based natural product companies include Celestial Seasonings, where McIntosh worked as an executive prior to founding Now & Zen, Wild Oats Market, and Pangea Organics.[12]

Popular culture[edit]

The Zen Alarm Clock is now well-recognized in American popular culture,[13][14] having been reviewed by national media such as The New York Times,[15] The Los Angeles Times,[16] the Good Morning America television show,[17] The Washington Post,[18] and Good Housekeeping Magazine.[19] Now & Zen's Zen Alarm Clock continues to be widely reviewed and discussed on blogs featured on websites throughout the world.[20][21][22][23][24][25] Zen Clocks are sold worldwide, but distribution outside the U.S. is limited.

The ongoing success of the Zen Alarm Clock as a distinctive decorative accessory, reflecting a vaguely "New Age" aesthetic, positions it somewhere in between the high design of the classic Tiffany Lamp, and a popular culture novelty item, such as the Lava Lamp.[26]


Because of The Zen Alarm Clock's New Age positioning, some reviewers have ridiculed it. In his review of the product in The New York Times, reviewer William L. Hamilton wrote: "It is like a monk losing his temper — om to OM! Now! Tranquil, tenacious — the Dalai Lama as drill sergeant".[27] Similarly, Dads Magazine referred to the aesthetics of the triangular shaped version of the clock as a "hippie carpenter contraption," but nevertheless praised the way it woke users gently and gradually.[28] Moreover, despite the ongoing success of The Zen Alarm Clock, the company has also had some failures, such as The Affirmation Station, introduced in 1998, which was designed to wake users with their personal affirmations. However, the product failed to gain consumer acceptance and was discontinued after three years on the market.[29]


  1. ^ That was Zen, this is Now: A former Celestial Seasonings executive builds a new company on a clock that takes its time, Boulder Planet, July 10, 1996
  2. ^ Spiritually Alarming Wake-up Call: Boulder entrepreneur designs a gentle sounding alarm clock with philosophical overtones, Rocky Mountain News, October 14, 1996
  3. ^ Zen and the art of shut-eye maintenance, Forbes magazine, November 30, 1998
  4. ^ Company’s new alarm clock a hit, Boulder Daily Camera, November 23, 2001
  5. ^ Now & Zen Introduces Tibetan Bowl-Gong Clock, Boulder Daily Camera, September 3, 2005
  6. ^ A Business Minute with Steve McIntosh Founder and President of Now & Zen, Inc., Boulder County Business Report, January 17, 2008
  7. ^ Cool Zen Tools, GQ Magazine, December, 2000
  8. ^ Now & Zen Opens Headquarters Store on Pearl Street, Boulder Daily Camera, June 20, 2003
  9. ^ A Business Minute with Steve McIntosh Founder and President of Now & Zen, Inc., Boulder County Business Report, January 17, 2008
  10. ^ Patent Protection: Companies Going Global Can Become Vulnerable to the Loss of Trade Secrets, Boulder Daily Camera, August 16, 1999
  11. ^ State of Colorado Official Website
  12. ^ Pangea Organic's line of natural skin-care products is growing, USA Today, March 6, 2009
  13. ^ Walter Truett Anderson, The Next Enlightenment, St. Martins Press, 2003, ISBN 0-312-31769-7, p. 196
  14. ^ Steve McIntosh, Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution, Paragon House, 2007, ISBN 978-1-55778-867-2, p. 1-2
  15. ^ A New Crow or Alarm Clocks, New York Times, January 25, 2001
  16. ^ Products to Help Pass or Mark Time, Los Angeles Times, January 6, 2002
  17. ^ Review of Unique Alarm Clocks by Diane Sawyer, Good Morning America, television program, April 14, 2002
  18. ^ Raymond McCaffrey, Alarm Clock Helps Family Escape Fire In Home, The Washington Post, February 21, 2008.
  19. ^ Gentler-Rousing Alarm Clocks, Good housekeeping Magazine, April 3, 2009.
  20. ^ Reinventing the Alarm Clock: A Gentle Awakening Can Lead to a Better Day Article, Marisa Belger, May 24, 2006
  21. ^ How Other Cultures Awaken - Alarm Clock Alternatives, Care2Make a Difference Article, by Annie B. Bond, Dec 12, 2001
  22. ^ The Zen Alarm Clock changed my life. No really, AJS Wiki Product Review, by Aaron Sherman, August 6, 2007
  23. ^ Tired Of Your Traditional Alarm Clock? Try A Zen Alarm Clock!, Singapore Street Directory: Editorials, by Mike Yeager, Retrieved March 6, 2010
  24. ^ Zen Alarm Clock Product Review, WiseGEEK Article, by R. Kayne, Retrieved March 6, 2010
  25. ^ Zen Alarm Clock Product Review, Uncommon Goods, by A.Z. Waddell, Retrieved March 6, 2010
  26. ^ Wake up serenely on the road with alarm clock, Denver Business Journal, November, 2002
  27. ^ A New Crow or Alarm Clocks, New York Times, January 25, 2001
  28. ^ My Favorite Gifts, Dads Magazine, November/December 2000
  29. ^ Self-help for the sleepy, The Sacramento Bee, December 9, 1998

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