Saturday, September 20, 2008

Chronophage Corpus Clock with Grasshopper Escapement

The £1 million timepiece, known as The Corpus Clock, has been commissioned and designed to honor the John Harrison, who was famously the pioneer of Longitude and inventor of the esoteric clock mechanism known as a grasshopper escapement.

The clock has been designed by the inventor and horologist Dr John Taylor and makes ingenious use of the grasshopper escapement, moving it from the inside of the clock to the outside and refashioning it as a Chronophage, or time-eater, which literally devours time.

The Corpus Clock does not use hands or digital numbers. Instead it uses a series of 60 slits cut into the face, each six degrees apart, which light up to show the time. The seconds are counted down by each step of the mechanical insect who crawls around the disc edged like a lizard's spine. Its movement triggers blue flashing lights which dart across the clock-face, running in concentric circles to mark passing seconds before pausing at the correct hour and minute. (See video below)


The Corpus Clock has been invented and designed by Dr John Taylor for Corpus Christi College Cambridge for the exterior of the college's new library building.

It was unveiled on 19 September by Prof Stephen Hawking, cosmologist and author of the global bestseller, A Brief History of Time.

Article 1-->Link Article 2-->Link Article 3-->Link Article 4-->Link

See also;
All Watchismo Times Clock Posts
All Inventor Related Posts

| Watchismo Blog | Watchismo Shop | Contact Us | Subscribe |

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Oddities of the Day - Vintage Certina Biostar Biorhythm Watch

Maybe the first and hopefully the last Biorhythm watch in history. For those of you lucky enough to not know what Biorhythms are, Wikipedia describes it; "The theory of biorhythms claims that one's life is affected by rhythmic biological cycles, and seeks to make predictions regarding these cycles and the personal ease of carrying out tasks related to the cycles."

Certina made a few varieties of this pseudo-scientific electronic watch all featuring a rainbow of three rings marked with random numbers for love, health and some other nonsense. Oh those silly dirty hippies...

1970s Certina Biostar Varieties

Biostar Caseback

And now for something completely different...

Below is a cheapo vintage watch by Continental from the late sixties/early seventies. A fellow collector Ruud has pointed out an oddity that we can not figure out. Perhaps you might have a guess? The watch has three seconds hands. Two in the center that appear forked and then the sub-seconds at six. This is not a chronograph, there is no stopwatch function, just the time and three indications for seconds...

Here is one opinion...from Fook in Singapore;

"Is the white hand luminous? Maybe its for the use when its dark. Looking at it now, when surrounding is bright, the red hand is very prominent whereas the white one is less so."

And just in from inventor Greg Blonder with what I believe to be the correct answer;

I'm pretty sure the two hands are used to start a race. As they get close to "12" you say "on your mark". When the first hand hits 12 you say "set", and when the second hand, three seconds later hits 12, say "go". A cheap version of a sailing or track and field watch.

See Also;
All Offbeat Watch Posts-->LINK
All Vintage Watch Posts-->LINK

| Watchismo Blog | Watchismo Shop | Contact Us | Subscribe |

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Probably one of the more interesting objects you could own from Albert Einstein. Einstein once said, "the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one." Too bad we can't ask him what a real timepiece should look like...

And if you'd like to own his personal Longines wristwatch from 1930, here is your chance. Antiquorum is auctioning it off October 16th in New York City.

Valued between $25,000 and $35,000, I imagine it will go much higher. They will provide photos showing Einstein wearing the watch. Auction press release-->Link

All Watchismo Times Antique Timepiece Posts
All Vintage Watch Posts

| Watchismo Blog | Watchismo Shop | Contact Us | Subscribe |

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Minute Man" by David Colman for The New York Times

From this weekend's New York Times "T" Magazine;


It was one thing when the cellphone replaced the cigarette. But now killer apps have replaced killer abs, and the chicest parties throng with guys showing how they can make their iPhones look like Magic 8 Balls. It’s enough to make a man long for the days when all you heard from even the costliest accessory was the faint tick of a sleek watch.

But these days, the watch thing is also complicated — literally. Watches, like phones, are now viaducts of nonessential information. And the more complications (as extraneous indicators are called in the trade), the rarer and more expensive the timepiece. Moon phases, leap years, multiple time zones, multiple-dial chronographs, depth meters, power reserves. One very cool watch, Meccanico, by de Grisogono, looks like an old-fashioned L.C.D. but is in fact mechanical, made of fluorescent green pieces that move in and out of slots to create those squared-off numbers. In a similar vein, Audemars Piguet has recreated the old-school chronograph with its Royal Oak Carbon Concept. Tricked out with ceramic, titanium and carbon with a special ‘‘linear chronograph,’’ the little time machine looks like something James Bond would use to stop a ‘‘Quantum of Solace.’’ Or, at the very least, maybe it could tell him when to duck to avoid one. It also features the most sublime and silly complication of all: the tourbillon, which is so complicated, almost metacomplicated, that I can’t understand what it really is or does, and have given up trying. If someone who does understand tries to explain it to you, move away quickly or you and your watch can kiss a few hours goodbye.

de Grisogono Meccanico (prev feature->link)

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Carbon Concept
(previous feature->link)

I can tell you this: it was invented at the turn of the 19th century by Abraham-Louis Breguet, one of history’s great watchmakers. In an effort to minimize the effects of gravity and instability on the pocketwatch and keep time more accurately, he devised a rotating cage for the escapement (please don’t ask) and balance wheel (ditto).

No one seems positive, however, that gravity is that big a problem for today’s watches. Even so, the tourbillon remains the last word in superfluous virtuosity, and whatever it does and whether it really uperfluous virtuosity, and whatever it does and whether it really does it or not, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and all the other best names make them, and they all cost as much as taking out a hit on your boss. So choose wisely.

Just to give you the most for your money, watchmakers put extra ingenuity in showing tourbillons whirling and whooshing away. The young and ambitious watch house Greubel Forsey makes, among others, a remarkable Quadruple Tourbillon that resembles a modern version of the Antikythera Mechanism, the ancient clocklike device recovered more than a century ago from an ancient Mediterranean shipwreck. Using X-ray tomography that allows them to peer through the centuries of corrosion and buildup, scientists have discovered that the fabled, mysterious 2,100-year-old thingamajig was able to keep track of, for starters, the four-year cycle of the Olympic Games, the frequency of solar eclipses and the entire Metonic calendar year (which was more like two decades).

Greubel Forsey Quadruple Tourbillon
(previous features->link)

Antikythera Mechanism
(previous feature->link)

So complications are nothing new. Lately, though, some watchmakers have forsaken the Old World charm of a 19th-century face for the midcentury masculinity that has made ‘‘Mad Men’’ such a hit. These include Vacheron Constantin’s fully customizable Quai de l’Ile (created by the same man who designed the Swiss bank notes), Girard- Perregaux’s Vintage 1945 Off-Center Hour, Patek Philippe’s newest version of its superthin Grand Complication and the one-handed watch by the ultrastylish Swiss watchmaker Jaquet Droz.

Vacheron Constantin Quai de l’Ile

Girard Perregaux 1945 Off-Center Hour & Minute

Jaquet Droz One-handed Numerus Clausus

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy understands the power of simplicity: the first lady of France made her flashy husband lose the chunky Rolex and gave him a simple, sleek Patek Philippe. It became an instant symbol of his newly understated presidential élan.

Then again, customizable watches like Vacheron Constantin’s choose-your-owncomplications beauty may soon be the 21st century’s most desirable status symbol. But if that’s the case, why can’t it be customized to indicate worthier complications? The size of my carbon footprint? My biceps? My bank balance? The sky-high number of my I.Q., or my discreetly low number of friends on Facebook? Or why not one that keeps track of my calorie intake, my stress level and my dry cleaning? You know, something more like a … wristwife.

But as any potential mate would soon discover, I also come fully loaded with complications.

Original article on The New York Times-->LINK

See also;
All Watch Complication Posts
All Tourbillon Posts

| Watchismo Blog | Watchismo Shop | Contact Us | Subscribe |

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ignatz Flying Pendulum Clocks of 1883 and 1965 - Powered by a Tetherball Escapement

Watch the video above to see the unusual way this watch powers itself (or this->link)

The original flying pendulum clock (shown above) was invented, and patented, by Christian Clausen of Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1883. Clausen described it as "the craziest clock in the world" due to the motion of the tetherball style escapement with a ball and string. It was originally sold by the New Haven Clock Company (under the Jerome & Co. name) for about a year (1884-1885). It is reported that these clocks were sold to Jewelry stores to display in their windows to attract the attention of passing shoppers.

It got the name "Ignatz" from Dr. Rowell (a noted clock collector) in 1935. Dr. Rowell felt this clock had the personality of Ignatz, the mouse in the old Krazy Kat comic strip. The name stuck as it is still called this today. The original New Haven Flying Pendulum clocks are quite rare. This reproduction was manufactured by the Horolovar Company between 1965 and 1975. The movement was made in Germany and was cased at Horolovar in Bronxville, NY.

Shots of the Horolvar reproductions of 1965-1975
(some of these can be found online for around $200-300)

The tetherball escapement

Videos of other flying pendulum clocks (above; an Italian reproduction - below; a homemade wood clock)

See also;
All Watchismo Times Clock Posts

| Watchismo Blog | Watchismo Shop | Contact Us | Subscribe |

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

New Brand - Manufacture Contemporaine du Temps "Sequential 1"

Denis Giguet, former head of production for Harry Winston Rare Timepieces (& Post-Busser Opus) is about to introduce his first watch from the newly formed independent Manufacture Conteporaine du Temps (MCT) -->LINK. Their first watch, "Sequential 1" has a particularly unique feature of rotating panels revealing the hours with triangular segments.

The hours are indicated at four positions on the watch. Each position comprises 5 triangular prisms which rotate clockwise to gently reveal the hour. Critical to the design of the MCT timepiece is the importance of having the numbers 3, 6, 9 and 12 in their correct positions.

The operational sequence of “MCT Sequential 1” is like the points of a compass. At north (the 12 o’clock position), on the relevant hour, the hours 12, 4 or 8 will be displayed. At the West position the numbers 1, 5 ,9 will be revealed, at South 2, 6 and 10 and East the hours 3, 7 and 11 will be displayed. The minute hand and sapphire disc play a very important role. Exactly on the hour the disc is released and rotates in an anti-clockwise direction to reveal the next hour numeral. This instantaneous anti-clockwise rotation of the brushed sapphire disc means that the minute hand is now positioned at zero minutes, ready to begin the next 60 minute journey round the disc.

The architectural design of the watch was entrusted to Geneva based Eric Giroud, a specialist in movement architecture (HWRT, MB&F). Eric has designed a masterpiece of complex simplicity with different elements of the watch turning on 3 axis, at precise times with very distinctive movements. The brushed sapphire minute disc has an opacity which clearly displays the minutes but also allows the wearer to appreciate the delicate rotation of the hour prisms.

I'll be posting a specially made video of the watch in action in the coming weeks, stay tuned!

Manufacture Contemporaine du Temps Website-->LINK

See related;
All Alternative Display Posts
All Independent Watch Posts
All Harry Winston Posts

| Watchismo Blog | Watchismo Shop | Contact Us | Subscribe |

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Round-Up of Three Dimensional Tourbillons

by Alex Doak (exclusively for The Watchismo Times)

Definitive List #1: Tourbillons in space, space, pace, ace, ace…!

There nothing quite like a definitive list of stuff to warm the cockles of a straightforward, slightly obsessive bloke such as myself (or “multi-talented bloke” as certain blog proprietors would naïvely have it…). Much like Nick Hornby’s central character in High Fidelity, I find little else more satisfying than pigeonholing the components of my obsession – in this case watches of course, as opposed to pop songs – into their discrete subsets and arranging things appropriately in chronological, alphabetical, autobiographical, or even aesthetical fashion.

So for Definitive List #1, by way of background, let’s kick off proceedings by listing every tourbillon ever made to date…. No, stupid idea. What about bi-axial tourbillons, then? That’s easier – but still long-winded. Why, there’s Thomas Prescher’s Torkel pocket watch; Franck Muller’s Revolution 2; Jean Dunand’s Tourbillon Orbital; Blu’s Majesty Tourbillon; anything by Greubel Forsey; Panerai’s misplaced new entry to the world of manufacture movements, P.2005; the similar ‘tumbling’ cage mechanism at the heart of HD3’s Vulcania; Girard-Perregaux’s huge SIHH 2008 launch, the imaginatively titled “Bi-Axial Tourbillon”… My quasi-OCD tendencies are nagging at me to complete the list, but that’s no fun. As James Gurney noted in QP’s editorial last year, in reference to Michael Balfour’s joyous new “Cult Watches” book, there’s nothing quite like a list to inspire controversy. Tell your readers that the Swiss watch industry is a cynical, PR-fed cartel, and nothing. On the other hand, dare to omit Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Gyrotourbillon from a list of two-axis tourbillons and watch all hell break loose. (See? I didn’t forget it!)

So, in descending chronological order, here’s my definitive list of three-dimensional, or rather triple-axis tourbillons – with one notable deliberately left out. Send answers->here. The prize is the pride.*

1. Aaron Becsei’s Primus, unveiled this year at the AHCI stand at Baselworld. An extraordinary achievement for someone born in 1979. Puts your life’s work in perspective don’t it…?

2. “TAT”, from Thomas Prescher’s Trilogy – you get a single-axis and double-axis wristwatch in the bargain too! Another sickeningly youthful prodigy.

3. Revolution 3 – much prettier in the flesh than Franck Muller’s perpetually hideous CAD images imply.

4. Richard Good’s carriage clock (Prescher’s inspiration).

Tourbillons rotating in space are not a new thing though. As far back as 1860, American watchmaker Albert Potter constructed a tourbillon with an inclined balance for a carriage clock.
 German watchmaker Walter Prendel drew inspiration from the master horologer Alfred Helwig and tried again in 1928 to place the tourbillon in space, this time in a pocket watch. The balance spring and rotor was inclined 30 degrees from the horizontal and made one rotation in six minutes. In 1980, English watchmaker Anthony Randall – up there with Derek Pratt, Daniels, Dufour et al. – patented the first tourbillon with two perpendicular axes. Over 20 years later, Richard Danners developed a double-axis tourbillon in a large 55mm pocket watch for Gübelin.

*and yes, this does conveniently let me off the hook for not researching thoroughly enough…

Other notables for consideration;

Girard Perregaux Bi-Axial Tourbillon

Greubel Forsey's Quadruple Tourbillon à Différentiel

Blu's Majesty MT3 Tourbillon

Richard Daner for Gubelin

Jaeger LeCoultre's Reverso Tourbillon