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An Astronomical Skeleton Clock

On the cover of the October 2003 issue of Horological Journal was a beautiful great-wheel skeleton clock by the firm Buchanan. . I was interested to see if the firm was looking to sell this clock. After some discussion it was learned that this company was looking to have specialty commissions. Both I and a friend of mine were interested in hiring the firm and it was decided that he would initiate the first commission. That has since been completed and was featured in the April 2006 issue of Horological Journal - a magnificent wall hanging regulator featuring dual counter swinging pendulums and movements based on Breguet's famous design, but including a unique escapement and remontoire system.

I wanted my commission to be unusual and unlike anything built before. My three guiding principals for the clock were that it had to have scale (an imposing presence), movement (many things happening to catch the eye) and complexity. Of course it had to look beautiful incorporating all the basics of good design and fabrication techniques as demonstrated by the master clock makers of the 18th - 19th centuries. All to maximize visual impact. What you see here is a full scale mockup done in wood of what has now begun to be manufactured in metal. The overall size of the movement is 25"w x 29"h x 16"d. With the stand and case 36"w x 77" h x 24" d. Including the weights it's mass will be about 600-700 lb. No expense has been spared in the design. It is my belief that this firm is possibly unique in it's ability to build such a challenging project and to apply the high standards expected for such a monumental effort.

This is a four train, quarter striking movement with the fourth train driving the astronomical systems. The escapement is based on Harrison's H1 design and is driven by dual swinging-frame remontoire. The clock's functions include: 400 year perpetual calendar, equation of time, sidereal time, sun/moon rise and set, moon's phase and age, tides, solar/lunar  eclipses, planisphere, tellurium, and full-featured orrery to Saturn with functional moons. There will be over 20 complications. The entire movement will also be a "dry runner" through the use of innovative bearing technology. The elimination of oil is key to reliability, longevity and low maintenance. Read further details on the design. Read a condensed version of the first two years of design and last three years of construction through August 2010.

You can see the developmental stages leading to this model as well as the construction as it progresses over the three year duration here.  Also view my TouTube page for extended videos of the project:

Come join the adventure!

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The photo above shows the first  generation wood mockup on its stand built in 2006. A second generation redesign was commissioned in 2009. What is seen below is the project to date, October 2015. What is shown is the actual machine and everything between the pillars is fully functional. The clock now runs and there is full striking with quarter repeating on demand for both petit and Grande sonnerie functions. We have yet to complete all of the behind-the-dial complications, but we have finished many. They are the equation and sidereal time readouts, the third-order perpetual calendar, and time for selected cities worldwide. These comprise the entire dial work on the left side of the machine.The tellurian which is the large center dial in the right hand cluster as well as the strike control center directly below are also finished. We estimate the project is now 70% to 75% complete.





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