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The Art of the Impossible — Animating Time, 2015

Ever since mankind started observing the stars and realised that time was an eternal, fundamental concept, he has been endeavouring to measure it. And once he could do so, accuracy became more and more important. Apportioning time became a political, religious, military and economic imperative.

The search for accuracy led to technological solutions of ever increasing sophistication and complexity, while practicality required portability and miniaturisation.

Timepieces are inherently beautiful and can teach us a lot about science and mechanics but you won’t learn much from taking a watch or clock to pieces because once dismantled it is lifeless. Even a video doesn’t help because so much is hidden away behind other parts. But animation allows us to peer inside a working mechanism, make obstructions disappear and see through to the underlying heartbeat itself.

The ‘heartbeat’ is the escapement, and the escapement has fascinated and defined all the greatest watchmakers. It is also the reason why so many of John Redfern’s animations are of escapements.

Only specialists and collectors would want to afford the huge amount of time, effort and understanding that John needed to see into this heart of a complex old timepiece and then re-create it so lovingly.

The clock, not the steam engine, is the key machine of the modern industrial age.

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With animation, levers and wheels that would otherwise block the view of a key mechanism, can be stripped away so that the focus and understanding is where it needs to be.

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