Hublot’s replica Antikythera mechanism

 

The story of the Antikythera mechanism could be drawn directly from science fiction. Discovered in 1900, along with a treasure trove of ancient artefacts from a Roman shipwreck resting at the bottom of the Aegean, it was eventually revealed to be a complicated analogue computer, conceived to predict the motion of celestial objects decades into the future. So advanced was the clockwork genius of the mechanism, nothing would rival it’s complexity and precision for at least 14 centuries.

I have visited the Louvre, the British Museum, and many other equally distinguised institutions during my 20 years abroad. I’ve often marveled at the ingenuity and sophistication of the ancients, as I stand humbled amongst fabulous relics from millennia past. In many respects, the Antikythera mechanism eclipses them all, testimony to the remarkable intellectual achievement it represents. Currently housed in the Museum of Athens, this assemblage of flaking green fragments only hints at the significance of the device from a technological standpoint. Modern investigative techniques, including groundbreaking three-dimensional images of the mechanism’s hidden workings, have enlightened us as to the specific functions the computer was meant to perform, and also uncovered before unseen inscriptions.

 

Over the decades, various replicas have been created, each successor benefiting from advances in computer tomography and other penetrative scanning techniques. The culmination of all this careful analysis and refinement has been realized in the exquisite craftsmanship of the Hublot miniature replica seen at the top. Why bother? It isn’t very good at telling the time, and if that’s all you want, a 25 year old digital Casio would do just fine. The answer is simple. Hublot, like so many of their fellow Swiss watch makers, are locked in a type of arms race, each one attempting to outdo the other with ever more remarkable feats of haute horlogerie. You only need refer back to my recent write-up on the micro-technological masterpieces of Maximilian Büsser to see how the Swiss are lifting the state of the art to new heights.

If I had the means, and if it were for sale, I’d certainly sport this beautiful replica on my wrist. Not only would I be paying homage to the prodigious accomplishments of ancient Western civilization, I could bore the living daylights out of anyone foolish enough to ask with a lengthy and detailed history lesson.

 



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