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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

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History of the First Digital Calculator Watches
1960s Juvenia Protractor Watch
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Clearly Evil - Memento Mori Crystal Skull watch from 1715 - Haunted Horology #4

This skull watch/clock, circa 1715, by watchmaker James Harmar of London was carved from rock-crystal and fitted with a gold-mounted watch. Three-body skull, made of three solid pieces of rock crystal, the top and the bottom mounted in gold engraved frames, the lower frame housing the movement, the jaw articulated on the sides opening to expose the silver champlevé with Roman chapters and half-hour divisions, outer minute ring with Arabic five-minute numerals. Blued-steel, 'beetle and poker' hands. 39.5 mm o, hinged, gilt brass full plate, tulip pillars, fusee and chain for the going train, English single-footed cock pierced and engraved with symmetrical foliage and a mask in the base, rack and pinion with silver plate. Signed on the dial and movement. Dim. Length 85 mm, width 50 mm, height 80 mm. Published in the Sandberg book (Antiquorum), pages 376-377.

Via Antiquorum

All Haunted Horology Posts;
1610 Screaming Skull Clock

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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Antique 1780 See-Thru Pocket Thermometer

Very unusual pocket thermometer, Late 18th century (circa 1780) skelotonized, in a steel case glazed on both sides. Blue steel hand indicating the temperature in Centigrade, Fahrenheit and Reamur scales. Signed:- Salon & Co. Sold for \$5655 (£2900, €4350)

via Antique Watch

back view

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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;
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Perrelet Titanium Double Rotor

Perrelet's new Titanium Collection. Featuring a double rotor seen from front and back.

Back in 1770, the genius watchmaker Abraham-Louis Perrelet invented the "Perpetuelles" automatic winding movement, the original self-winding concept - the pedometer watch, which had an oscillating weight that moved up and down as one walked, supplying energy to the mainspring in the process. And like most geniuses, his invention wasn't appreciated or even appropriate until a mobile wristwatch could be invented - over a hundred years later!

Original 18th Century Perrelet Perpetuelle

via TimeZone

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Hatching Astronomic Sphere Clock by Vacheron Constantin

'L’Esprit des Cabinotiers' - The one-of-a-kind mystery clock that literally emerges from a hatching sphere - Created for the 250th anniversary of Vacheron Constantin.

The incubating clockwork consists of a golden sphere engraved by hand according to the sky chart drawn by Robert de Vaugondy (1723-1786), cartographer and geographer to Louis XV and creator of two large globes, one celestial and the other terrestrial. The sphere is composed of eight mechanical petals symbolizing the lotus flower, which may be progressively opened by means of an extremely sophisticated spring mechanism. The keys to the mystery and its revelation are known exclusively to the one owner of the object. The automata flower delicately reveals its heart, a timepiece endowed with a wide range of functions and complications (detailed below photos). Sold at auction for nearly \$2,000,000.

Technical specifications

GLOBE

Materials: 18-carat 750 pink gold (5N)
Diameter: 220 mm
Form and construction: Globe divided into a fixed half-sphere and 8 petals opening by means of 16 connecting rods linked to the telescopic shaft (on tiny sapphire balls) carrying the timepiece, driven by the mechanical motor housed within the base.
Finishing: The outside of the globe is in natural polished gold and features a depiction of the position of the stars on September 17th 1755 (date of the first document mentioning the existence of the House of Vacheron), decorated with a hand engraving inspired by the work of Robert de Vaugondy. The inside, enhanced by slender polished gold ribs, is finely satin-brushed.

CLOCK

Materials: 18-carat 750 pink gold (5N), Corundum
Diameter and thickness: 145 mm, 70 mm
Shape and construction: A cylinder and 2 sapphire crystal domes connected by a frame in 5N pink gold. An openworked support links the clock to the telescopic shaft at the centre of the sphere. Two holes for winding and time-setting are drilled into the rear dome.
Glasses: Sapphire crystal, glareproofed on both faces.

DIALS

Dial material: 18-carat yellow gold
Material for appliques: 18-carat pink gold (5N)
Dial description: Silvered with special 250th anniversary hand-guilloch? motif, minute disc encircling the dial in silvered 18-carat gold with engraved indications. ?Grand feu? miniature enamelled 12-segment outer disc.

MOVEMENT

Indications & functions :
1. Hour on 12-hour display
2. Minutes
4. Hour on 24-hour display
5. Power reserve
6. Name of the day
7. Date of the day (perpetual)
8. Name of the month
9. Number of the year within the leap-year cycle
10. Equation of time
11. Age of the moon
12. Phases of the moon
13. Temperature
14. Astronomical calendar giving the position of the sun according to the Gregorian calendar. This mechanism was built on the basis of calculations by the mathematician Charles Etienne Louis CAMUS (1699-1768) and the watchmaking mechanical engineer Antide JANVIER (1751-1835).
15. Hours and quarters striking automatically in passing and on request, with the possibility of preventing the automatic striking.

Other technical characteristics:

Energy: Mechanical, twin-barrel, manual key winding
Regulating organs: Mono-metallic balance. Isochronous balance-spring ending in a Phillips curve, micrometric index (patented by Vacheron Constantin in 1884), Straight-line lever escapement with constant force system applied each second to the escape-wheel. This system precisely measures out the energy required for the regulator to perform 5 vibrations of an ideal and invariable amplitude.
Frequency: 18,000 vibrations per hour
Power reserve: Over seven days

Main dimensions:
Caging diameter: 125 mm
Total diameter: 129 mm
Total thickness: 41 mm

Quarter Millennieum of Vacheron Constantin auction --> Link

Related posts;
Christiaan van der Klauuw Astronomical Watches --> Link

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