It’s called the Cosmic Watch and it is Swiss Made, but ironically it is not yet available as a watch. Having crossed the desks of the executives at Omega (too digital) and Google Switzerland (not functional enough), the project arrives on the market not as a wristwatch but as an application running on iOS and Android or as a luxurious desk clock or high-end touchscreen display that would make the perfect addition to a boardroom or hotel lobby. It is the world’s first interactive astronomical clock in the digital era, and it’s Swiss Made!
The Cosmic Watch builds on the centuries old tradition of the astrolabe as a means of displaying the rotation of the heavenly bodies in our solar system. But whereas the historical astrolabes were objects intended as decoration just as much as they were for education, the Cosmic Watch is geared much more towards the educational aspect, capitalizing on the ubiquity of smartphones and tablets around the world.
A new appreciation of time
One of the cornerstones of this approach is adding the dimension of time, which can be overlaid on any of the views in the form of a circle around the equator with an optional digital read-out if desired. Intuitively, the time can also be read against the selected location and the shadow cast by the sun gives an instant overview of where on earth it is night and day.
A “time travel” function lets you move forwards or backwards through time at varying speeds, from a sedate two minutes per second to a dizzying year per second. As you move forwards or backwards you see the trace of the movement of the planets and you can pause at any point to see the exact configuration in the solar system at that point. Furthermore, significant astronomical events such as eclipses are highlighted along the way.
Five different guides (horizon, compass, planet names, connections, celestial rings and equatorial grid) can be toggled on and off to assist with astronomical observations. Simply activating the horizon and compass, for example, then aligning north on the compass with north on the horizon, lets you easily identify the planets at a glance. On a cloudless night in mid-May I was able to pick out Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Mercury from my balcony in a matter of minutes.
As with any smartphone application, the advantage of the technology is that it can regularly be updated. The developers are already working on adding new features such as real-time weather, a world-time display and equation of time function. With such features on board, the application could in future easily replace three or more existing types of application (world time, sky chart, weather). All this at a cost of just 4 Swiss francs!
The Cosmic Watch also comes packaged as two high-end luxury objects, the Vision and the Eclipse. The Vision is an interactive table clock and the Eclipse is a custom-built interactive astronomical “wall time device” using the very best touchscreen technology available.