Science, mystery, and beauty: three things that have inspired humans for millennia and led to the creation of some of the most remarkable objects in the history of mankind. The “holy trinity” (that’s what I’m calling them) is responsible for sparking the passions of many creators, and I will attest to being one of them. I find intense joy and satisfaction in attempting to construct objects, images, or spaces that satisfy the demands of the holy trinity.
I think that my reverence of the holy trinity can be summed up by science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke’s third law: “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
While I believed (or at least wanted to believe) in magic when I was a young child, I now understand that the mystery and amazement of the world is really the progression of science and our understanding of it. My desires to live in a world of wonderful magical opportunities can be satisfied, albeit temporarily, by the advancement of all branches of science, and the glorification of its possibilities.
But that doesn’t take into consideration beauty and its effects on our hearts and minds. While the oft-quoted phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is almost definitely true, it glosses over the fact that the human eye and brain are wired to see beauty in everyday things.
Usually resulting from patterns, colors, and symmetry, beauty is a concept that is familiar to all humans and something that can heavily shape a person’s motivations when making all sorts of decisions.
I take the holy trinity of science, mystery, and beauty into consideration when imagining new objects, or pondering what the future may hold. That is probably why I am such a science fiction nerd and lover of all such futuristic creations.
Recently, a film that captured my attention with its fantastic imagery (more so than the story) and the portrayal of a possible dystopian future was the blockbuster space epic Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman.
The landscapes were absolutely gorgeous, the set design was fantastic, and the soundscapes were chilling, but what really set it apart for me were the objects that they populated the world with.
From the drones and the giant ocean harvesters to the sky tower and the bubble ship, all the objects seemed cohesive and beautifully imagined. And the clear level of advanced technological capabilities makes it appear as a mysterious and fantastical future.
But let’s focus on the sky tower, which is the residence of the main characters; its appearance is pure modernism meets science fiction. Perched on a spindly base with a glass-bottomed pool, hamster-wheel treadmill, and bubble-ship landing pad, the sky tower embodies the holy trinity in every way. Beautiful and modern, it is an approximation of the direction our interior design is headed.
The tower is mysterious, with the very construction defying gravity and logic.
And, finally, it is technologically years ahead of what we know a home to be, while still feeling livable and accessible.
That is why I think today’s subject fits right in, and would look amazingly in-context in Oblivion, sitting on an end table or in the middle of the conversation pit. The color, design, materials, and inner workings of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Hermès Atmos Clock are a perfect marriage of the holy trinity.
Let me tell you why
Let’s begin with mystery. If you are unfamiliar with the Atmos clocks, they need absolutely no winding and are powered by magic.
Okay, they aren’t powered by magic, but all the evidence makes it seem like they are. The large balance wheel beats at one cycle per minute, an incredibly slow pace, but it still manages to be relatively accurate.
The extremely slow-beating movement is powered by a mainspring charged by simple fluctuations in temperature.
One degree Celsius increase or decrease in the ambient temperature is enough to wind an Atmos movement for approximately two days’ worth of timekeeping.
The fact that the environment around the clock is the only power source seems illogical, especially since a little temperature change never did anything beside make your arms get goose bumps and the mood ring on your index finger change color.
This magical power is actually the result of extremely precise bellows that is hermetically sealed with a very special mixture of ethyl chloride in gas and liquid form. As the temperature changes, the gas expands or contracts and causes the carefully designed bellows to “breathe.”
The breathing bellows push against a spring counterweight with chain. This counterweight drives a pinion to wind the mainspring a little bit at a time. The mainspring provides the miniscule amount of energy needed for the balance wheel (actually a torsion pendulum) to make its once-a-minute cycle. The pendulum is actually hanging on a square Elinvar wire that produces a torsional force unlike the spiral force of a typical hairspring.
There are other curiosities about the Atmos movement, but I think you might be satisfactorily scienced-out at this point. Now it’s time to appreciate the exquisiteness of the form.
The shape and design of the Hermès Atmos is pure elegance melding with art. It fits in the technological future world of Oblivion, and it calls to the artisans of old-world France. In short, it’s spherical, translucent bliss.
Hyperbole aside, the form of the Hermès Atmos is one of the most beautiful objects I have ever seen. At first glance one might mistake it for a giant glass golf ball, but that is selling it miles short.
The Hermès Atmos is constructed out of a triple-layered crystal sphere, air blown, and completed by the six most talented glassblowers of Les Cristalleries de Saint-Louis. These artists have been creating spectacular pieces for quite a while, since approximately 1586. That’s not a typo; they have been creating masterpieces for almost 430 years, so it’s safe to say they have a handle on things.
The double-overlay technique used for creating the complicated sphere is rather involved, but it can be broken down into a few main steps:
- Initially, a glassblower gathers white-colored molten crystal with a blowpipe, the pipe through which air is introduced to create cavities in the glass.
- With careful puffs, he works and shapes the crystal ball with a mailloche (shaping block) to achieve a small glass bubble known as a parison.
- While this is happening, four other master glassmakers prepare a clear ball of crystal for the next stage of production.
- At this point, the first glassblower detaches the hot, white enamel globe and another master pours in the clear mass to begin the overlay portion.
- They are worked as one and then placed into a mold form before being blown to size. This ensures that the size and shape is maintained precisely for the delicate Atmos movement to be installed later.
- The final sphere is then placed in an annealing oven, which controls the temperature during cooling so as to relieve stress in the crystal to prevent cracks or shattering.
- Next is crystal-cutting, first the opening where the movement will be inserted, and then the hole pattern details. The hole pattern is different, though, it only is cut through the top two layers of crystal (including the white enamel layer), leaving a final layer intact and creating an array of windows into the movement.
- Finally, the entire sphere is polished for a flawless surface and remarkable creation.
- Once the crystal case and the Atmos movement are married, the object meant to span the centuries and display timeless perfection is ready for years (and years) of reliable service. The Hermès Atmos clock is a marvelous creation exhibiting skills amassed over lifetimes of work. It rightfully deserves a place in the list of most beautiful manmade creations of the modern world.
And who knows, it might very well make its way into the curated collection of a future human living in a sky tower fighting against a malevolent alien race for control of planet earth.
Oh boy, just thinking about that future could make a guy have a nervous breakdown. Or I could just do my breakdown!
• Wowza Factor * 10 Spherical translucent bliss. ‘Nough said.
• Late Night Lust Appeal * 123.45 gn » 1,210.630m/s2 That is a pretty high number, enough to reduce your butt to mush and keep you staring for years!
• M.G.R. * 71.8 The Atmos is nearly perpetual motion (technically not because it is not a closed system) and runs on air. It beats one cycle a minute. It can run (theoretically) for 600 years before needing service. Any questions?
• Added-Functionitis * N/A No extra functions again. At this point, who would even care with that globe of wonder in your house? You can bypass the Gotta-HAVE-That cream even though you really gotta have that.
• Ouch Outline * 12.65 – Stubbing Your Toe On Your Samurai Sword Collection The unspoken part of this ouch moment is what isn’t seen but felt as your toes kindly bounce away. Whoa, really ouch. And yet, I might totally do it if I could have the Jaeger-LeCoultre Hermès Atmos.
• Mermaid Moment * 20 Years of Bliss! Love at first sight that lasts for years. That is the best way to describe the Jaeger-LeCoultre Hermès Atmos. It’s so awe-striking, you start practicing your calligraphy for the invitations.
For more information, please visit www.jaeger-lecoultre.com and read How Hermès Transforms Crystal Into The Colorful Dial Of The Arceau Millefiori Watch as well as Hermès, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Saint-Louis Create Spectacular Atmos Clock.
Case: 276 x 276 x 272 mm crystal
Movement: Jaeger-LeCoultre Caliber 560a Atmos movement
Functions: hours, minutes
Price: 30,000 Swiss francs