The Planetarium Table Clock: Magnificent 1775 Timepiece Tracks the Passing of Time & the Travel of the Planets

If you’re in Zurich, head over to the Bey­er Clock and Watch Muse­um, which presents the his­to­ry of time­keep­ing and time­keep­ing instru­ments, from 1400 BC to mod­ern times. On dis­play, you’ll find sun­di­als, water and tow­er clocks, Renais­sance automa­ta, and pen­du­lum clocks. And the Plan­e­tar­i­um Table Clock fea­tured above.

Made cir­ca 1775, the plan­e­tar­i­um clock keeps time … and so much more. Accord­ing to the Muse­um of Arti­facts web­site, the earth (look in the glass orb) “rotates around the sun in per­fect real time.” And the “oth­er five plan­ets rotate as well–they “go up, down, around, in rela­tion to the etched con­stel­la­tions of pre­cise­ly posi­tioned stars on the crys­tal globe, which if you are smart enough will reveal what sea­son it is.” This fine time­keep­ing piece was the joint cre­ation of Nicole-Reine Lep­aute, a French astronomer who pre­dict­ed the return of Hal­ley’s Comet, and her hus­band, Jean-André Lep­aute, who presided over a clock­mak­ing dynasty and became hor­loger du Roi (clock­mak­er to the king).

It’s hard to imag­ine that the Plan­e­tar­i­um clock did­n’t some­how inspire a more mod­ern creation–the Mid­night Plané­tar­i­um, an astro­nom­i­cal watch that shows the rota­tion of five plan­ets — Mer­cury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Sat­urn. It has a price tag of $220,000 (exclud­ing sales tax). See it on dis­play below.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How Clocks Changed Human­i­ty For­ev­er, Mak­ing Us Mas­ters and Slaves of Time

An Ani­mat­ed Alan Watts Wax­es Philo­soph­i­cal About Time in The Fine Art of Goof­ing Off, the 1970s “Sesame Street for Grown-Ups”

Carl Sagan Presents Six Lec­tures on Earth, Mars & Our Solar Sys­tem … For Kids (1977)

by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.