Watchmaker Hublot Recreates Miniature Antikythera Mechanism ~ First Analog Computer Replicated into a Watch

Antikythera Mechanism and Hublot - What is the Connection?

In 1901, an unexpected discovery was placed on a shelf. It remained on the shelf for almost 50 years, at which time the magnitude of its discovery was revealed. This revelation changed history forever. Even today, the reproduction of this discovery, now determined to be almost 2000 years old, challenges companies like Hublot to discover its secrets. Let’s look at this story!


Fragments of the Antikythera Mechanism

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Another Photo of the Antikythera MechanismA large piece of the Antikythera MechanismFragments of the Antikythera MechanismThe Remnants of the Antikythera Mechanism are Displayed at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, GreeceThe Remnants of the Antikythera Mechanism are Displayed at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece
Another Photo of the Antikythera Mechanism
Another Photo of the Antikythera Mechanism | Source
A large piece of the Antikythera Mechanism
A large piece of the Antikythera Mechanism | Source
Fragments of the Antikythera Mechanism
Fragments of the Antikythera Mechanism | Source
The Remnants of the Antikythera Mechanism are Displayed at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece
The Remnants of the Antikythera Mechanism are Displayed at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece | Source
The Remnants of the Antikythera Mechanism are Displayed at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece
The Remnants of the Antikythera Mechanism are Displayed at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece | Source

Wreckage Found in 1901 Near Antikythera

One stormy October afternoon in 1901 close to the Greek island of Antikythera, Captain Dimitrios Kondos sent a team down to the Mediterranean Sea bed to harvest sponges. Not too long afterwards, one of his divers resurfaced frantically sharing that he had come upon a shipwreck and that there were decaying bodies, horses and human, strewn everywhere.

Captain Kondos, thinking his diver was delirious from carbon dioxide poisoning, decided to check things out for himself. After donning his gear and diving down the 197 feet (60 meters), he found an ancient sunken ship; and the decaying bodies were soon discovered to be bronze statues covered with over one hundred years of sediment.

Captain Kondos and his team rummaged through the ship wreckage taking what they could carry back to Greece. After examining the artifacts, the Greek Education Ministry and the Hellenic Navy quickly planned an expedition to discover the secrets the wreckage held. It was soon determined that the wreckage had been there more than 2000 years, placing it sometime in the first hundred years B.C.

Many archaeological artifacts were retrieved from the wreckage, including marble statues, bronze statues and coins. The treasure salvaged was further enhanced when a previously unnoticed piece of rock cracked open revealing a perplexing and unexpected treasure.


The Incredible Antikythera Mechanism - Proof of Intellect Through the Ages

This video includes some footage of the Hublot watchmakers and their work on the Antikythera Mechanism.



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Re-constructed Antikythera MechanismSide View of Re-constructed Antikythera Mechanism
Re-constructed Antikythera Mechanism
Re-constructed Antikythera Mechanism | Source
Side View of Re-constructed Antikythera Mechanism
Side View of Re-constructed Antikythera Mechanism | Source

The Antikythera Mechanism

Historians decided the treasure hidden inside that chunk of rock could not have possibly existed when the ship was wrecked. The treasure was a complex mechanism containing a metallic planetary gear system that could not have existed in the first hundred years B.C. It was well known that this type of mechanism had not shown up anywhere in history for another almost 1900 years. The historians assumed the mechanism had somehow been deposited at a later time within the wreckage, or it had been wrongly catalogued and stored. So it sat ignored for almost 50 years.

In 1951, Derek J. de Solla Price took interest in the object. Technological testing advances which had been gained during that time period helped Mr. Price determine the mechanism’s manufacture to indeed be in the correct time period. The type of technology exhibited by the Antikythera Mechanism had been unheard of during that time period – until now! This discovery placed advanced technology in the time period of the Ancient Greeks. This mechanism became the world’s earliest known use of planetary gears, and the earliest known use of clockwork gears.


Antikythera Fractions
Antikythera Fractions | Source
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This picture shows what an x-ray of the Original Antikythera Mechanism revealed!X-ray pictures of Original Antikythera Mechanism
This picture shows what an x-ray of the Original Antikythera Mechanism revealed!
This picture shows what an x-ray of the Original Antikythera Mechanism revealed! | Source
X-ray pictures of Original Antikythera Mechanism
X-ray pictures of Original Antikythera Mechanism | Source

Antikythera Mechanism’s Use

Eighty-two pieces of the mechanism (shown in the picture above), soon to be called the Antikythera Mechanism, had been retrieved. For the next 50 years the mechanism was studied applying new technologies as they became available, including advanced photography and X-ray (see page from magazine article to the right). These X-rays indicated there are at least 30 gears inside this mechanism.

It was determined that by adjusting one knob to select a date, and making adjustments with knobs on the back, the mechanism would accurately determine the sun’s position, the moon’s position, the position of the 5 known (at that time) planets, the phase of the moon, and solar eclipses. The device also took leap year into consideration, something that was thought to have occurred at least 100 years later than this discovery placed that ability.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Close-Up View of Re-Constructed Antikythera MechanismFront View of Re-Constructed Antikythera MechanismBack  View of Re-Constructed Antikythera Mechanism
Close-Up View of Re-Constructed Antikythera Mechanism
Close-Up View of Re-Constructed Antikythera Mechanism | Source
Front View of Re-Constructed Antikythera Mechanism
Front View of Re-Constructed Antikythera Mechanism | Source
Back  View of Re-Constructed Antikythera Mechanism
Back View of Re-Constructed Antikythera Mechanism | Source

Archimedes and the Antikythera Mechanism

For a mechanism of this magnitude, performing much like an analog computer, to been designed would have required hundreds of years of astronomical data, and a mathematical genius. As fate would have it, Archimedes, one of the most brilliant mathematicians lived in Syracuse, Greece between 287 – 212 B.C. He also happened to be an exceptional designer, with some of his designs still in use today. History has made references to Archimedes’ design of an intricately geared planetary system to reproduce the movements of the sun, moon, and then known planets.

Since Archimedes died almost 100 years prior to the production of the Antikythera Mechanism, it is believed that his plans were used by someone else to create the mechanism. The mechanism remains proof positive that brilliant minds have existed throughout time.

Hublot’s Watch-Sized Antikythera Mechanism

It should not be surprising that a watchmaker would be fascinated with the precise gear systems found to exist within the Antikythera Mechanism. The fascination would be further magnified by the fact that this device was invented almost 2000 years prior to what had previously been believed.

Hublot’s master watchmakers felt the call of a challenge to recreate a working replica of this enormous device, but at a watch-sized scale.

(To see pictures, click here. They are really quite amazing when you consider how small the replicated mechanism is. I wanted to share them with you; therefore, I provided the link.)

And they did not stop there, but added a built in clock circuit as well. In their attempt to build a device that could tell time as well as make astronomical predictions, they were faced with challenges they had not previously dealt with, “the non-linear gearings used to simulate elliptical patterns in the solar system.”




Hublot’s Intentions?

The timepiece, a concept piece only, will be presented at the 2012 Baselworld watch show.


All Rights Reserved

Copyright © 2011 Cindy Murdoch


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Have you ever heard of the Antikythera Mechanism before?

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This video shows the amazing results of the X-rays taken of one of the pieces of the Antikythera Mechanism retrieved in 1900 from the 100 B.C. shipwreck.



This second video goes into more detail of what some of the dials indicate on the mechanism and how the mechanism served an astronomical function as well as a cultural function.

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Comments: "Watchmaker Hublot Recreates Miniature Antikythera Mechanism, the First Analog Computer Replicated into a Watch" 12 comments

davenmidtown profile image

davenmidtown 5 years ago from Sacramento, California

Another great hub HSB! The Antikythera Mechanism is a very wondrous thing. One has to wonder about it a great deal... why was it there, who made it, what purpose did it have then? All good things to get your mind kicking about.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

davenmidtown - I really enjoyed researching this one. It truly is a fascinating mechanism. The mechanical designer in me wants to know the why also. Definitely gets my mind working!

Thanks so much for stopping by!


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

Amazing hub showing that genius minds and inventions go back much further than we would ordinarily think. I really enjoyed that first video. Voted up all the way except funny.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

Peggy W - thanks so much for stopping by! It really is amazing to find out that even though humans may have lived in more primitive conditions, their mental capacities could challenge those of today.

I'm glad you enjoyed it.


Coolmon2009 profile image

Coolmon2009 5 years ago from Texas, USA

Interesting article on the "Antikythera Mechanism." It is nice to be reminded innovation extends back further than the last 150 years.


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

Very interesting piece if history. I'll have to share this with a few of my engineering friends - I'm sure they will find this fascinating.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

Coolmon2009 - It is really amazing that we find that humans have had these capabilities that long ago. I think people may have thought that the intellect wasn't there, but what surprises me even more is the creation of sure intricate gear mechanisms. To me that is pretty darn amazing.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

Kris Heeter - It is a very interesting piece of history. I hope your friends enjoy it. I was intrigued how Hublot was making such a small replica of the Antikythera mechanism. That was amazing!

Thanks for stopping by!


carol3san profile image

carol3san 5 years ago from Hollywood Florida

Hi homesteadbound, what a great hub. I truly enjoyed learning about the Antikythera Mechanism. The videos were all very nice. I learned something wonderful today. Thanks for sharing. I voted you up, useful, awesome and interesting


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

carol3san - I am so glad I was able to share it with you. I found it to be fascinating myself. Thanks for the votes and thanks for stopping by!


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois

Very cool hub - lots of interesting info and the videos definitely add to it. Loved the one on Legos because it made me think of my boys who both loved building with them. Voted up and interesting


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

Danette Watt - Thanks so much for giving me such thorough information. I wondered if there were not too many videos, but I figure if someone doesn't want to watch them, they don't have to, but if they want more info it is there. I found them to all be interesting, so thanks for the input.

Thanks for stopping by and providing such valuable information.

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