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Happy Birthday!

The Beyer Clock and Watch Museum has been one of Zurich’s top attractions for 50 years. In honour of the museum’s 50th birthday, we are presenting five unusual exhibits from five centuries.

Antique

Around 1510

ANTIQUE

The horary quadrant, a portable sundial made of ivory, is the oldest instrument in the Beyer Clock and Watch museum that can be used to measure the hours in a day. The quadrant measures the angle of the sun on the horizon. When the longitudinal axis of the quadrant is aligned with the sun, the thread with the bead falls on the corresponding hour line (calculated here according to the 49th parallel). These instruments were also used to calibrate the first mechanical
watches.

Around 1600

ARTISTIC

It’s hard to believe how many elements are being powered by the mechanism in the elaborately painted iron case: The large dial with 12 hours. The small dial on the left with the celestial bodies representing the days of the week. The dial on the right for the alarm. (Yes, it even features an alarm clock!) In the crown, the dial with the Moon phase and the rotating hand for the Moon’s age. And, at the very top, a rotating spherical Moon that also depicts the current lunar phase. What a gem!

Artistic
Revolutionary

1775

REVOLUTIONARY

The large maritime chronometer from the famous watchmaker Ferdinand Berthoud was the GPS of its day: an achievement that fundamentally altered navigation. Even in the roughest of seas, sailors could read the time and therefore reliably determine their current longitude: the clock’s weighted drive ran steadfastly in what was referred to as a suspended gimballed mount, which was installed in a brass cylinder. The impressive navigational tool even has a temperature compensator.

Around 1810

ELEGANT

This tiny gold pocket watch from France is just three centimetres in diameter and also serves as a stylish brooch: its chatelaine adorned with freshwater pearls makes it possible to pin it on the wearer like a medal. The rear side of the watch house is particularly richly decorated: radiant golden bars, guillochage and demi-pearls draw the eye to an enamelled medallion that depicts a cherub. The fusee pocket watch also includes a small winding key with a heart-shaped handle. These kinds of elegant lapel watches were extremely popular at the start of the 19th century and are considered the predecessor to the wristwatch.

Elegant
Profound

1978

PROFOUND

On 23 January 1960, Swiss oceanographer and engineer Jacques Piccard dove with his bathyscape Trieste to a depth of 10,916 metres in the Mariana Trench, making him the first person to reach the deepest point in the world. With its hemispherical glass dome, the Rolex Deep Sea Special that was attached to the outside of the Trieste was subjected to pressures of more than a metric tonne per square centimetre – and remained fully intact. In honour of the legendary expedition, Rolex manufactured a few identical sister watches 20 years later, one of which can be admired at the Beyer Clock and Watch Museum.

Beyer Chronometrie