Friction, viscosity, air resistance, not to mention entropy buildup - the Second Law of Thermodynamics and all that - conspire against the mechanical timepiece.We like to think our self-winding watches replica can run forever. But they will stop finally, and before then their accuracy will degrade. The sad fact is, perpetual motion is physically impossible. But with a little maintenance here and there, it's almost achievable. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos clock, invented in the 1920s, is "living" proof. How does it do it? The key is something that's constantly changing, even though we often can't tell: temperature. The Swiss firm LeCoultre entered the picture in 1932, agreeing to develop and produce the Atmos 1 for CGR. They delivered 1,000-2,000 clocks in 1933 and 1934. In mid-1935 LeCoultre took over all production.The new Replica Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos II was announced in 1936, but production problems intervened and the clock was not released for public sales until the middle of 1939. The Atmos II and III were produced until late 1955; the Atmos IV's production run was only 10,000 units, the shortest of all the generations of the clock. At the same time, they began development of a next-generation Atmos, this time to be powered by ethyl chloride - the substance still in use in the bellows of Atmos clocks produced today. Generations V, VI, VII, and VIII are mainly distinguished by the clock calibers they contained. However, some generations used multiple calibers, and some calibers span two or three generations. In addition, serial numbers intertwine between the generations, but there is good documentation should you be interested in determining more about your own Atmos, should you be lucky enough to own one.In late 1983 production of the Atmos VIII stopped. This was the last of the clocks whose design was based on the original by Jean-Leon Reutter. At this point, Jaeger-LeCoultre totally redesigned the clock, and installed a new caliber. No longer would generation numbers (I through VIII up to that point) be used. Production continued, and continues to this day, with no more distinction between model generations. There are numerous interesting modern Atmoses.An Atmos du Millenaire was buried in the St. Catherine monastery in the Sinai Desert in 1999, presumably to be discovered and checked for accuracy by clock keepers a thousand years from now. The Atmos du Millenaire indicates the passing years, months, hours and minutes, and observes the moon-phases on a dial graduated up to the year 3000. How warranty service will be handled if it's not running is still up in the air. Released in 2003 in a limited series of 25, the Pendule Atmos Mysterieuse hides the timekeeping mechanism inside Baccarat crystal finished with mother-of-pearl diamonds. The spherically shaped, golf-ball-looking Hermes Atmos, a collaboration between Hermes, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and Les Cristalleries de Saint-Louis, the famous glassblowers, is a limited edition of 176 pieces - one for each year of Hermes' existence. The (RED) Atmos 561 was designed by designer Marc Newson in conjunction with Jaeger-LeCoultre for an upcoming auction benefitting the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Today the Atmos is treated almost as a Swiss national treasure, and is certainly revered in horological circles. Atmos clocks have been given as gifts by the Swiss Confederation to visiting dignitaries and Heads of State for over a half century. They've graced the desks of the likes of Sir Winston Churchill, General Charles De Gaulle, actor Charlie Chaplin, Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, and King Hussein of Jordan. Unfortunately, they're not handing them out to visitors like you and me when we land at the Zurich airport. But considering its ingenuity and historical importance, the Atmos is surprisingly affordable, even to mere timekeeping mortals who save their pennies. For a few thousand dollars, you too can own a legacy timepiece that will still be running when it's handed down to your heirs two dozen generations down the line.
That all sounds incredibly innovative, but the principle has been around a long time. The first clocks based on temperature changes were made nearly 400 years ago. The oldest one still running today, the Beverly Clock, was built in 1864. It has not been manually wound from that day to this. Instead, its mechanism is driven by variations in atmospheric pressure and daily temperature fluctuations. Jean-Leon Reutter, an engineer in Neuchatel, Switzerland, took note of these earlier timepieces and designed the first Atmos clock in 1928. The mechanism that drove this early version, not yet named Atmos (but now called "Atmos 0" by clock intelligentsia), was powered by a module made of glass and mercury and operated solely due to variations in temperature (barometric pressure need not apply). The first commercial version, the Atmos 1, was first produced in 1929 by the French company Compagnie Generale de Radio (CGR). This model used a bellows filled with mercury and ammonia, which today would be considered a major safety hazard, to drive the movement.Marc Newson has been a prolific designer of timepieces, ranging from fake wristwatches to sleek hourglasses. The Australian has had a particularly productive relationship with Jaeger-LeCoultre, having designed two earlier Atmos clocks - the Atmos 561 and more complicated Atmos 566 - as well as one-off timepieces for charity. Best known for the sleek, riveted Lockheed Lounge - now the most expensive object by a living designer - Newson is also Designer for Special Projects at Apple, with the Replica Jaeger-LeCoultre Duometre Watch being one of his creations. Characterised by smooth lines and rounded corners, Newson's latest work is the Atmos 568.The Atmos 568 is instantly recognisable as a Newson creation, with a strong familial resemblance to his other Atmos clocks, though it is a completely new creation.
According to Newson, "Most of the visible pieces have been re-designed, the hands, dials, increments, the case, the counterbalance, the base and the structure of the movement and its interface with the glass." Jaeger-LeCoultre's Atmos clock, created by Swiss inventor Jean-Leon Reutter in 1928, has always felt like a piece of alien technology. A brilliant feat of engineering, it uses nothing more than atmospheric pressure to keep itself running. "You don't have to wind it. You don't have to shake it. It just is," says James Landin, founder of the vintage Replica Jaeger-LeCoultre Master watch vendor Analog/Shift. Small fluctuations in temperature charge the clock; a shift of only one degree hotter or colder can keep it going for 48 hours. This fall, Jaeger-LeCoultre released the Atmos 568, the third version by renowned industrial designer Marc Newson. For this iteration, Newson stripped away the retro Art Deco trappings and housed the stunning openworked movement in a bubble of Baccarat crystal. The high-end transparency shows the ingenious workings of all of the clock's 211 pieces, and the time will remain accurate to the day for almost 4,000 years-long enough to qualify as science fiction.While the earlier Newson clocks are often described as ice cubes, being rounded on the edges with gently curved surfaces on all sides, the new Atmos 568 is flat on the front and back, giving it a more geometric form and a hint of 1970s styling.
Made of crystal glass - a type of glass with a high lead content that gives it sparkle and clarity - the body of the clock is made up of two pieces of glass. One is a larger section comprising the sides and back, and the other is a flat front panel that can be removed via the small metal clasp at 12 o'clock, allowing access to the movement to set the time. The crystal glass - described by Newson as a "a beautiful and noble material" - is produced by Baccarat, the 250-year old French maker of high-end crystal glassware that was also responsible for the previous Newson Atmos clocks. Though crafted with an extremely thick and heavy base for stability, the walls of the body are as thin as 13mm, demonstrating Baccarat's finesse in working the material.Functionally the Atmos 568 is identical to the first Newson Atmos, showing the hours, minutes, month as well as phase of the moon. The chapter ring for the hours is clear glass, with the hour numerals and hands in a shade of dark blue selected by Newson. All the metal surfaces have a brushed finish, while the balance wheel at the very bottom of the Replica Jaeger-LeCoultre Complicated movement has been redesigned with smaller teeth featuring alternating matte and polished surfaces. Like all Atmos clocks it runs on an exceptionally efficient mechanism powered by air, thanks to a special mix of gas inside a sealed capsule that expands and contracts with minute changes in ambient temperature - a one degree change in temperature is enough to run the clock for two days. Shaped like the bellows of an accordion, the changing length of the capsule winds the clock's mainspring.