Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Precious Time: A Sixteenth Century Mechanical Clock

Click on image to enlarge.
Mechanical Clock
Sixteenth Century
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Mechanical clocks were the iPads of the Sixteenth Century. Okay, not really. But, they were the epitome of Sixteenth Century technical ingenuity. Not only were they functional and attractive, they were also costly status symbols. Functional though they were, they were not too dependable and, well…at this point in history, people actually had better luck telling time by watching the movement of the sun.

Here’s a great example of a Sixteenth Century mechanical clock. While the clockworks are a replacement, the construction of the case and mechanism, in which a mythical monster (perhaps a griffin) supports the dial, is very similar to others of the same period—specifically in that the mechanism is hidden in the base and not in the figure itself.

When the clock was striking the hours, the monster’s beak opened and closed and, his wings flapped. Neat!

Honestly, the only thing in the then-near future, that threatened the dominance of the mechanical clock was the development of the steam engine in the late Eighteenth Century.

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