Inspiration from the ancients

  • Antikythera mechanism
  • Hublot Antikythera watch
Date:28 February 2012

Hublot Antikythera watch
We presume you’ve heard of the Antikythera mechanism, discovered by a Greek sponge diver in a wreck on the Mediterranean sea bed in 1901. It’s one of the most mysterious objects in the history of civilisation: the very idea of a machine created in Greco-Roman antiquity did not enter the conceptual framework of the specialists of the time, and even today, obscurantist statements from non-scientists still claim that the artefact must be of extraterrestrial origin (er… it’s not).

The fragments of this machine were analysed in depth, taking a multidisciplinary approach, only at the beginning of this century. It is now clear that this “astronomical instrument” dates from the 2nd century BC. Originally, it served as a calculator; its bronze gear trains were housed in a wooden box measuring approximately 33 cm x 18 cm and its case was sealed with two bronze plaques covered with inscriptions. Only 82 fragments of this machine still remain, some minuscule, all corroded: they are now on display in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

A genuine cosmograph (a machine to describe the cosmos), or more precisely, a selenograph (a machine to describe the movements of the Moon), the Antikythera mechanism was highly accurate and could show multiple astronomical cycles, including the Metonic cycle (named after the Greek astronomer Meton, the Saros cycle (223 lunar months, or just over 18 years) as well as the Exeligmos cycle (equivalent to three Saros cycles, or 54 years).

Where is all this leading? To a watch – and more specifically, to a rather special timepiece created by the gurus at Hublot. In creating their unique Antikythera watch, the designers had to create in a few cubic centimetres what the mechanical engineers of antiquity had developed over several hundreds of cubic centimetres, ensuring their creation was perfectly in keeping with the spirit of the original mechanism, both in terms of its accuracy and the legibility of its indications.

The hours and minutes are displayed in the conventional manner, at the centre of the movement recreated by Hublot, the movement being regulated by a conventional tourbillon whose “cage” at 6 o’clock completes one revolution in one minute. The various known indications of the Antikythera mechanism have been faithfully reproduced on its modern-day counterpart, both on the front and on the back. The primary face of the movement shows the calendar for the Panhellenic games, the Egyptian calendar (12 months each of 30 days, with the epagomenal, or additional, days), the position of the Sun in the constellations of the Zodiac, the phases of the Moon, and the sidereal year. The back of the watchmaking movement shows the Callippic cycle, the Metonic cycle, the Saros cycle and the Exeligmos cycle.

You really need to check out this YouTube video: http://bit.ly/nIy2hS

Video: Visit Hublot Antikythera watch to watch a seven minute film about this amazing timepiece.

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