Philips Tobrouk Table Lamp
Materials: Tubular white opal glass base with a globe on top. Brass rod, Bakelite E27 socket.
Height: 27 cm / 10.62”
Width: ∅ 17,5 cm / 6.88”
Base: ∅ 10,5 cm – 4.13”
Electricity: 1 bulb E27, 1 x 60 watt maximum, 110/220 volt.
Any type of light bulb can be used, but preferably a small white or frosted one.
Period: 1970s, 1980s – Mid-Century Modern.
Designer: Herwig and Frank Sterckx (born 1948).
Manufacturer: Philips, Turnhout, Leuven, Belgium.
Other versions: This Philips Tobrouk table lamp exists in several colours. It was also made with a fluorescent light bulb, the Tobrouk – PL with an 11 watt bulb, as you can see below.
Tobrouk table lamp
The first model Tobrouk lamp was designed by Jean-Paul Emonds-Alt. It is different and has got nothing to do with this one. The table lamp is 38 cm (14.96”) high and was made with two light bulbs inside, one in the base and one in the top of the lamp. It was made in the 1960s and 1970s.
This Tobrouk table lamp was designed by the twin brothers Herwig and Frank Sterckx. They designed the lamp in the late 1960s for Glasfabriek De Rupel (Glass Factory De Rupel), also in Belgium, who also produced it as a vase. It was never named Tobrouk. It was Philips that gave it the name in the mid seventies. The brothers had now idea that Philips sold these lamps until recent years (2000’s).
Herwig and Frank Sterckx
Herwig and Frank Sterckx are graphic designers from Antwerp, Belgium. The twin brothers studied at the Koninklijke Academie voor Schone Kunsten van Antwerpen (Royal Academy of Fine Arts).
Their dad, Piet Sterckx was a journalist and he wrote an article for a newspaper about the Spanish glass blowers that worked in the glass factory in Boom, “N.V. Glasfabriek De Rupel” (Limited Liability Company Glass Factory De Rupel), named after the river that runs along the city.
The director of the glass factory asked him if he knew someone who could make modern designs. He first asked his sons that then studied at the academy in Antwerp. In the period 1968 – 1969, the duo designed a whole series of lamps for De Rupel. Al the lamps were hand blown in steel moulds. The test pieces were first blown into wooden moulds.
Herwig and Frank Sterckx, students at that time, never heard anything about production and were never paid for their work. The director died suddenly and the successor claimed not to believe in the modern direction.
Glasfabriek De Rupel
The glass factory was founded in 1923. De Rupel was led by Léon Boon, one of the 30 investors. Léon Boon was a butcher and due to back problems he was appointed chairman of the management board. The company produced many glass items. Chandeliers and parts for lamps were produced since the 1930s.
De Rupel was a glass producer, they did not commercialise the lighting themselves. The lamps were offered at trade fairs to lighting companies who added the wiring and included them in their sales range. They produced glass for companies such as Massive, Philips and Bo-Niko. Many lamps on Vintageinfo uses glass from De Rupel. Some examples can be found in the links.
The glass-works went bankrupt in 1975 after it merges with 3 other Belgian glass companies: Doyen, Boussu and Verreries Nouvelles de Manage (New Glass works of Manage). The fusion was without success. Glass production in Belgium became to expensive. De Rupel was the only factory that made a slight profit. The joint name was MANUVERBEL (Manufacture Belge du Verre – Belgian Glass Factory).
The company was sold by the Belgian government to the German company BEGA Gantenbrink-Leuchten, also owner of Glashütte Limburg and dismantled. The government wanted to recoup the overdue social security contributions.
Today the BOOM company produces outdoor lighting and is located in Puurs, Belgium. It is named BOOM Buitenverlichting NV (BOOM Outdoor Lighting Limited Liability Company).
In addition to designing, the twins also had a modest career on television, but with a major impact. At that time there was only 1 TV station, named the BRT, (Belgian Radio and TV) so everyone watched it.
They were a gimmick in the Echo show: the two guys with a ladder (De ladderdragers). Herwig and Frank Sterckx always just walked by and no further attention was paid to them. The program makers never gave any explanation, so the duo naturally started to intrigue.
On this page a fragment of the duo, recorded in Wetteren on March 14, 1969. The ladder of the two weird guys caught fire on the market and the fire brigade had to rush out…
Echo was a Flemish human interest program that was broadcast every week from 1961 to 1973. Around 8,400 mini-reports were made. The program was often awarded.
Jean-Paul Emonds-Alt was a Belgian designer, sculptor, and painter born in Etterbeek near Brussels in 1928. He died on 13 August 2014 at the age of 86. Emonds-Alt studied sculpture at the National School of Architecture and Decorative Arts (Ter Kameren – La Cambre) in Brussels, in the studio of Oscar Jespers, of which he later became assistant.
From 1964 onward he devoted himself mainly to design, focusing on the shape of industrial products such as this table lamp he designed for Philips. He has been repeatedly honoured for his work.
It is always said that Jean-Paul Emonds-Alt also designed the Tahiti table lamp for Philips, a similar lamp also completely made of glass. But that is not true. It is a lamp made by Massive from Belgium. The lamp has got no name. It is a fabrication of a dealer some years ago. Sometimes you find it with a Massive label, never with a Philips label. It is also a design by Herwig and Frank Sterckx.
Emonds-Alt also designed the logo for the Brussels Metro in 1976.
Tobrouk (Tobruk) is a port city on Libya‘s eastern Mediterranean coast, near the border of Egypt. A strategic place were famous battles between the Nazi’s and the Allies took place. A movie was made about it in 1967, starring Rock Hudson and George Peppard. Maybe the name of this table lamp is based on this well known film.
Koninklijke Philips N.V.
Inspired by the fast-growing electricity industry and the promising results of Gerard Philips own experiments to make reliable carbon filaments, Frederik Philips (his father) financed the purchase of a modest factory in Eindhoven, The Netherlands in 1891. Frederik Philips was a Jewish banker based in Zaltbommel.
In 1895, after difficult first four years and near bankruptcy, Anton Philips joined the company. He was Gerard’s younger brother. With Anton’s arrival, the family business began to expand rapidly. The brothers changed their family business by founding the Philips corporation. They laid the foundations for the later electronics multinational.
In 1930 the first shaver of the Philips company was introduced and was simply called “The Philishave”.
A day before the German invasion in the Netherlands on 9 Mai 1940, the Philips family fled to the United States of America, taking a large amount of the company capital with them. Operating from the US as the North American Philips Company, they managed to run the company throughout the war. After World War II the company was moved back to the Netherlands, with their headquarters in Eindhoven.
Red version of the Philips Tobrouk table lamp. On the right the label of the PL version of the Philips Tobrouk table lamp.