„Building an astronomical clock in Poland in 21st century”
Each clock aficionado, sooner or later, comes across so called ‘astronomical clocks’. These are timepieces which for centuries allowed to measure time with the maximum precision. The description of these exceptional clocks should start with a brief presentation of the genre – what in fact they were and what purpose they served?
They were used by all the institutions which paid extreme attention to precision of measuring time. Obviously, astronomical observatories fall into this category, but they were also used by laboratories, quality departments in watch manufactures and BBC Radio Service (they broadcasted the time signal according to their clock). The astronomical clocks served their purpose until 1960s.
To maintain the highest precision possible, specific working environment had to be provided. The clocks were installed in cool basements and attached to the massive foundations of the building. This prevented the temperature and even minor shakes caused by external stimuli (e.g. traffic) from affecting the clock’s accuracy. However, in the 1960s, the astronomical clocks were replaced by atomic clocks.
Each astronomical clock is unique and rarely available on the market as their quantity was never very significant. Some might be seen in museums and very few may be found among private collectors. The leading companies (Riefler, Strasser & Rhode, Shortt, Dent) manufactured them in limited amount as they were highly sophisticated devices, not suitable for domestic use. Today, the prices of such clocks are also ‘astronomical’ – a ‘Riefler’ might cost 50k – 80k €.
My adventure with clocks dates back to 1980s. As I lived by the sea, I was keen on marine chronometers used for navigation purposes. 10 years later I was charmed by the astronomical regulators. My passion gave birth to the idea of creating a short series of such clocks – this could be a contribution to the Polish clock- and watchmaking. I wanted to produce something really exceptional. In this place, it is worth mentioning the constructors of the clock. The mechanism was designed by Mr. Zdzislaw Pieciurek (Szczecin Institute of Technology). Also Mr. Andrzej Olejnik made a great asset to the project. My task was to find suitable materials (e.g. invar rods and synthetic rubies), co-ordinate and provide financial support.
I am deeply satisified of being a creator of 30 exceptional, extremely precise clocks made from the best materials available. I am deeply convinced that any company would be proud of such a timepiece.
(Translation: Lukasz Walczyna)