The Chronophage Clocks - Time's Voracious Eater
Corpus Clock at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge – Rror, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In the realm of timekeeping, a realm that spans the sundials of ancient civilizations to the atomic clocks of the modern era, there exists a peculiar and fascinating creation known as the Chronophage Clocks. The brainchild of Dr. John C. Taylor, an inventor and horologist, these clocks are not just mere keepers of time but are philosophical statements and works of art that challenge our perception of the relentless march of seconds, minutes, and hours.

The most famous of these is the Corpus Clock, unveiled at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in 2008. This clock is a mesmerizing spectacle, a blend of fearsome beauty and intricate mechanics. Its face is a rippling 24-carat gold disc, devoid of the usual numbers and hands. Instead, time is indicated by a series of slits that light up to form glowing blue LEDs, a modern touch in an otherwise ancient-looking contraption.

But the real star of the show is the Chronophage itself, a monstrous, metal creature perched atop the clock. Its name means ‘time-eater,’ and it’s a literal representation of time devouring itself. With each passing minute, the creature moves its mouth in a silent chew, and on the hour, it lets out a haunting chime, a reminder of the hours it has consumed.

The creation of the Chronophage Clocks was not merely an exercise in engineering or artistry. They are a reflection of Dr. Taylor’s musings on the nature of time. He sees time as a great devourer, an unstoppable force that consumes our moments and days. The Chronophage is a visual embodiment of this concept, a creature that feeds on time, reminding viewers of its inexorable passage.

The clock’s mechanism is as intriguing as its appearance. It’s a radical reinvention of the traditional grasshopper escapement, a timekeeping device invented by John Harrison in the 18th century. Taylor’s version is exposed, revealing the inner workings that make the clock tick. This not only serves as a nod to the history of horology but also demystifies the concept of timekeeping, inviting onlookers to ponder how we measure the moments of our lives.

The Chronophage Clocks are not about accuracy — indeed, they are deliberately inaccurate, slowing down and speeding up only to keep correct time once every five minutes. This whimsical feature is a further commentary on the fluidity of time, challenging the precision-obsessed world where every second is accounted for. It’s a reminder that our regimented schedules and constant rush are human-imposed constructs, not natural laws.

Beyond Cambridge, other Chronophage clocks have been created, each with its own unique design and message. Despite their differences, they all share the same underlying theme: a contemplation of time’s unyielding progression. They are a call to viewers to reflect on their mortality, the fleeting nature of existence, and to make the most of the time they have.

Dr. John Taylor’s Chronophage Clocks stand as a testament to the power of time, both as a concept and as a tangible force in our lives. They challenge us to consider how we perceive and value our time. In a world obsessed with the relentless pursuit of productivity and efficiency, the Chronophage serves as a poignant counterpoint, a reminder to pause, reflect, and perhaps to savor a little more of the time we so fearfully guard.

As the Chronophage continues to consume the seconds, minutes, and hours, it invites us to question our relationship with time. Are we its masters, or are we merely at its mercy? The Chronophage doesn’t provide answers, but it certainly sparks the questions, and perhaps that is the most valuable use of our time — to ponder, to wonder, and to understand a little more about the mysterious force that drives the universe and our very existence.

Don Leith

By Don Leith

Retired from the real world. A love of research left over from my days on the debate team in college long ago led me to work on this website. Granted, not all these stories are "fun" or even "trivial" But they all are either weird, unusual or even extraordinary. Working on this website is "fun" in any case. Hope you enjoy it!