The mystery clock is a story that we have been looking forward to telling on Dial + Bezel for quite some time and today is finally the day. The world of watches is extremely regimented. There are rules and definitions for every detail, complication, certifications, and more. The mystery clock completely bucks that trend. In fact, there are no rules for what even defines a mystery clock. My rule of thumb is that if it makes you say “I wonder how they did that” then you just might be looking at a mystery clock.
The idea of a mystery clock dates back to the mid-1800s and a man named Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin. If that name sounds familiar to you it is because he would be the inspiration in both form and name for the great magician Erik Weisz, who would take the stage name of Harry Houdini. Houdin was enamored with mechanical magic and clocks provided the perfect canvas and his creations such as the three-mystery clock which still makes people wonder how it actually works.
Cartier would take forward the mystery clock torch with its introduction of the Model A table clock in the 1910s that featured hands mounted on a completely transparent dial. The illusion was achieved by incorporating the hands of the clock onto a thin crystal disk that had teeth cut into its edge. This circumference would then be driven by a mechanism in the base via the side of the clock. Not a bad party trick if you ask us.
Always loving a good magic trick, the public was sold and the mystery clock idea would eventually make its way to the wristwatch where brands such as LeCoultre, Longines, and Zodiac would all introduce their own models over the years.
The Zodiac Astrographic SST, produced in the 1970s, took the mystery clock idea and brought it solidly into the 1970s with a bold and funk case design and an electric blue dial. When it was debuted, Zodiac advertised this watch as “The most exciting watch you can wear”, and they might have been right. This watch succeeded in its visual excitement with floating block hour and minute hands and a red dot second-hand in orbit around the edge of the dial. If that isn’t crazy enough it is all cased in a TV-like square case for added effect. The mystery effect here is achieved by printing the hands-on separate transparent disks that are run from the standard center stem position. Not the most groundbreaking mechanical illusion, but that’s not really the point here.
The 36mm x 42mm stainless steel case is in very good condition, showing light scratches throughout and retaining its correct brushed finish. The crystal does have two deep scratches that should be noted. One is to the left of the center Zodiac symbol and the other is between the 11 and 12 o’clock indexes. All other components appear to be correct for the watch including the signed crown, caseback, and bracelet.
The Dial and Hands
The dial and hands on this watch are quite different from what we are used to seeing on Dial + Bezel. Rather than a dial and hands this watch has a series of dials, stacked one on top of another, with the middle dials rotating to show the passing of time. The bottom dial, which creates the color of the dial is a beautiful sunburst blue color. The next three dials have the hands printed on them and are transparent otherwise to create the illusion of the floating hands. These dials are in great shape and have only minor hazing that upon close inspection can give away the mystery behind this watch.
This watch is powered by an automatic Zodiac 88D movement. The watch is running and the service history is not known.
|Location||New York City|
|Movement||Automatic Zodiac 88D|
|Case Material||Stainless Steel|
|Band Material||Stainless Steel|
|Clasp Type||Single Deployment|