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complications

February 24th, 2011

Earlier this year, in the New York Times Magazine, there was a very lengthy, very glossy advertising insert devoted exclusively to high-end watches. I leafed idly through it, and picked up a new concept, that of a complication. Where watches are concerned, a complication refers to any feature that goes beyond the simple display of hours, minutes, and seconds. According to the Wikipedia,

The Patek Philippe Calibre 89 is a commemorative pocket watch created in 1989, to celebrate the company’s 150th anniversary. Declared by Patek Philippe as “the most complicated watch in the world”, it weighs 1.1 kg, exhibits 24 hands and has 1,728 components in total, including a thermometer and a star chart. Made from 18 carat (75%) gold, it has an estimated value of $6 million, and took 5 years of research and development, and 4 years to manufacture. Four watches were made; one in white gold, one in yellow gold, one in rose gold and one in platinum.

The Calibre 89’s complications include such must-haves as the equation of time (yielding the instantaneous difference between apparent solar time and mean solar time), the date of Easter, and a 2800-star celestial chart. And just imagine the convenience of being able to pull your 2.42 lb watch out of your pocket whenever the need strikes to see what century it is!

It occurred to me that the 1,235 Kepler candidates could conceivably provide a bonanza for the high-end mechanical watch industry. The candidates, with their particular periods, transit durations, transit depths, effective temperatures, and radii offer endless opportunities for unique horological complications. In this spirit, at the link below, I’ve made a 1,235-complication applet which charts the appearance and disappearance of transits, timed from the start of Kepler’s Q0. The horizontal direction is mapped to orbital period, and the vertical direction is mapped to M=R^2 in Earth units. It’s mesmerizing to watch…


Click here to watch the animation.

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