Devouring time

By Daniel Holz | June 7, 2009 7:46 pm

My previous post on watches seems to have been misconstrued as an attack on all things mechanical. So, to establish my street cred as a geek, it looks like I’m forced to post about my favorite mechanical timekeeper: the chronophage.

It’s the coolest clock ever. It runs fast. It runs slow. It runs forward. It runs backward. It stops. It is precisely the right time once every five minutes. The clock is a striking illustration that time is fleeting and unreliable. The escapement features a hideous bug, literally eating the seconds as they pass. The passage of time is terrifying, after all.

  • Neal J. King

    I’ve seen the chronophage at Cambridge.

    They missed something in the presentation: Something a little odd happens at the hour, but you can only hear it. There’s nothing visible to mark or explain the event.

  • Dennis

    It should say “escapement” instead of “escarpment”.

  • daniel

    Neal, what you’re alluding to is beyond the clanking that we hear in the video?

    Dennis, nice catch. I’ve fixed it.

  • Neal J. King


    Sorry, I didn’t mean the presentation in your video, but the presentation of the object itself: It’s kind of disappointing, when you’ve waited around for the change of hour, that you don’t SEE anything interesting happen (as you do with the Rathaus Glockenspiele in various German towns) at that moment: no dancing or anything.

    It’s a kind of user-interface issue!

  • Dave Gill

    Rather than a grasshopper, shouldn’t that chronophage be called a “circada”?

    OK, I’ll go away now….

  • Brian

    Thanks for sharing that. I love seeing what artists can do with clockwork.

  • Yale s.Y. Landsberg

    At first glance, the Chronophage’s depiction of time being devoured seems really cool.

    However, as recent medical research shows that many illnesses (including depression, obesity, insomnia, autism and Sundown Syndrome in Alzheimer’s patients, and more) are associated with poorly operating biological clocks, maybe it is we who are being devoured by time? At least “corporate standard time” — as compared with “local natural time” — i.e., “time” that is naturally defined as “time of local sunrise, local noon and local sunset”!

    As modern working conditions and modern time-keeping (such as time zones, and Daily Saving Time) have more and more gotten in the way of our biological clocks knowing what they need to know to healthily regulate our circadian rhythms, perhaps it is time for us to get our bio-clocks back in sync with the flows and ebbs of actual day and night? Can’t hurt, and might help a lot. Which is why GreenTyme’s recently patented Synclecron is freely available on the Web at And also why its mobile edition will soon be freely available for the browsers of iPhones, gPhones, BlackBerries, etc., via

  • Brian Mingus

    Huge waste of money. I suppose someone who says such a thing isn’t allowed to get the point. Except that it’s entirely possible to appreciate the point without blowing millions of dollars.

  • Sili

    That is gorgeous. I think I read about it at some point, but this is the first time I see it.

  • Proportion Wheel

    Oddly mammalian eye on that bug.

    Brian @ 8, you could say the same thing about all art, and this is undeniably a beautiful and thought-provoking piece of art.

  • Pingback: Fun with time « A Man With A Ph.D.()


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