I don't remember the last time I was here; states Philippe Starck frantically, trying to recall his previous whistle-stop visit to Hong Kong. 'You should never ask me about time.' This is unfortunate, seeing as the king of bizarre self-promotion is in town to plug - of all things - a clock. Of course, don't call the latest addition to his design empire just that. Apparently his collaboration with Oregon Scientific is more than a mere time-keeping exercise. Indeed, the 54-year-old producer of everything from building interiors to cutlery has always fancied himself as a philosopher. 'Today we are so disconnected from these huge things that really matter, the big rules of the universe that influence how you live,' he declares. 'Sometimes you wake up full of energy, sometimes you are completely flat and you don't know why. At a full moon I become a bit crazy.' With a beret planted on his head, he leans forward in his armchair in The Peninsula's library, explaining his new creation's various functions to me like a schoolteacher with a pop-up book at story time. 'Through this window,' he says, pointing at the Kryptonite-green screen, 'we can see and understand what is really happening in the world. Therefore you can better understand yourself.' It looks like a clock to me. For Starck, however, it's the latest manifestation of the design principle that informs all of his work, regardless of scale. Whether it is a lemon squeezer or the lobby of a boutique hotel, Starck regards his creations as reflections of 'life, society, civilisation, animal species, mutation, things like that. That's why there's no design to objects like the clock.' He says: 'The minimum design is the maximum design; the message is the product itself. Next time I'll remove the frame and just keep the face. Nobody needs design. You just need the right product.' It's all very well saying there's no need for design when you own 16 houses and travel between them in your private jet, but that's the contradictory nature of Starck for you. He puts his anti-design leanings down to his own accumulation of experience. 'Today I know why I do something, why I don't, how I should do it,' he says. 'Products need poetry. I apply this technique, this philosophy. If you speak about interior design, I only talk about human experience. I might make something or someone sexier, smarter, have a touch of humour. I am not a fashion stylist. I am closer to an engineer, with the same responsibilities. I try to have consciousness in my science.' With reclamation plans set to be re-implemented, the clock is well and truly ticking for Hong Kong's harbour. How would Starck apply his 'consciousness' there? How does someone who uses space in so many different ways to apparently enhance his environment, regard the throttling of a city's key natural feature? 'I don't know enough about it to comment,' he starts, with disappointing recalcitrance. With a bit more nudging, he then warms to the theme slightly. 'I've always said it is vulgar to buy and build just to show money and power; I don't like money values. So I've always been a little bit suspicious about Hong Kong, because it's a city whose main intention is to make money in the short term. Yet in terms of architecture, this is a good place because it's free - you can make what you want. Just look at the skyline. When you are free you will make the best and the worst, as you find here.' Isn't there anything Starck would do differently if he could get his hands on a few town plans? 'You know, the only thing that interests me is life,' he sighs, returning to his favourite theme. 'In Hong Kong I prefer the very small street with the small businesses than those big skyscrapers. Those are big, egotistical things. Real life is not vertical, life is horizontal. You find it between the big things; it grows up in the shadows of the big things. That's why I hope the government will not destroy all the life in this town to make way for these big, vertical phalluses.' At that, we get up and make our way to the photo shoot in Felix, the flamboyant, top-floor restaurant Starck designed with a bathroom whose glass urinal gives you the illusion of peeing - vertically - all over the small streets below. Such a contrary fellow he is.