Each year, millions of eyes from all over the world are focused on the sparkling Waterford Crystal Times Square New Year's Eve Ball. At 11:59 p.m., the Ball begins its descent as millions of voices unite to count down the final seconds of the year, and celebrate the beginning of a new year full of hopes, challenges, changes and dreams.
The Ball is a geodesic sphere, 12 feet in diameter and weighing 11, 875 pounds, built to withstand the stresses of high winds, precipitation and temperature fluctuation to brightly shine over 400 feet above Times Square throughout the year. For 2011, Waterford Crystal has designed 288 new "Let There Be Love” crystal triangles featuring a romantic pattern that blends a modern cascade of hearts with diamond cutting. 288 triangles are emblazoned with last year's "Let There Be Courage" design of a ribbon medal defining the triumph of courage over adversity; and 1,152 triangles sparkle with the "Let There Be Joy" design of an angel with arms uplifted welcoming the New Year. The remaining 960 triangles are the original "Let There Be Light" design of a stylized radiating sunburst.
The 2,688 crystal triangles are bolted to 672 LED modules which are attached to the aluminum frame of the Ball. The Ball is illuminated by 32,256 Philips Luxeon Rebel LEDs (light emitting diodes). Each LED module contains 48 Philips LEDs - 12 red, 12 blue, 12 green, and 12 white for a total of 8,064 of each color. By mixing these four colors, the Ball is capable of creating a palette of more than 16 million vibrant colors and billions of patterns producing a spectacular kaleidoscope effect atop One Times Square.
The "New" New Year's Eve Ball
On November 11th, 2008, The co-organizers of New Year’s Eve in Times Square (Times Square Alliance, Countdown Entertainment) unveiled a new Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball at a press conference at Hudson Scenic Studio in Yonkers, New York.
The organizers also announced that the new Ball will become a year-round attraction above Times Square in full public view January through December.
"For one hundred years, the Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball has attracted millions of revelers to Times Square on December 31st to celebrate the beginning of the New Year” said Jeff Straus, president of Countdown Entertainment and co-organizer of Times Square New Year’s Eve. "The new Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball will be a bright sparkling jewel atop One Times Square entertaining New Yorkers and tourists from around the world not only on December 31, but throughout the year.”
"The New Year’s Eve Ball is bigger, better and brighter than ever, just like Times Square itself,” said Times Square Alliance President Tim Tompkins. "And like Times Square, it’s not afraid to show off. That’s why we’re proudly putting it on display year-round so visitors to the neighborhood can enjoy a true Crossroads of the World icon.”
WATERFORD CRYSTAL created an exclusive "Let There Be Joy” design for the crystal triangles on the new Ball. Designed and crafted by Waterford artisans in Ireland, "Let There Be Joy” features the design of an angel with arms uplifted welcoming the New Year on each of the 1,728 new crystals. The remaining 960 triangles are last year’s "Let There Be Light” design of a stylized radiating starburst.
"The new 2009 Times Square New Year's Ball represents the perfect blend of time-honored craftsmanship and state of the art technology," says Pete Cheyney, Director of Corporate Communications for Waterford Crystal. "The theme for the Waterford crystals on this year's Ball, "Let There be Joy" reflects our belief that New Year's Eve is a time when happiness and optimism for the future should be at the forefront of everyone's thoughts. We at Waterford consider the Ball to be of our Company's greatest achievements."
PHILIPS LIGHTING provided the new solid state lighting technology for the Ball, resulting in an astounding increase in impact, energy efficiency, and color capabilities. Capable of creating a palette of more than 16 million colors and billions of possible patterns, the 32,256 Philips Luxeon LEDs in this year's Ball represent more than three times the number of LEDS used last year, to deliver a brighter and more beautiful New Year's experience than ever before. And this year’s Ball is 10-20% more energy efficient than last year’s already energy-efficient Ball, consuming only the same amount of energy per hour as it would take to operate two traditional home ovens.
"At Philips Lighting, we are proud to be driving innovative and energy-efficient solutions for the world's broad range of lighting applications - from celebrated landmarks to consumers' homes -- and we're especially delighted to be the official Lighting Partner to the iconic New Year's Eve Ball in Times Square," said Philips Lighting Company Director of Corporate Communications Susan Bloom. "Now bigger in size and incorporating even more powerful and energy-efficient Philips Luxeon LEDs than last year, this year's Ball will deliver a New Year's Eve experience that will be brighter, more beautiful, and more sustainable than ever before."
FOCUS LIGHTING created a spectacular and unique lighting design that utilizes over 3,500 lighting cues to orchestrate the colorful moving patterns of light radiating from the Ball. Theatrical techniques were used to show the beauty of each facet of each individual crystal, making the sparkle visible whether viewed from 5’ away (as members of the press have seen it) or from 500’ when viewed from the streets of Times Square. It is like accenting a performer on a stage.
"We tried to create a beacon of light in the sky over Times Square,” says Paul Gregory, Principal Lighting Designer for Focus Lighting.
The companies listed below also provided essential contributions to the development of the new Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball:
E:Cue Lighting Control provided lighting control system
Hudson Scenic Studio provided structural engineering design and development
Landmark Signs assembles and operates the Ball
Lapp Group provided power and control cabling
Lighting Science Group provided the 672 LED modules and technology integration
History of the Times Square New Year's Eve Ball
Revelers began celebrating New Year's Eve in Times Square as early as 1904, but it was in 1907 that the New Year's Eve Ball made its maiden descent from the flagpole atop One Times Square.
The first New Year's Eve Ball, made of iron and wood and adorned with one hundred 25-watt light bulbs, was 5 feet in diameter and weighed 700 pounds. It was built by a young immigrant metalworker named Jacob Starr, and for most of the twentieth century the company he founded, sign maker Artkraft Strauss, was responsible for lowering the ball.
As part of the 1907-1908 festivities, waiters in the fabled "lobster palaces" and other deluxe eateries in hotels surrounding Times Square were supplied with battery-powered top hats emblazoned with the numbers "1908" fashioned of tiny light bulbs. At the stroke of midnight, they all "flipped their lids" and the year on their foreheads lit up in conjunction with the numbers "1908" on the parapet of the Times Tower lighting up to signal the arrival of the new year.
The Ball has been lowered every year since 1907, with the exceptions of 1942 and 1943, when the ceremony was suspended due to the wartime "dimout" of lights in New York City. Nevertheless, the crowds still gathered in Times Square in those years and greeted the New Year with a minute of silence followed by the ringing of chimes from sound trucks parked at the base of the tower - a harkening-back to the earlier celebrations at Trinity Church, where crowds would gather to "ring out the old, ring in the new."
In 1920, a 400 pound ball made entirely of wrought iron replaced the original. In 1955, the iron ball was replaced with an aluminum ball weighing a mere 200 pounds. This aluminum Ball remained unchanged until the 1980s, when red light bulbs and the addition of a green stem converted the Ball into an apple for the "I Love New York" marketing campaign from 1981 until 1988. After seven years, the traditional glowing white Ball with white light bulbs and without the green stem returned to brightly light the sky above Times Square. In 1995, the Ball was upgraded with aluminum skin, rhinestones, strobes, and computer controls, but the aluminum ball was lowered for the last time in 1998.
For Times Square 2000, the millennium celebration at the Crossroads of the World, the New Year's Eve Ball was completely redesigned by Waterford Crystal. The new crystal Ball combined the latest in technology with the most traditional of materials, reminding us of our past as we gazed into the future and the beginning of a new millennium.
The Times Square New Year's Eve Ball 2000-2007
The 2000-2007 version of the Times Square New Year's Eve Ball (.pdf), designed by Waterford Crystal, made its first descent during the last minute of the 20th century, at the Times Square 2000 Celebration.
The Ball was a geodesic sphere, six feet in diameter, and weighed approximately 1,070 pounds. It was covered with a total of 504 Waterford crystal triangles that varied in size and ranged in length from 4.75 inches to 5.75 inches per side.
For the 2007 New Year's Eve celebration, 72 of the crystal triangles featured the new "Hope for Peace" design, consisting of three dove-like patterns symbolizing messengers of peace. The remaining 432 triangles featured Waterford designs from previous years, including the Hope for Fellowship, Hope for Wisdom, Hope for Unity, Hope for Courage, Hope for Healing, Hope for Abundance, and Star of Hope triangles. These crystal triangles were bolted to 168 translucent triangular lexan panels which were attached to the aluminum frame of the Ball. The exterior of the Ball was illuminated by 168 Philips Halogena Brilliant Crystal light bulbs, exclusively engineered for the New Year's Eve Ball to enhance the Waterford crystal. The interior of the Ball was illuminated by 432 Philips Light Bulbs (208 clear, 56 red, 56 blue, 56 green, and 56 yellow), and 96 high-intensity strobe lights, which together create bright bubbling bursts of color. The exterior of the Ball featured 90 rotating pyramid mirrors that reflect light back into the audience at Times Square.
All 696 lights and 90 rotating pyramid mirrors were computer controlled, enabling the Ball to produce a state-of-the-art light show of eye-dazzling color patterns and a spectacular kaleidoscope effect atop One Times Square. The now-retired 2000-2007 New Year's Eve Ball is the property of the building owners of One Times Square.
The actual notion of a ball "dropping" to signal the passage of time dates back long before New Year's Eve was ever celebrated in Times Square. The first "time-ball" was installed atop England's Royal Observatory at Greenwich in 1833. This ball would drop at one o'clock every afternoon, allowing the captains of nearby ships to precisely set their chronometers (a vital navigational instrument).
Around 150 public time-balls are believed to have been installed around the world after the success at Greenwich, though few survive and still work. The tradition is carried on today in places like the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, DC, where a time-ball descends from a flagpole at noon each day - and of course, once a year in Times Square, where it marks the stroke of midnight not for a few ships' captains, but for over one billion people watching worldwide.