The popularity of horological tattoos

This post was written by Society member Anna-Rose Kirk

 

 (Photo with kind permission Lal Hardy)

(Photo with kind permission Lal Hardy)

 (Photo with kind permission Lal Hardy)

(Photo with kind permission Lal Hardy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clocks and watches are the most tattooed image at the moment according to Vice magazine and tattoo artists are sick of tattooing them.

Clocks. Clocks, pocket watches and more clocks. Mostly on guys in their mid 20s. There must be hundreds, at the very least, being done in the UK every week. Lots of tattooists have stopped putting them in their portfolios because they’re so fed up with them”Craig Hicks

Prisoners doing long sentences don't like to count the days so have clock tattoos without hands to show that time to them is meaningless

Prisoners doing long sentences don’t like to count the days so have clock tattoos without hands to show that time to them is meaningless

Time symbols have always been popular in art as reminders of the passing of life and the inevitability of death.  Hour glass tattoos have been a simple depiction of this for many years, and there has been a long tradition of symbolism within prison tattoos depicting clock and watches with no hands, however, the more recent need to capture time has sparked a trend of more complicated depictions and designs within larger tattoos often surrounded by banners, flowers, and owls.

Speaking to those that have the clock or watch tattoos, it is apparent that the most common reason was the idea of symbolising a date and time, a child’s birth for example, and was a way of avoiding text and numbers which have become a common tattoo choice. Others wanted them as reminders that time is precious and had them tattooed in prominent places as a constant reminder to live their lives meaningfully.

A clock tattoo to remind you that time is precious, don't waste it

A clock tattoo to remind you that time is precious, don’t waste it

A tattoo to demonstrate the aesthetics of a pocket watch

A tattoo to demonstrate the aesthetics of a pocket watch (Photo with kind permission Jake Nash-Wilson)

A tattoo commemorating a death

A tattoo commemorating a death (Photo with kind permission Lal Hardy)

One person I spoke to simply had a deep appreciation for horology and the way that watches worked after coming across them in his job in a jeweller’s and from his friends in the industry. Because of this, the time on the watch does not have a significant meaning, but it was important to him that the detail and the way it looked was right.

Celebrities and easy access to images and discussions play a part in tattoo trends but simply more people are getting tattooed meaning particular images seem to get used more often. I wanted to get to the bottom of whether clocks and watches were seen as something mysterious with no concept of the inside workings, however, although a lot of the general public, especially the younger generation, does not understand the exact mechanics of a pocket watch, they have a tangible feel which in contrast to today’s sleek, minimal, computerised technology can feel a lot more real. They feel as if the have a history and a story; linked to memories tradition and ritual. I wonder if a rise in nostalgia and a romanticism for craftsmanship and the handmade has brought about the rise of this style being used in tattooing and movements like Steam Punk. It is perhaps a fight against excessive consumption of the 21st century and the dehumanisation of manufacturing and the idea that traditional skills may be lost. It seems to be that horology is being worn as a symbol of authenticity and a preservation of history in a vain attempt to show that this generation care.

A tattoo copied from a photo

A tattoo copied from a photo

 

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Bomb found outside AHS meeting focused on bomb scares

 

The strangest thing happened last Thursday. To be honest, I thought it was a put-up job and so did many of the people with me. I thought James Nye had arranged it; everyone else thought I had.

It was the first AHS London Lecture of 2017. We’re in a new venue this year. Following the success of last year’s programme things were getting a bit tight at Cannon Place and we needed a bigger room with space to grow, so thanks to an introduction from our Council Member James Stratton, head of the clocks department at Bonhams, we have been able to move to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) on Parliament Square, overlooking the Houses of Parliament and the Great Clock of Westminster.

I was the lecturer for our first meeting at RICS. I’ve been thinking a lot over the years about the political symbolism of time: how it stands for other things besides when to catch the train. So my talk last Thursday was about standard time and violent protest in the last decades of the nineteenth century and the first years of the twentieth.

Specifically, I was focusing on two bomb attacks: one on the Royal Observatory Greenwich in 1894 by an anarchist and one on the Royal Observatory Edinburgh in 1913 by suffragettes. Both attacks, I argued, were symbolic strikes against scientifically defined standard time but both were very real, resulting in loss of life at Greenwich and significant damage at Edinburgh. They were attacks on the establishment – an establishment centred at Westminster just a few paces from where I was speaking.

 

Guarding the Greenwich Meridian

Guarding the Greenwich Meridian

 

 

My talk finished bang on time at 7.15pm and I was getting ready to answer questions when the house manager came in and whispered a message to James, who was chairing the evening. I assumed it was a minor problem with the catering laid on thanks to the generosity of sponsor Jonny Flower – maybe the prosecco wasn’t chilled enough or the hors d’oeuvres were running late. But I was wrong.

We’d all seen the flashing blue lights through the frosted windows of the lecture room, but they are not an unusual sight in Westminster and we thought little of it. Perhaps a car had been pulled over, or a tourist had taken a tumble. Certainly nothing out of the ordinary.

Then James interrupted proceedings to tell the audience that much of the area outside, including bridges and tube stations, was being sealed off by the police. We really thought it was a put-up job when he told us that a bomb had been found by Westminster Bridge. It was not a false alarm. It was a real bomb – from the Second World War. It had been found by a dredger in the River Thames. The police call to the Royal Navy bomb disposal squad went in at exactly 7.15pm – the moment I stopped speaking.

The German SD 50kg bomb (BBC)

 

Don’t worry. Nobody was hurt in the incident and the bomb was safely detonated early the following morning at Tilbury. The March lecture is about the gold workers and enamellers of Geneva and we’re not expecting any bother.

 

 

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A Gala For Lisa

 

Lisa Jardine, by Claerwen James, commissioned by Jesus College, Cambridge, recognizing the significance of the vote to admit women fellows back in 1976.  ©2015 Claerwen James/Flowers Gallery

Lisa Jardine, by Claerwen James, commissioned by Jesus College, Cambridge, recognizing the significance of the vote to admit women fellows back in 1976. ©2015 Claerwen James/Flowers Gallery

 

Tuesday 25 October 2016—to the Victoria and Albert Museum for a fabulous evening to celebrate the life of our late President, Lisa Jardine FRSA, in the company of her husband John Hare, members of the family, and a distinguished array of academics, curators, writers, and lots of friends—it was a year to the date since Lisa’s death.

Lisa believed in lectures that were also a bit of a party. We gathered in the Whiteley Silver Gallery to the sound of a jazz trio, and moved to the astonishing Gorvy Lecture Theatre, where we were greeted by Bill Sherman of the V&A, a colleague of Lisa’s over many years. He introduced Amanda Vickery, who spoke movingly of her long and close association with Lisa, before introducing the remarkable Deborah Harkness, prize-winning historian and now best-selling author, noted for the All Souls fictional trilogy. She spoke on ‘Fiction in the Archives’, explain how a parallel career in fiction has enriched her historical work, following an approach she believes Lisa enshrined – not so much ‘outreach’ – more the invitation to everyone to come and spend time inside the ivory tower. The spine-tingling thrill of archival discovery is accessible and communicable to all—and truth can be more remarkable than fiction. Setting action in her scholarly backyard—sixteenth century Blackfriars—Deborah told us that ‘Fiction at last allows me to tell people what I really think happened, rather than what I can prove.’

It was a tour de force—resolving to the notion that literature can work to promote empathy, a characteristic in short supply in conflicts at all levels, globally. Deborah’s tribute linked this to Lisa, who championed diversity, bringing together so many people, across so many communities.

John rounded off proceedings by announcing the launch of a new initiative with the Royal Society—the Lisa Jardine Research Awards—essentially funding to encourage the study of the scientific revolution and the Enlightenment, an initiative for which significant backing has already been secured. A very fitting tribute indeed.

The evening wound up with a reception in the galleries housing the Ionides collection, to the sound of more jazz. Our hosts were generous, but were probably mindful of Lisa’s mantra—‘never knowingly undercater’—it was a magical event.

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‘A clock which has gone by itself for 2 years’

 

In the State Library of New South Wales is a manuscript journal of a trip to Holland undertaken in 1773 by the naturalist Joseph Banks  (1743-1820), who from 1778 until his death was to be the President of the Royal Society. His journal can be read on-line here.

 

Banks's sketch of the supposed energy source of a 'clock which has gone by itself for 2 years’

Banks’s sketch of the supposed energy source of a ‘clock which has gone by itself for 2 years’

 

Most of his journal, as expected, is related to natural history, but in Amsterdam he visited an unnamed clockmaker who showed him ‘a clock which has gone by itself for 2 years’. From his description, complete with a sketch, it is clear that he struggled to make sense of what he had seen.

 

From hence we went to a clockmaker Mr [name not entered] who has invented a clock which has gone by itself for 2 years & is therefore called not injustly a perpetual motion whether the principle was fallacious I could not discover but it was or appeared to be 4 balls / fastened to the rim of a circle by long wyers [wires] the circle going round in the direction of the arrows the ball a by its gravity turns it round till at the end of its leaver [??] coming into the place of b it is shortened and so much more when it comes into the place of c the balls c & d at the same time becoming longer & in their turns forcing it round whether however a [illegible word] wheel made upon this construction would ever go once round I very much doubt if not there must either be fallacy or some method of applying the principle which I did not understand which is likely as the machine was rather complicated. [pages 51 and 52 – CY 3011/73 and 74]

 

The concept of perpetual motion, and the idea that one can make a machine that can do work indefinitely without an energy source, has been exercising many minds over the centuries, but the development of modern theories of thermodynamics has shown that they are impossible. In his book Perpetual Motion. The History of an Obsession, Arthur W.J.G. Ord-Hume has illustrated several devices that look rather similar to the clock that Banks had seen. We must conclude that the unnamed Amsterdam clockmaker was one in a long line of deluded ‘inventors’.

Ord-Hume's illustrations of similar 'perpetual motion' devices

Ord-Hume’s illustrations of similar ‘perpetual motion’ devices

 

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A new addition to the galleries at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich

The extraordinarily accurate ‘Burgess Clock B’ was recently installed in the Royal Observatory’s Time and Longitude Gallery where it will be on display for the next three years. b

The following filmed interview introduces the work of Martin Burgess and the project behind this remarkable timekeeper.

First shown at the Harrison Decoded conference, held at the National Maritime Museum in April, 2015.

Further information on Clock B can be found here

 

 

 

 

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A supplementary (late) meeting report (from 1957)

 

AHS members, a long-lived breed

AHS members, a long-lived breed

 

Petrol rationing ceased in May 1957, but the legendary Colonel Quill, DSO, had long planned the AHS September visit with a view to everyone needing to use public transport, staying local in London. About forty members and friends descended on the workshops of E. J. Dent & Co in Lambeth, but the meeting report (AH Dec 1957, p. 95) was text only. On the day, pictures were taken, by our distinguished early member Bob Miles, but not being used these found their way into an envelope, to disappear in our archive, until I had a look inside, nearly sixty years later, a few days ago. I thought it was high time they had some exposure.

Congreves being assembled

Congreves being assembled

The assembly line for the Congreve clocks

The assembly line for the Congreve clocks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daniel Buckney (great grandson of E.J Dent) and AHS founder member Charles Williams, both of Dent, showed everyone round. The objects on view ranged from a striking wrought iron cage clock by Edmund Howard of Chelsea (1761), through to modern editions of the Congreve rolling ball clock, a design which continued to be made for several more decades. In the case of the Howard, substantial information has come to light in recent days, and I will try to resolve this into an article for the journal as soon as possible.

Benson to the left, Edmund Howard (1761) to the right

Benson to the left, Edmund Howard (1761) to the right

 

Being Dents’ workshop, there were turret clocks aplenty, of course, including examples not only from Dent, but Benson, of a wide variety of shapes and sizes. An unusual and quite large 1939 Dent quarter-striking gravity escapement clock sported intriguing fans mounted either end, and within the frame, pivoted horizontally at right-angles to the train. It had a most unusual gravity escapement, with the escape wheel formed in the shape of a hexagram. It later found its way to the Science Museum, where it still resides. A wonderful exhibition model turret/skeleton clock was on display, which later found its way to the Rockford Time Museum, and thence to a fabulous private collection. A British Pathé film taken in the workshops only a short time later, features many of the same clocks.

The joys opening old envelopes can bring!

Quarter-chiming gravity clock with hexagrammatic escape wheel, by Dent (1939)

Quarter-chiming gravity clock with hexagrammatic escape wheel, by Dent (1939)

 

Exhibition clock (1850s/60s)

Exhibition clock (1850s/60s)

Another view – possibly made for the 1867 Paris Exhibition?

Another view – possibly made for the 1867 Paris Exhibition?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The compound pendulum in a precision timekeeper?!

This post was written by Tabea Rude, Member of the AHS

 

Popular and well known examples of compound pendulums in horology are found in French novelty clocks. They can be camouflaged as an innocent sailor, as in the mantel clock on display at the Royal Observatory Greenwich:

French novelty clock at the Royal Observatory

French novelty clock at the Royal Observatory

 

But mostly compound pendulums are regarded as a nightmare when it comes to precision. This was not always the case, as I found out in the conservation and research into an electromechanical double pendulum clock, patented by M. Pierre Sellier in 1909.

M. Pierre Sellier’s double pendulum precision clock

M. Pierre Sellier’s double pendulum precision clock

 

Sellier’s patent clock (on display at The Clockworks) uses a compound pendulum to provide the drive to the hands, while a ‘free’ pendulum controls the electro-magnetic impulsing of the compound pendulum, by making and breaking the drive circuit.

 

Sellier’s invention was, like most other compound pendulums, lacking in precision, but in the early 20th century he was not alone in using a compound pendulum in the quest for precision time keeping. In other horological circles, consideration was given to the compound pendulum as a potentially useful component. While in 1909 the Deutsche Uhrmacherzeitung described the compound pendulum as a ‘rape of the pendulum principle’, a major article by Prof. Dr. Ing. H. Bock in 1929 in the same magazine reported on a compound pendulum as a precision break-through. After criticising the suspension spring type used in Shortt’s free pendulum for its variable elasticity modulus, Bock introduced Dr. Max Schuler’s idea of exchanging Shortt’s free pendulum for a compound pendulum resting on a knife edge. He claimed that Schuler would soon be able to measure all the anomalies in the Earth’s rotation and outperform the Shortt clock with ‘German toughness’. The Schuler clock has ended up at the Deutsches Uhrenmuseum at Furtwangen, and no doubt we will hear more about in due course!

Dr. Max Schuler at Göttingen University

Dr. Max Schuler at Göttingen University

 

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Better Late Than Never – Baillie Bibliography Vol 2

 

Someone I know is researching the electric clock systems of Ritchie. Being a pro, I rather suspect they have run a lot of obscure sources to earth, but I’m going to make a point of drawing their attention to English Mechanic and World of Science from 1874, where I believe Ritchie published a piece on controlling clocks and time-signals by electricity. This might come as an interesting addition to the better known 1878 piece in the Journal of the Society of Arts (vol. 26).

Another friend has a forthcoming piece on the pneumatic time distribution systems of Mayrhofer, which will appear in the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Chronometrie’s next yearbook. There is just a chance he may not have come across the 1882 piece by Berly in the Journal of the Society of Arts, providing an overview of the state of the art in pneumatic horology.

How on earth do I come to know of these possibly useful references? In 1951, G.H. Baillie published an historical bibliography, covering horological literature published prior to 1800. It has been a goldmine ever since. A second volume, covering literature published between 1800 and 1899, was drafted, but never published – until now. The AHS has arranged the copy-typing of the typescript, and a digital (searchable) version is now available to download from the members’ area of the website.

A sample page of the annotated 1951 typescript, in preparation for press

A sample page of the annotated 1951 typescript, in preparation for press

 

It’s a fantastic new resource for researchers. Yes, all the obvious literature is there, of course, but there are also vast numbers of obscure references which will illuminate your research. And Baillie included the good, the bad and the ugly. An 1889 article on watch cocks by Luthmer is described simply – ‘the illustrations are very good. The text is of little value’. Parker-Rhodes’ 1885 pamphlet on ‘Universal Reading of Time; is ‘of no value or interest’. But Baillie is unstinting in his praise where it is merited – witness the simple observation on Poppe’s 1801 Ausführliche Geschichte der theoretisch~praktischen Uhrmacherkunst, that ‘this is by far the best history of horology that has ever been written. Hardly a statement is made without a full reference to the authority for it.’

A sample typescript page

A sample typescript page

 

Membership of the AHS brings you full digital access to over sixty years of Antiquarian Horology, and other amazing digitized records – such as this latest bibliography, which finally makes an appearance sixty-five years after the author’s death. It is worth investigating.

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Time from the mains

 

Wireless World 1931

Wireless World 1931

 

In 1931, Wireless World published a powerful pictorial depiction of timekeeping from the electric mains. Today, we check the time on our smartphones and glance at standalone battery-driven quartz clocks on walls at home and at work, and it would be easy to assume that time from the mains had been consigned to history. But look around. On countless supermarkets, town halls, churches and other public buildings the clocks you see run from the AC mains and take their time from the frequency of the UK’s national grid.

These are synchronous motor clocks, running at a speed dictated by the grid’s frequency. To work as clocks, that frequency needs to remain very close to 50Hz. If the frequency drifts, engineers steer it back, avoiding cumulative clock error.

The UK’s Grid Code specifies that National Grid must control the frequency so that clock time remains within plus or minus 10 seconds per day. Thus while synchronous clocks might display an error of up to 10 seconds within a 24-hour period, in practice the error will daily be brought to zero by the 7.00am handover of shifts at the National Grid’s Control Centre in rural Berkshire.

 

The EHG secretary and others in the viewing gallery, overlooking the main control room

The EHG secretary and others in the viewing gallery, overlooking the main control room

 

On 11 June 2016, a few enthusiasts from the AHS Electrical Group were granted rare and privileged access to the Control Centre to hear at first hand from its highly experienced and knowledgeable engineers how they handle not only the management of the grid in real time but also how they predict what the load will be a few hours in the future.

General view of the control room, from the viewing gallery

General view of the control room, from the viewing gallery

 

Two concerns drive the never-ending work of the engineers: security of supply and efficiency. Keeping the lights on is paramount but once that is assured, market mechanisms are used to allocate resources. Reserve power is expensive, so cannot be contracted lightly. Unpredictable supply from renewable sources causes massive headaches. Inertia – enough mass in the form of spinning metal in the turbines connected to the grid – is vital to smooth volatile flows of power.

Ground floor view

Ground floor view

 

Grid time was seven seconds slow on our arrival and four seconds slow on our departure – a few hours later after an enlightening and highly informative tour packed with rich detail delivered with confidence from our expert guides. That our synchronous clocks perform so well is no longer a mystery, given the phenomenal technical and intellectual effort deployed 24/7 to keep the lights on – and to keep those clocks on time.

Close-up on one screen, with ‘clock error’ sitting at minus 4 seconds

Close-up on one screen, with ‘clock error’ sitting at minus 4 seconds

 

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Mannheim April 2016

 

Friday 15 April 2016 – to Mannheim Seckenheim for the 17th annual electric clock fair, organised by Till Lottermann and Dr Thomas Schraven, the chairman of the DGC’s Electrical Horology Group. This has long become an essential part of the social calendar of Euro-electro-horology, bringing as usual visitors from the UK, Switzerland, France, Netherlands, Switzerland, and Germany.

Arrivals at the fair

Arrivals at the fair

Part of the display at the fair

Part of the display at the fair

The fair coincided with a remarkable exhibition mounted by Hans Baumann, showing part of his extensive collection of electric watches, showcased in his two-volume publication from 2013. Several hundred watches were on show, from electro-magnetically maintained balances, through tuning fork examples, onward to early quartz.

 

Aron single pendulum electricity meter. Observed variations from time (induced electromagnetically) show power consumption

Aron single pendulum electricity meter. Observed variations from time (induced electromagnetically) show power consumption

Aron pendulum meter. Power through the coil will alter the timekeeping, allowing consumption to be calculated

Aron pendulum meter. Power through the coil will alter the timekeeping, allowing consumption to be calculated

The international crew enjoyed themselves with two excellent evening meals, and a visit to the Carl Benz museum in Ladenburg. In between times, a lot of objects changed hands – on the principle that much collecting involves storing objects for a number of years, and then passing the job of storage to the next collector.

 

As always, there were several items, not on sale but on show, which became the subject of repeated interrogation and discussion. One of these was a fabulous time printer from Löbner of Berlin, of exactly the type used at the Berlin Olympics, together with an Ulysse Nardin pocket chronometer, to record race times (see Schraven’s article on Short Time Measurement in Antiquarian Horology, Dec 2015). Another crowd-puller was a stunning but miniature ‘turret clock’ from Hörz of Ulm, the only example known, and referenced in a single catalogue (c.1905). This involves two weight-driven trains – one going and the other, in place of striking, to drive a polwender each minute (the device which sends alternate polarity pulses to slave clocks). This extraordinary survivor of an early 20th century master clock saw groups gathered for extended periods of time, counting teeth and attempting to rationalise the apparently problematic logic of its design.

Horz master clock, front view

Horz master clock, front view

Horz clock, rear view

Horz clock, rear view

 

A fabulous, multi-cultural weekend of fun, fine food and great friends.

Sensible man talk. Beer in hand

Sensible man talk. Beer in hand

 

 

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