A plastic company, barley silos and an inner-city location. The Nylex Clock has achieved icon status since it was erected on top of the No. 2 Silos of Richmond Maltings on Gough Street almost 60 years ago. Its social and historical significance to the State of Victoria is undisputed, but only recently was it re-illuminated.
The Victorian Heritage Database outlines the Nylex sign as a double-sided sky-sign mounted on a cross braced frame of steel L-section angle, approximately 15 meters high. The sign itself consists of the words NYLEX PLASTICS and is crowned by an LED thermometer display/clock. The word NYLEX is formed by metal trough sans serif letters illuminated by single rows of light bulbs. The word PLASTIC is formed by metal shallow trough serif letters outlined in Neon tubing. The word Plastics is overlayed with Neon tube lettering, without backing, spelling EVERY TIME.
The Nylex sky-sign and its significance stems from Victoria’s industrial heritage in Richmond. These large sky-signs, which used to be archetypal features of the Melbourne skyline, are increasing in rarity. The Nylex sign is of further rarity as it is the most complex, and the only major sky sign in Melbourne that uses such a range of lighting. Nylex, one of the largest plastics manufacturers in Australia, and the first to be established (in 1927), grew from premises below the sign in Cremorne Street. Exemplary in inspiring Melbournians to look at potential with humble beginnings, the sign lights the way for many thousands of commuters. It inspires. It is considered the unofficial gateway into Melbourne. Despite this, the sign has been vacant across Melbourne’s iconic skyline for most of its life since a 2005 restoration encompassed 17,000 LED lights, 800 meters of neon tubing and 2 kilometers of electrical cable.
As part of the redevelopment of the industrial Melbourne precinct, Caydon wanted to ensure generations come to enjoy the clock, like many before them have done. Step 1 in the sign’s restoration journey was a test to see what elements still functioned. Due to our involvement with the sign to date, SignManager were called in to assist Caydon in this process. Initially, our project managers assessed the site to ascertain if the original power supply was still intact only to find the switch board had been removed. Our team then organised an up-close inspection inside the sign to ascertain what components could potentially work and what would be required to illuminate other components up for a test. Caydon gave us the go ahead to spend a week in the sign rewiring components that would potentially work and bridging components that we knew were inoperable. We then organised a generator to be placed on site to temporarily run the sign for 24 hours and once the client was ready, project manager Thoren Hadley flicked the switch and brought the Nylex sign back to life. Sadly, the clock/thermometer display that Melbournians of the past depended on was not in working condition, however the remainder of the sign shone through the night.
The 24-hour illumination surprised hundreds of thousands of Melbournains. Many people, from young teenagers who have never seen the sign lit up, to Nylex Clock enthusiasts who have had the sky sign as part of their daily commutes for decades, flocked to the site to revel in the occasion. This sign has transcended from branding to beauty. It’s a stark reminder of the importance of design, uniqueness and perseverance. SignManager is extremely proud of the work done for Nylex Plastics and Caydon Development, and we thank everyone who was involved in making this happen.