I'm currently in the market for a new wristwatch, having given my existing mega-cool (but somewhat inexpensive) timepiece to my son Joseph.
Do you recall my earlier blocks on Steampunk Computers and Steampunk Motorcycles? In fact, the whole Steampunk thing has got me rather excited, so I started to ponder the idea of acquiring a Steampunk Watch.
As with most things, of course, there are several flavors of these little rascals. On the one hand, there are some uber-cool Japanese versions that have a decidedly Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome feel to them.
Consider These Little Beauties, for example, some of which I find to be strangely appealing. Unfortunately, I find my inability to read, write, or speak Japanese to be something of a hindrance here, so I have no idea how much they cost or where one would order one from.
On the other hand, these may be a tad too "industrial" for my taste. At the other end of the spectrum are some incredibly "smooth-looking" versions. One of the best – to my mind – is made by Vianney Halter. This "beast", which is known as the Antiqua, is absolutely gorgeous.
In addition to the time, the Antiqua also displays the date, the day of the week, the current month, and the cycle of the leap year. It also accounts for the variable number of days in the month and for leap years. The Antiqua also comes with a special "winding box" for those who don't have the time (pun intended) or the inclination to wind it by hand. In fact, as long as you keep the watch wound up, the Vianney Halter website explains that:
The Antiqua requires owner-intervention only once every 100 years to take account of the fact that the turn of the centuries (e.g. 1900 or 2100) are not leap years even though they are divisible by four.
Actually, this is not strictly true. A solar year (the length of time it takes the earth to complete its orbit around the sun) is very close to 365¼ days. This is why kids at school are taught the rule that: "Every year that is divisible by 4 is a leap year." On these years we add a leap day, which occurs on February 29 (I presume that "the powers that be" selected this date because February is the shortest month, but I'm not sure about this).
The problem is that, in reality, a solar year is actually around 11 minutes shorter than 365¼ days. In order to compensate for this, the leap year is omitted three times out of every four hundred years. This leads us to modify our original rule to be: "Every year that is divisible by 4 is a leap year, unless it's also divisible by 100, in which it may or may not be a leap year." We now have to add a second rule that says something like: "Every year that is divisible by 100 is not a leap year unless it's also divisible by 400, in which case it is still a leap year."
Actually, astronomers are constantly adding and/or subtracting leap seconds to fine-tune things further. This is performed by international agreement, and involves all of the atomic clocks that are used to broadcast the signals used to synchronize things being "tweaked" at exactly the same time.
I'm sorry, what were we talking about? Oh yes, the Antiqua watch. There are some excellent pictures of this little rapscallion in a 2001 Article that I just discovered. At that time, the Antiqua cost US$64,000. Well, obviously I was not aware of this nugget of trivia when I called the Vianney Halter distributor in Miami, Florida, this morning to ask if they had any Antiqua's in the store.
The very nice man said that they did indeed have just one Antiqua available ... and that it was a bargain at only US$95,000. I was very brave. I told him that the decision would have to be left to my wife, because she wanted to buy me a watch for Christmas. It was only after I'd put the phone down that I started to cry...
Questions? Comments? Feel free to email me – Clive "Max" Maxfield – at firstname.lastname@example.org). And, of course, if you haven't already done so, don't forget to Sign Up for our weekly Programmable Logic DesignLine Newsletter.