Timepieces: Education & Repair
BIG TIME RESTORATION
By next February, Venetians will again
hear the famed chimes of their prized 500-year-old clock tower
Clockmakers this month will complete the first year of repairs to one
of Europe's most revered public timepieces: the bell tower that graces Piazza
San Marco in Venice, Italy.
Called Torre dell'Orologio, the clock will mark its 500th anniversary
next February - fully restored with its original Renaissance-style movement.
The clock last had its movement restored in 1858 and underwent minor
repairs in 1950, but it has not chimed since 1986. Now Piaget, the Swiss-based
timepiece and jewelry maker, and Venice city officials have embarked on
a full restoration.
Under the supervision of Piaget (which pledged more than $750,000), Italy's
finest clockmakers, mechanics, gilders, sculptors and technicians have dismantled
the movement and pendulum and moved them to a nearby workshop.
The movement is unique in that it controls two outer dials and one inner
control dial. Its mechanism includes an anchor escapement with pendulum
and chiming system.
The pendulum escapement controls the time, the signs of the Zodiac, the
sun, the moon and three magi who bow outside the face twice a year. Two
weights operate two bronze giants located on the roof of the tower. These
mechanized statues chime the hour, one after another, each striking a bell
with a hammer.
Piaget, 25 Chubb Ave., Lyndhurst, NJ 07071; (201) 460-4800.
THE REPAIR TIMETABLE
I. By next month, the central movement (pictured) will have a restored
suspension, a repaired pendulum and two drums that rotate to mark the hours
and minutes. The exact minutes and hour will be displayed digitally in Roman
numerals (hours) and Arabic numerals (minutes). Also restored will be the
two sculpted doors through which three magi and the angel Gabriel exit.
II. The surface of the anchor escapement will be repaired, along with
the minute unlocking wheel of the central movement, the two bell-striking
mechanisms, the movement transmission for the two statues, the stopping
gear connected to the central wheel and the winding pinion.
III. Afterward, repairs will be made to the minute unlocking wheel transmission
mechanism, the center wheel arbor and then the magi. All parts deemed irreparable
or excessively worn will be replaced with new parts built to original specifications.
IV. From April through August, the entire clock will be reassembled in
the workshop to evaluate its precision. In September, the clock will be
dismantled and taken to the tower. The astrological mechanism will be linked
to the clock and all will be restarted by February 1999.
- by Michael ThompsonCopyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.