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THE WATCHISMO TIMES WATCH BLOG A reliquary of obscure timepieces from bygone eras as well as the cutting-edge watch designs of today.

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Ancient Nerds - History of Computing & The Earliest Calculating Devices

Neatorama.com has a fantastic overview of the history of computing with a special focus of early mechanical calculating devices-->LINK

Some examples from the feature;

The 2000 year old Antikythera Mechanism, the worlds oldest computing device (and 1000 years more advanced than comparable mechanisms). Only discovered 100 years ago in a shipwreck.

Wilhelm Schickard’s Calculating Clock (1632) that could add and subtract six-digit numbers (with a bell as an overflow alarm). This invention was used by his friend, astronomer Johannes Kepler, to calculate astronomical tables, which was a big leap for astronomy at the time. For this, Wilhelm Schickard was considered by some to be the "Father of Computer Age."

Blaise Pascal’s Pascaline (or Arithmetique) from 1645 - The basic mechanism of the Pascaline is a series of gears - when the first gear with ten teeth made one rotation (one to ten), it shifts a second gear until it rotated ten times (one hundred). The second gear shifted a third one (thousands) and so on. This mechanism is still in use today in car odometers, electricity meters and at the gas pumps.

German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz' Stepped Reckoner of the 17th century was inspired by a steps-counting machine (pedometer) he saw to build his own calculator. Leibniz’s design used a special type of gear called the Stepped Drum or Leibniz wheel, a cylinder with nine bar-shaped teeth along its length.

Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine from 1822 was considered one of the first mechanical computers. Despite of its unwieldy design, his plan called for a basic architecture very similar to that of a modern computer.

During World War II, Nazi Germany used an electro-mechanical cipher machine called Enigma to encrypt and decrypt coded messages. It used rotors to substitute letters (for example, an "E" might be coded as "T"). The genius of the Enigma was that the machine used polyalphabetic cipher, where the rotation of the rotors allowed each subsequent letters to be encoded in a different manner. (For example, "EEE" might be become "TIF").

See the rest, including the dawn of digital computing here-->Link

via BoingBoing from Neatorama

All Watchmaking Posts
History of the First Digital Calculator Watches
1960s Juvenia Protractor Watch
Multi-Functional Watches
Slide Rule Wristwatches

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HORROR-OLOGY - 1610 Mechanical Screaming Biting Skull Clock with Animated Snakes for Eyeballs!

Never mind this skull & crossbones automaton clock is nearly 400 years old, just look what it can do! Way scarier than any special effects from Pirates of the Caribbean.

During the first minute, the skull's expression seems to smile, the second minute it seems to laugh, the next appears to scream and finally, the jaws snap shut, as if the skull were trying to bite something. At the same time, one of the snakes slowly sinks back down into one of the eye sockets, while the other slowly comes out of the other eye, before retracting suddenly, as the first snake again springs out from its eye-socket. And to view the time, just open up the skull cap! It sold recently for \$135,000.

Designed & built in 1610 by Nicolaus Schmidt der Junger (Augsburg, Germany) as a skull set on two crossed shinbones and mounted on a gilt brass tripod, the hinged skull cap (restored) disclosing the dial. Later hexagonal ebony molded base. D. Silver champlevé enameled dial with floral decoration. Gilt brass single hand. M. Hinged oval gilt brass full plate with urn pillars, fusee with chain, verge escapement, plain steel two-arm balance without spring, gilt brass pierced and engraved irregular cock secured by a screw, with matching click for the ratchet wheel set-up. The movements of the automaton jaw and the snakes in the eyes are controlled by two six-spoke cams driven by the fusee and revolving twenty times an hour, so that the jaws take three minutes to open and then close suddenly while the snakes alternately pop out of, then return back into, each eye socket, twice a minute. Height 14 cm, including the base. Back plate signed.

You can see the open-skull dial of the clock in the background

Movement: fusee with chain, verge escapement, plain steel two-arm balance without spring

Provenance: Previously in the collection of Charles Georgi, one of the commissioners in charge of the Musée Rétrospectif de la classe 96 (horlogerie) at the 1900 Paris Universal Exhibition, this watch was exhibited there in a showcase dedicated to this famous collection. According to Mathieu Planchon, the author of the catalogue, in addition to his collection of early watches and table clocks, Charles Georgi at one time owned on of the best “Cabinets de Curiosité”, upon which the organizers drew heavily, to fill most of the gaps in the various classes of the Musée Rétrospectif.

Via Antiquorum

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At the Museums -1660 Renaissance Crystal Neck Watch & 1930s Art Deco Digital Lamp

The Beyer Watch & Clock Museum in Zurich is putting together a nice looking website. In its early stages, you can see some of their collection like the 1660 Jacques Sermand rock crystal neck watch above and the 1930s digital art deco lamp below.

"The rock-crystal case is made of one piece with four arches and features, on the outside, an engraved and fire-gilt bronze setting with a hinge for the lid and movement. The lid above the dial is also cut out of rock-crystal and serves as protective cover. The engraved dial, three rings in silver for the ho urs I to XII, the date I to 3 land the weekdays. The moonphase is visible in the small window on the left with another square window above, indicating the age of the moon. Three blued iron hands."

Close-up of the digital display in base

1940s Hidden dial pop-up wristwatch

1930s Jaeger LeCoultre Bedside Digital Clock Lamp-->Link
1660 Neck Watch at the Beyer Museum-->Link

Enter The Watchismo Times 1st anniversary vintage chronograph giveway!-->LINK

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Fitting In and Out - Rare Expanding & Contracting Hand Watches

In my collecting history, I always had a special place for oblong, oval, rectangular, thin, or just very wide watches. The problem they all share is the restriction of their hands being only as long as the shortest width of the dial. Once the hands reach their widest points, they often appear too dwarfed. It got me thinking, how cool would it be if hands of a watch could extend out as the width of the watch gets wider and contract back to the smallest? Well, lo and behold, I discovered nearly everything has been done before at some point in time. Expanding and contracting hand history was sporadic and only a few were ever made.

This fantastic specimen circa 1795, made by watchmaker William Anthony of London. Famous for his verge watches with many being made for the Chinese market. His watch above features hands that work like a pantograph or scissors that follow cams to expand and contract. Valued conservatively between \$100,000-\$250,000.

Close-up of William Anthony 'Scissorhands'

Now, go back nearly 120 years before that and you have this watch by Henricus Jones above, circa 1678. Featuring a minute hand that expands and contracts - always pointing to the outer edge of the oval chapter ring. Also one of the earliest watches with a balance spring.

Ok, flash forward almost 350 years later (today) and you'll see an ingenious recurrence of this concept. The Urwerk 201 Hammerhead. One of the most cutting edge watch brands today have not only revived and modernized the wandering hour watch, but also reinventing the expanding and retracting hand by placing a telescopic pointer inside the hour cubes. As each cube rotates to the corresponding minute display, the protuberance slowly extends and retreats.
(Again, I'm always trying to find a way for the word "protuberance" to appear in my posts)

Urwerk Telescopic Pointer

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Fitting In and Out - Rare Expanding & Contracting Hand Watches

In my collecting history, I always had a special place for oblong, oval, rectangular, thin, or just very wide watches. The problem they all share is the restriction of their hands being only as long as the shortest width of the dial. Once the hands reach their widest points, they often appear too dwarfed. It got me thinking, how cool would it be if hands of a watch could extend out as the width of the watch gets wider and contract back to the smallest? Well, lo and behold, I discovered nearly everything has been done before at some point in time. Expanding and contracting hand history was sporadic and only a few were ever made.

This fantastic specimen circa 1795, made by watchmaker William Anthony of London. Famous for his verge watches with many being made for the Chinese market. His watch above features hands that work like a pantograph or scissors that follow cams to expand and contract. Valued conservatively between \$100,000-\$250,000.

Close-up of William Anthony 'Scissorhands'

Now, go back nearly 120 years before that and you have this watch by Henricus Jones above, circa 1678. Featuring a minute hand that expands and contracts - always pointing to the outer edge of the oval chapter ring. Also one of the earliest watches with a balance spring.

Ok, flash forward almost 350 years later (today) and you'll see an ingenious recurrence of this concept. The Urwerk 201 Hammerhead. One of the most cutting edge watch brands today have not only revived and modernized the wandering hour watch, but also reinventing the expanding and retracting hand by placing a telescopic pointer inside the hour cubes. As each cube rotates to the corresponding minute display, the protuberance slowly extends and retreats.
(Again, I'm always trying to find a way for the word "protuberance" to appear in my posts)

Urwerk Telescopic Pointer

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The Meandering History of Wandering Hours

The Wandering Hour display (also known as a Floating Hour or Chronoscope) has been around four centuries. In 1656 the Campanus brothers had built a night clock for Pope Alexander XII. In a total innovation, they replaced the then conventional hands with hour figures on rotating discs, which performed a semicircular arc across the clock face. The correct figure appeared at the start of each new hour. It then moved clockwise across the arc of the dial and, depending on its progress, simultaneously marked the quarter or half-hour, which had just passed. Alexander's night pendulum clock was illuminated by an oil lamp so that the pope could see the time in the dark. The concept is that the moving hour display keeps an almost metaphorical count of the passing minutes rising and setting along the hourly arc.

"It is a deceptively simple and elegant system, and it is literally as old as the combination of concentric hours and minutes hands to which we are so accustomed. -- The orbit of the elegantly simple planetary ring, and the epicyclic dance of hour numerals which surrounded it, remained hidden beneath a solid dial." (source)

Campani Brothers Tabernacle Night Clock

Below are samples of Wandering Hour watches over the past four centuries. Only during the past few decades have watchmakers realized the full beauty of this display and exposed their dials to reveal the symbolic inner workings as part of the design itself.

Watches with wandering hour dials first appeared in the 17th century. In England, they were often commissioned by the King, to be presented to visitors or in recognition of loyalty to the country. The watch above from 1710 is likely the portrait of Frederick I of Prussia (1657-1713) -->Link

One of the earliest watchmakers to adapt this style to a pocket watch was British watchmaker Joseph Windmills. Joseph Antram, watchmaker to the King of England also produced wandering hours like this one-->Link

A variation was the 'Sun and Moon' dial. A 1750 Dutch pocket watch by G.Knip (above). Within the inner half ring, a revolving disc is painted with the sun and moon rotating every 24 hours, thereby indicating not only the hour but whether it is day or night. A minute hand was used in the normal circular fashion. -->Link Another model-->Link

Sideview of the 'Sun Moon' Wandering Hour

1820 Chronos Breguet Wandering Hour
Etablissement Mixte series

Typically, four digits appear on three disks, each rotating epicyloidally one quarter while out of view and advancing to the next corresponding hour. The minutes were easily approximated by the hour position within the arc.

Breguet Wandering Hour Wristwatch by Gubelin

The Audemars Piguet "Star Wheel" reinvented this system in the early 1990s, creating many variations of wandering hour wristwatches. "Three transparent sapphire disks, or star wheels, are each inscribed with four hour indicators and attached to a rotating center wheel. As the assembly turns, the current hour indicator is rotated into view and then passed across a 120-degree minutes sector. The time is read by noting the visible hour pointing to the current minute." (source) Additional information-->Link

Star Wheel Sapphire Disks

Each disk is obscured until it rises into the arc where the background contrasts the digits into legibility.

Late 1990s "John Schaeffer Star Wheels"
With Minute Repeater

2000 Millenary Star Wheel
125th Anniversary Model

Vincent Calabrese "Horus"

"The wandering dates conceived by Vincent Calabrese (above & below), The jumping hour hand is displayed in a small window that turns around the dial, showing the minutes passing. There is only one hand on the dial, that of the seconds. The same principle as it applies to the date is a world first." (source)

Vincent Calabrese "Ottica"

Alain Silberstein Wandering Hour "Cyclops"

These orbiting satellite displays have had a few revivals over the past 300 years but only in wristwatches in the past few decades. The brand Urwerk (below) is taking this very old concept to interstellar levels. Their revolutionary wandering hour displays have become three dimensional, the numbers are placed on spinning conical discs or rotating cubes with retractable retrograde pointers.

Urwerk's original 101
Inspired by the Campanus Night Clocks
and the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars

Urwerk series 102 "Nightwatch"
also known as "Sputnik"

The Urwerk wandering display was just too cool to keep covered.

Urwerk 103 series
Their first display with exposed hours

"The innovative rotating satellite complication is the heart and soul of the 103 series of watches. The orbital cross carries the four hour-satellites and an internal Geneva cross governs each of these satellites. Each of the satellite features three hour numbers four hours apart. As a satellite approaches the crown, its Geneva cross engages a pin and rotates the disk 120° for the new hour to take its position." (source)

The Urwerk team evolved their Wandering Hour into cubes and retrograde minutes for the Harry Winston "Opus V."

QP Magazine recently featured this public clock in London, The Newgate Clock, possibly the only public wandering hour clock in the world. It was created by horologist Joanna Migdal and inspired by Joseph Windmills original designs. See how it works here-->Link

"The innovation lies not only in the display which evokes the natural course of the sun on the horizon, but also on the original satellite mechanism whose future applications are yet to be discovered." (source)

Related Posts;
Jump Hour Watches
Mystery Dial Watches
Watch History

Find other watches

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