Liquid-Time Sculpture

One of the most ancient time-keeping technologies known, water clocks were used by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Babylonians, often for their ability to assist in astronomical and astrological predictions and less for their ability to measure the passing of time during the day.

Modern water clocks such as the Liquid-Time Sculpture invented by Bernard Gitton have a more aesthetic value, displaying time using a complex system of pipes and siphons.

How does this intricate timepiece work? The disks on the right show the minutes, the spheres on the left the hours. Each daily clock cycle begins when an electric water pump beneath the clock moves the water to the top reservoir. From there it flows into a glass cupel (a shallow glass cup or scoop) attached to a neon green pendulum. As the cupel fills, the increasing weight causes its arm to dip and empty the liquid, which in turn forces the pendulum to swing away from its center position. The cupel then returns to an upright position propelling the pendulum. This occurs every two seconds, keeping a steady stream of liquid flowing into the clock’s systems of curved pipes and siphons. Every hour, the minutes column empties, creating a vacuum that draws liquid into the hours column to fill one of the hour spheres. Together the number of filled spheres lining the hours side of the clock and the number of filled discs on the minutes side tell the time of day. Each disc in the minutes column on the right side represents two minutes. There are only 29 of these minute discs, representing 58 minutes. The missing two minutes are accounted for in the time it takes for the pipes to drain. Just before one o’clock, the minutes and the hours sections become full. When they overflow, they create a siphon that empties the entire clock in a dramatic fashion and the whole process begins again.

Like the ingenious NeonClick lego-like neon sign, the liquid-time sculpture was developed for and sold by International Robotics with over 30 years of experience in what they call Techno-Marketing, which combines the work of inventors, engineers, scientists, and artists creating cutting-edge technologies. The liquid-time sculpture can be constructed from 7 ft. to as much as 35 ft. high and is already appearing in various places around the world including a gigantic model in the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. And apparently it’s true what they say about time costing money – the 7ft. model costs $85,000 and the 35 ft. can reach a whooping $495,000.