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The laws of attraction

The laws of attraction

Ethan Croft considers the enduring appeal of magnetic clocks

Ethan Croft considers the enduring appeal of magnetic clocks

Ethan Croft | December/January 2020

Cartier’s first magnetic clock, produced in 1928, used a turtle shell floating in a sterling- silver basin of water to indicate the time. The clock was part of Cartier’s “Mystery” range, designed by Maurice Couët to make the owner speculate how the mechanism worked.

The modern Vertigo clock has stronger magnets, which means that the basin can be transparent and deeper than earlier versions. Our first efforts to tell the time, such as the hourglass and sundial, used the commonplace elements of sand and sunlight. The Vertigo clock’s watery basin replicates this natural simplicity.

The clear basin also makes the mechanism more visible: north and south poles at the bottom of the clock correspond with a floating, diamond-encrusted magnet to tell the time (the turtle shell doesn’t meet modern environmental standards). The diamond traces the edge of the basin twice a day, and roman numerals indicate the hour, though not the minutes. The Vertigo certainly has magnetic appeal. But it may not improve your punctuality.