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Editorial  - A Revelation in the History of Timekeeping

Editorial A Revelation in the History of Timekeeping

The British furniture conservator who changed the horological history books

In recent weeks, my news feed has been dominated by the usual bad news from around the world – storms, shootings, riots, global warming, Prince Harry (no comment), but every now and again, a feel-good story pops up that you just have to share, especially when it touches on our wonderful world of watchmaking. 

A Revelation in the History of Timekeeping

Villeret Traditional Chinese Calendar © Blancpain

This latest news concerns a London furniture conservator and amateur anthropologist called Ben Bacon, who was studying images of paleolithic cave drawings in his spare time…like you do…when he started to notice a pattern of dots and lines on the drawings of cattle, bears, deer, and fish. He continued his research online and at the British Museum until he had enough data to realize that he was onto something. 

A Revelation in the History of Timekeeping

Bull © Ministère de la Culture / Centre National de la Préhistoire / Norbert Aujoulat

Sharing his research with academics at Durham University and University College London, together they deduced that the markings on the animals related to the timing of animals’ reproductive cycles in lunar months. These drawings by Ice Age hunter-gatherers date back over 20,000 years and not only explain what the cave drawings were for, but also mark the earliest records of systematic calendars ever recorded. 

A Revelation in the History of Timekeeping

Split-Seconds Monopusher Chronograph with Perpetual Calendar © Patek Philippe

The previous oldest lunar calendar is believed to be a series of large pits that were dug out to track the cycle of the moon in Mesolithic Scotland. This new revelation pre-dates the Scottish calendar by 10,000 years, re-writing the history of the calendar as we know it. 

Our modern-day fascination for timekeeping creates a beautiful link between ourselves and early man as our need for a calendar continues to be linked to our survival in many ways. And if you think I am being melodramatic, just imagine how we would manage air traffic without it! 

A Revelation in the History of Timekeeping

Reverso Tribute Duoface Calendar © Jaeger-LeCoultre

Luckily, we have some gorgeous timekeepers to help us track the lunar months, not to mention the phases of the moon and the leap years. There are even calendars that track the lunar and solar calendars such as this brand-new Parmigiani PF Tonda Xiali world première Chinese calendar that was released this week, along with the latest traditional Chinese calendar watch by Blancpain that combines the lunar/solar calendar with the Gregorian calendar. 

A Revelation in the History of Timekeeping

Tonda PF Xiali Calendar © Parmigiani Fleurier

For calendars that are a little less complicated – at least in terms of reading them – there is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Duoface Calendar and the Patek Philippe Split-Seconds Monopusher Chronograph with Perpetual Calendar. And if you prefer something a little more contemporary, check out the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Blue Ceramic and the De Bethune DB25 Perpetual Calendar 40 mm.

A Revelation in the History of Timekeeping

Royal Oak Blue Ceramic © Audemars Piguet

Personally, I can survive without knowing about the reproductive cycle of the fish in Lac Léman (although, I have to admit, I am a little curious now)! My head is currently in our editorial calendar, planning all the upcoming horological events for 2023 as we have a busy and exciting year ahead. And like our ancestors, I do actually have it up on the wall, although I very much doubt it will fox anyone, or go down in artistic history!

A Revelation in the History of Timekeeping

DB25 Perpetual Calendar © De Bethune

 

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