The Final Months Due to the high cost of the internal Decca TV parts, Keracolor decided to start supplying their dealership network with non-working display models, these had false (GRP) silver screens fitted, these were also sold as marketing tools for a number of companies and charities, whereby a slot was cut in the false screen for people to insert completed questionnaires or donations to the charity, the 12” model was also used by a company making children’s toys. In late 1976, Keracolor’s technical director Howard Taylor decided to leave, although he carried on working within the television industry for many years. In early 1977 a local television repair company was employed to install the Decca internal components into the final remaining 20 cabinets to complete an export order for the Middle East, this was to be the very last run of original Keracolors Television.
The Keracolor range of television sets was described in their 1970 sales brochure as “the most comprehensive offered by any manufacturer in the world”. Unfortunately, despite the company’s efforts to expand, Keracolor did sell a large numbers of TV's during their seven years in business, it was claimed around 15000 were produced, but this figure seem very high considering the weekly production numbers. Nonetheless, the Keracolor Television remains one of the most innovative television receiver designs ever offered to the public, and a product reflecting the popular culture of its time – as expressed in television and film by The Prisoner (1967-1968), and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 (1968) among others. Keracolor ultimately served an exclusive “niche market”, a fact which, despite their hopes of entering the mainstream market, a fact acknowledged in one of the company’s first sales pitches - Keracolor “a colour receiver for the connoisseur”.
Over their seven-year production run Keracolor made a number of special orders, including five suspended monitors fitted with the Decca 40 series chassis for a theatre in London, and 20 suspended models for the Barbican Centre, the TV sets have been owned by many famous people including the late great Manchester United football legend George Best, who was not only a football player but was also a fashion icon who had his own shop in Manchester call "Best's Boutique" which he opened in 1967 with Mike Summerby, it's also interesting to note that George also had a Lotus Europa sports car (NNB 730H) in the same colour Yellow as Keracolor fleet, as well as the Type Jag he is more famous for owning, the Manchester United Physio (sorry I can't remember his name) also a special purchased a white 20" remote control Keraolor in late 1976, which is now part of my collection, also the racing driver Chris Meek has a late 26" VF White Keracolor.
The Company Expands With ever increasing demand for the new Televisions, production was moved to the new factory in Cheshire, at this time they recruited a laminator to make the cabinets on site to keep up with demand. At this point Keracolor were only producing the 25" models, due to Decca produced a new larger screen which still used the 30 series chassis, this meant a new set of moulds had to be produced to fit the larger 26” picture tubes. In early 1973, they decided to add a 19” model to the range, these moulds were later adapted to take a 20” screen, these sets sold in reasonable numbers, they even added an even smaller 12” model which sold in smaller numbers, and then a 22” model was added to the range, Keracolor even made a 20” square Keracolor “for the ‘squares’ of this world” this was called the Conventional Model of which only a handful were ever sold. The 20” sphere model was available in a hanging version which could be suspended in its entirety from the ceiling on a chrome-plated chain, this came with a reinforcement kit for the ceiling & could also be purchased as a floor-standing model which included an additional black metal frame to hang the Keracolor from. The first frames were made out of box section steel by a local blacksmith, the later frames were made out of round tubing stand on early models by a local car exhaust company, later models had stands made of box section steel. Keracolor also made a couple of special order 26" suspended models for customers one of which was displayed for over 30 years in the top window of "Round House" on Lytham st Annes sea front. Keracolor had produced just over 900 televisions in fibreglass, when due to the increasing demand it became apparent they needed to start producing the cabinets on a larger scale to reduce costs & keep up with demand as they were only able to produce around 25 cabinets a week in glass-reinforced plastic (GRP), a number of production techniques were considered, including injection moulding, however they finally settled on making the cabinets from vacuum-formed plastic, Howard was given the task of making the vacuum-forming tools, whilst Arthur purchased the machinery required which at the time was the largest Vacuum former (VF) available from a local company. When all the new equipment was in place and up and running, they could start to selling the new VF Televisions on a much larger scale, offering them “to order” in any colour including a wood grain finish & even a very 70's grovey flock finish. The main drawback to the vacuum-formed plastic cabinets were a more prominent join around the circumference of the cabinet & each half of the cabinet (hemisphere) had to be formed from a four-foot-square sheet of plastic, they would then cut the halves from the sheets using a bandsaw and join them together but glueing & seam welding using bits of off cut plastic & a large soldering iron, this created a unsightly join around the cabinet which resulted in a number of complaints from dealers. However, the new production techniques allowed Keracolor to increase produce to 200 televisions a week and clear the backlog of orders. Keracolor also added other products to range including a range of Keracolor (GSK) audio equipment, window shutters, Lotus Europa front spoilers, Ford Capri spoilers, Christmas tree stands, flower tubes, steering-wheel desks, car tonneau covers, garden chairs, plant pot, Christmas tree stand, and even GRP sledges & LED watches.
Keracolor had a very close working relationship with Lotus Sports Cars which resulted in Lotus supplying 3 yellow Europa Sports Cars in Kit from in around 1973 (complete cars with Engines removed), these are believed to be the last 3 Europa cars sold by Lotus in kit form before the introduction of VAT on kit cars. A deal was worked out with Lotus whereby the 3 cars would be assembled at the Keracolor factory, they had to be painted in the companies colours of bright yellow with the Keracolor in black on both sides & boot, for some reason only 1 car had a large K on the bonnet . The cars were driven around the UK to promote the new 12" Kerachrome TV model B812 and featured in the heavily in the Kerachrome brochure, these TV were built using the split chassis from the Decca Gypsy and incorporated an intergral carrying-handle. The Kerachrome was the smallest set Keracolor every produced, and only sold in limited numbers.
Sales & Distribution The first Keracolor was supplied to Harrods of London in late 1970, priced at £375, with another four sets delivered the following week. The exclusive exposure of the Keracolor in Harrods was a very shrewd marketing move by Arthur - it catapulted the new design into the public eye. Once people heard about the ground breaking design in Harrods they asked their local dealers were they could but the Keracolors Televisions. Orders started to arrive, many of the dealers were a little skeptical about these new sphere TVs until they discovered they were fitted with the Decca Bradford (30 series) chassis which had a good had a reputation for reliability, and service information and spare parts were readerly available. In some of the very later Keracolors, the Decca 80 and 100 series chassis were used, and special order sets were also produced with Decca first remote control TV, the remote that came with the sets were RC1 a very basic Sonic clicker device.
The sales brochures at the time read “KERACOLOR offer a picture with crystal clear clarity, controls as easy as any, sound from the centre, in fact a safety-first set of British design and British manufacture -- in all a colour receiver for the connoisseur”.
Cabinets The first production run of Keracolor cabinets was made using fibreglass (GRP). There were floor-standing models, ceiling models, hanging versions, and even a conventional square table model. Cabinets could be ordered in any colour or even with a teak wood grain effect. Beautiful white and sophisticated black were the most recommended colours (to match any décor). The 26” model with a built-in Decca 8-track cartridge player fitted (with twin speakers for full stereo) was considered the top of the line. It took twelve months to build a wooden sphere from which a fibreglass mould could be taken. The first cabinet was produced by a company called Waterside Plastics Ltd. located in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, Northeast of Manchester. Interestingly, the following year, Waterside built one of the space-age “Futuro” fibreglass leisure houses. The utopian prefabricated “Futuro” dwellings were originally designed in 1968 by a Finnish architect - Matti Suuronen. The pair assembled the first 100 Keracolors whilst still working in Arthur’s garage, before they moved production to a factory on Middlewich Road, Northwich Cheshire in 1970. At this point they were still using Waterside Plastics to produce the cabinets until there was some kind of falling out. They then moved production of the cabinets to another company that made a small number of cabinets, but due to the poor workmanship from this second company (not using enough resin in the making of the cabinets) Arthur decided that the only way to maintain quality was to make the cabinets themselves.
The pair arranged to meet one evening in a pub in Wilmslow, Cheshire, over a beer the pair decided they could work together on the new project which at time Howard hadn't even seen, therefore the pair arranged a second meeting at Arthur’s home in Cheshire a couple of days later. When Howard arrived at Arthur's home the pair entered Arthur’s garage under great secrecy, this was the first time Howard would see the ground breaking spherical design & he was taken back by the beauty of the design. The combination of Arthur’s business attributes and Howard’s technical ability proved to be a winning combination in the success of Keracolor. It was decided that Arthur would approach Decca Televisions with a view to using their 10 series chassis in the first cabinets, along with the Mullard colour picture tubes that Decca were using at that time. Decca Managing Director Mr Spencer was very pleased & excited about the project as their own design team had been working on a sphere-shaped cabinet which following the success of Keracolor never made it into production, the original plan was to use the Decca 10 series chassis, but Aurther was offer Decca new 30 series chassis instead which was being manufactured in Decca new Northern factor in Bradford, this later became know as the "Decca Bradford Chassis" this new design had advantages as it had removable panels. Howard then set about installing all of the new components, this was not a straightforward task as special brackets had to be fabricated, a special wooden shelf made for the chassis to sit on, they also designed a swivel mechanism so that the entire set could be easily rotated there was also a wooden wedge fitted so that TV viewing angles could be adjusted. The Decca chassis available at this time used valves, which generated a great deal of heat in the fibre glass case, the heat build-up in the cabinets was managed in part by convection, this aloud a large volume of air in the cabinet to circulated and dissipate the heat from the valves evenly. This allowed for fewer unsightly air vents in the back of the set. Once the various design problems had been worked out, the pair built the prototype Keracolor.
Keracolor DesignIntroduced in 1966, Eero Aarnio’s futuristic Ball Chair made regular appearances on the ITC television series The Prisoner, filmed in 1966-67. With the arrival three years later of the similar sphere-shaped Keracolor televisions, designed in England by Arthur Bracegirdle, the Keracolor’s spherical design might have been inspired by Number Two’s Ball Chair on The Prisoner, and perhaps also the mysterious spherical bubble nicknamed “Rover”, which emitted a high-pitched whine and an occasional frightening roar as it patrolled the surreal prison environment of The Village, intercepting any would-be escapees. It is sometimes misreported that the Keracolor designs were inspired by an astronaut’s helmet “after watching the first moon landing” and similarly - that they were designed to resemble the spherical Sputnik satellite launched in 1957. Both theories have been vehemently denied by Arthur Bracegirdle himself.
The Keracolor is an example of pure space age design, a movement that made considerable use of spheres. Its design is consistent with the work of modernist designers of the ‘50s and ‘60s (such as Eero Aarnio, and Charles and Ray Eames) who eschewed traditional forms, substituting futuristic uses of basic streamlined shapes and testing the limits of new materials. The swivel tulip base used on some of the Keracolors resembles the Tulip chair of Finnish-American industrial designer Eero Saarinen. Tulip bases also appear on more conventional television stands of this period, sometimes with a tilt adjustment. The Keracolor’s design was envisaged in 1968, which defines it as a product of sixties modernism, although the sets didn't go on sale until late 1970. Readers familiar with The Prisoner will recall how the opening sequence incorporated claps of thunder, timed for dramatic effect. Resonating with this is the name – Keracolor. It was derived from the Greek word keraunos - meaning “thunderbolt”. The Keracolor brand was described as being “synonymous in the television industry with the very latest and most modern and up-to-date design concept in the world”. The “U” in KERACOLOR was left out for aesthetic reasons – in order for the brand name to look symmetrical when displayed adjacent to other controls on the side of the set.
Keracolor - the History of a true British design Icon of the 20th Century
For a moment in time, the world was transfixed on where we would be going…..off to the moon and beyond. Politics,culture, communications, technology….all of these were exploding into uncharted areas. And design was transformed too. Furniture, clothing, transportation,automation, communication - nothing would ever be the same again. Space age design has it’s roots in a popular era most commonly called “Mid-Century Modern design:This type began in the mid 50’s and is best epitomized by the work of Charles Eames and peers, and continued thru the 60’s and perhaps early 70’s as well.
An offshoot of this design trend involved space age influences. The movie “2001” by Stanley Kubrick epitomized the clean rounded shaped, biomorphic design that held fast in culture for around 8-10 years. Other movies in a similar vein included Woody Allen’s “Sleeper”, the television series “Star Trek” in the US, and the hit “Space 1999” in the U.K. Among the most radical changes to occur were to the electronics of the era. Radios, stereos, turntables, TVs - everything changed,and how it was presented to the “user” made all the difference in the world. In the late 1960’s, TV’s began to change in design. First, the addition of the Saarinen tulip base occurred to many “normal” televisions. Then, the cases themselves become both smoothed on its corners as well as having integrated pedestals as well. In 1968 a British designer by the name of Arthur Bracegirdle designed and put into production the Keracolor television, the worlds first perfectly spherical TV made from Fibreglass, which was to become one of the greatest British design icons of the 20th Century
Future – in 2006 Arthur Bracegirdle sold the original Keracolor moulds & tooling which had been sat unused for OVER 30 years to John Dunne, a small production run of Keracolor TV were produced using the moulds and using same techniques as 30 years previous, watch with space for the next exciting chapter in the history of Keracolor.......................................................
I would like to thank the original Designer Arthur Derick Bracegirdle for giving me the opportunity to the original moulds & tooling for one of greatest design icons of the 20 Century. I would also like to acknowledge the help I have received from the original Technical Director of Keracolor Mr Howard Taylor for his great insight into the history of the Keracolor television and allowing me to use some of his original photos and brochure pictures. I have been collecting Keracolor Televisions for over 20 years, in that time I have restored & modernised many Keracolor, and still own many original Keracolor’s that are still in use today. So when I was given the opportunity to purchase all the original mould and meet the original Designer, it was too good an opportunity to miss. I will never forget the first time a saw my first Keracolor television, I was walking to school early one morning, as I pasted the local Television dealer they had a 20” model on display in the front window, at that time I had never seen anything like it. I never imagined that nearly 30 years later I would be producing the same televisions.
"The design registered, spherical format is unique and indeed the receivers are those of the future but available TODAY in fact" "Keracolor 1970"
Keracolor Televisions have been featured in many design books, and can be found museum around the work the work,including the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) & National Media Museum in Bradford.
"L'Utopie Du Tout Plastique", page 124
"The Sixties" by Phaiddon, page 103 and 113
"TV is King" by Michael Bennett Levy, Page 53 and 54
“Collecting the 60’s” by Madeleine Marsh,
The original moulds and tooling were store for sometime up stairs at the factory until it closed down, they were then stored under cover at the bottom of Arthur’s garden until recently, after 30 years of storage the Keracolor is back!!! There have been a number of sphere shape, Space Helmet and retro style Television produced since including the JVC Videosphere, Panasonic TR-005, Zarach ,Alphelion, Philips Discoverer, LG, JVC 3100D & the Orbit TV but none has come close to the simple classic timeless beauty of the 20th Century Icon which is the Keracolor Sphere Television.
1976 Keracolor Television price list
B 626 26” sphere with base …. Cost £445.00 B 926C 26” Sphere with Base + 8-Track stereo cartridge player….Cost £475.00
B 722 22” sphere with base….Cost £405.00
B 520 20” Sphere with base….Cost £375.00
B 812 12” Sphere Portable MONOCHROME, Mains/Battery….Cost £110.00
B 1020T 20” Conventional table model….Cost £275.00 Options· Available in White and/or BLACK. (standard) Wood grain finish + £6.00
Any choice of colour from standard colour chart. (to order) + £17.50
All handing & suspended models + £15.00
All Models with radio included + £19.95
Export crating, per set + £15.00
Remote control models to order
The audio range and the square Keracolor were designed by Keracolor Technical Director Howard Taylor. There were 5 models in the range all of which were available with a choice of turn-tables, colour options including wood grain & with different speaker options to suit all budgets.
“GSK audio systems are a logical development of the company’s colour, television receiver, in spherical format, which are synonymous in the industry with the most modern and up-to-date design concept in the world.” (Keracolor 1970)
1976 GSK AUDIO PRICE LIST
GSK B 14AL Cost £53.95 Three watts, sound output. Mians ‘on’ neon indicator. Volume and tone controls. Fully automatic turntable. Lightweight pick-up arm fitted with high output cartridge. Solid state circuitry. Tinted lid.
GSK B 15AM Cost £82.50 Ten watts, sound output. Mains ‘on’ neon indicator. Volume, bass, treble and balance controls. Inputs facilities include – radio, tape and auxiliary. Choice of` automatic turntables `fitted with high output, ceramic cartridges. Lightweight pick-up arm fitted with high output cartridge. Solid state, modular construction for ease of serving. Tinted lid.
GSK B 16 AH Cost £113.95 Twenty-five watts, sound output. Mains ‘on’ neon indicator. Volume, bass, treble and balance controls. Inputs facilities include – radio, tape and auxiliary. Choice of` high precision, belt drive turntables fitted with magnetic cartridges. Solid state, hermetically sealed modular construction for easy of servicing. Tinted lid.
GSK B 17 AR Cost £120.50 Twenty-five watts, sound output. Mains ‘on’ neon indicator. Volume, bass, treble and balance controls. Inputs facilities include – radio, tape and auxiliary. Radio Choice of` high precision, belt drive turntables fitted with magnetic cartridges. Solid state, hermetically sealed modular construction for easy of servicing. Tinted lid.
GSK B 18 AMC Cost £151.40 Ten watts, sound output. Mains ‘on’ neon indicator + stereo indicator. Volume, bass, treble and balance controls + multi push button, VHF, stereo radio. . Auxiliary Inputs facilities. Choice of` automatic turntables `fitted with high output, ceramic cartridges. Stereo cassette player fitted with auto stop and automatic recording levels controls: twin recording level meters. Solid state, modular construction for easy of servicing. Tinted lid.
Options and extras Available in White and/or Black. (standard) Wood grain finish + £3.00
Any choice of colour from standard colour chart. (to order) + £12.00
All models with radio + £19.95 B 1120S STAND (Audio/table model/portable ect.) £7.50
Export crating, per set + £15.00
Cassette adaption + £14.15
Special model configurations can be produced to specific orders.
Speaker Specifications and options
Standard B 19 ASM . Fitted with 8” x 5”,three watts, full range, dual coned loudspeakers….Cost £37.50
De Luxe B 20 ASH Fitted with 8” round ten watts, full range, dual coned, loudspeakers: acoustically damped + cabinet refinements….Cost £44.95
Speakers single ( standard) Cost £21.75
Speakers Single ( De Lux) Cost £26.25 15AM GSK Audio Garrards A. + £3.00 15AM GSK Aduio Garrards B + £5.00 16AH GSK Audio Goldring Supreme + £1.50
Keracolor Watches 5 Functions watch ….Cost £17.95 4 Function watch …. Cost £14.95
Copyright © Keracolor Ltd