Design Moment: Russell Hobbs K2 Kettle, 1960

Sleek and shiny, the K2 was made of chromed steel

K2 kettle by Rusell Hobbs

K2 kettle by Rusell Hobbs

 

A small British domestic appliance company designed the first automatic kettle - one that didn’t have to be watched, that switched itself off when the water boiled – and so revolutionising the way the making of tea in millions of people.

Image: courtesy Russell Hobbs
Image: courtesy Russell Hobbs

The company, Russell Hobbs, was formed in 1952 when two engineers William Russell and Peter Hobbs who had met working for Morphy Richards went out on their own.

In their first year they designed the first automatic electric coffee percolator, the CPI, and in 1959 designed the K1, the world’s first automatic kettle. A year later Russell took the basic engineering of K1 and created the K2 (not the modernist naming convention) which was launched on to the British market in 1960 and remained in production with little change for 20 years.

Made of chromed steel it was sleek and shiny and its sloping streamlined handle felt comfortable and made it perfectly balanced when filling with water. A red switch contrasted with the black of the handle. It works by forcing a jet of steam - when the kettle is boiled - through a hole to knock a switch off.

And while we laugh now about couples getting kettles as wedding presents it’s worth noting that the K2 originally retailed at £7 in Britain when average wages were £14 a week. Originals are now collectors’ items.