As a brand, Officine Panerai has always been reverent of history – it's own as well as that of horology in general – and has paid tribute to these roots. And they have done so once again with the creation of the Panerai Pendulum Clock (PAM00500). A tangible reminder of the connection between Galileo, Florence, science and Panerai, this clock is a faithful representation of the original model created by Galileo Galilei.
Galileo's creation – a paradigm shift
With his original creation, Galileo Galilei truly earned the moniker, "measurer of time". In the 17th century, he designed an instrument to demonstrate the law of isochronism of small oscillations of the pendulum; this discovery marked a new age in horology as it enabled more accurate timekeeping so that, where clocks once had an error of several minutes a day, it could now be brought down to mere seconds!
The escape wheel in this instrument, which has since been recognized as the first free escapement in history, has been recreated in the Panerai Pendulum Clock and demonstrates an operation of vast historic significance and technical excellence.
The original instrument – what we have and what was lost
Besides the technical wonder, a part of what made the discovery of the pendulum so very precious to the timekeeping world was the tragedy associated with it. By the time Galileo imagined this idea and put it to paper in 1641, he was almost completely blind and hence, entrusted his son Vincenzo with the task of bringing his vision into reality.
Following Galileo's death the next year, this idea remained a design until 1649, when Vincenzo decided to complete it. The iron frame, wheels and pinions were made in a crude state by a blacksmith while Vincenzo himself cut the teeth of the escapement. But it was not meant to be...a few months later, Vincenzo also died and the model, while possibly operational, faded into obscurity for a time. A decade later, at the request of Florentine prince Leopoldo de' Medici, Galileo's friend and biographer Vincenzo Viviani recovered the model and brought it to the prince.
With the instrument, Viviani included the original drawing – the only part of this creation that remains, now that all traces of the machine have been lost to time. Preserved in Florentine, this drawing depicts the structure and operation of this instrument, and the formulation of the laws of isochronism. Based on this drawing, in 1887, Florentine clock-maker Eustachio Porcellotti built the clock, which is now preserved in the Museo Galileo in Florence/ This clock formed the basis for Panerai's Pendulum clock.
The Panerai Pendulum Clock
The Panerai Pendulum Clock is an almost exact replication of Porcellotti's work. Based on the original drawing, and verified by the few other reliable reconstructions. the Pendulum Clock is 35.6cms tall, 18.5cms wide and 11.1cms thick. Unlike the original design's frame. whose plates were made of iron, the Panerai Pendulum Clock's frame is made of brass, plated with nickel-palladium, joined by crosspieces at the top and bottom with taper pins, in the traditional fashion.
The upper crosspiece carries the escapement and pendulum suspension, and the lower connects the lower parts of the frame plates, which form into four scrolled feet. The spring barrel, which lies between the base and the dial, has a drum which contains a 4.1m long spring which powers the clock for eight days. The clock is wound by turning the square winding arbor with a key, while a ratchet with its related spring is mounted above the center of the spring barrel to keep it from unwinding. The dial, located further up, bears Roman numerals, like the 1887 model, with black-lacquered hands. The wheels with their hand-finished teeth, the bezel surrounding the dial, the spring barrel and other details are all gold-plated.
The most crucial part of the clock (both functionally and historically) is the regulating pendulum and escapement designed by Galileo. This consists of an escape wheel with 12 pins fitted to its side and 12 teeth cut in its perimeter, and three levers, one on the left and two on the right. The left hand lever, which is longest and ends with a hook, is the stopping lever while the two on the right, arranged like scissors, are the release and impulse levers. While the wheel is in its stopped phase, the pendulum is completely free from any contact with it and hence, the device is called a “free escapement”. The pendulum itself consists of a rod bearing a gold-plated ovoid lenticular bob, with a screw for adjusting the period of oscillation below it. On the lower crosspiece is a place for keeping the key for winding the clock.