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VISUALIZING THE FLOW OF TIME our time verses public time, how to visualize the flow of time through methods of ambient timing

by alec seelig

industrial design senior capstone 2013 jonas milder and jason lempieri

how well the skillful gardener drew

of flowers, and herbs, this dial new; where, from above, the milder sun

does through a fragrant zodiac run, and, as is works, the industrious bee computes its time as well as we!

how could such sweet and wholesome hours be reckoned but with herbs and flowers!


andrew marvell 1621-1678

visualizing the flow of time

table of contents

user profiles and stakeholders literature review precedent and market research project statement project strategy project analysis plan and timeline appendix

While in kenya, continuing our junior studio project, we kept running into the “problem” of what we jokingly began to call “Kenyan time.” 3:30pm to us could be anytime during mid afternoon to people we had plans with and that planned activates and meetings were not set as strict as we plan here. It took us a little while to realize how people planned to arrive at events and meetings; “lets have lunch then tea in Ndabibi at 2:15 tomorrow…” now we never factored in that the person we were meeting may be traveling from 15 miles away, or farther, on foot or by truck over “roads,” I put this in quotes because they were the farthest thing from a road (outside Naivasha and Nairobi)

People in rural Kenya are not dependent on ‘clock time’ to survive, aside from children who have to get up and walk 1, 5, 15 miles to get to school at 8am. In rural Kenya and especially in Ndabibi the cycles of dry and wet months are what are necessary to know for survival.


user profiles and stakeholders


on the fifty-ninth

second he opens his mouth

and eats up the time! and you can’t get it back!”


john c. taylor

david smordoni

I wanted to know about movements and how certain ways of physically measuring time could benefit various ways of displaying it. I asked him about watch and clock movements, his background and basic watch making methods. I asked him about this because of his background in the watch industry both as a designer and as a master watchmaker. From David I am learning about basic watch making, from materials to methods of production.

david is a design director at geneva watch group, a watch designer, a

master watchmaker and an executive in the industry

image above


user profiles and stakeholders

william j. h. andrews

master watchmaker, former apprentice

under charles daniels and longitudinal sundial designer, he also formerly worked with the time museum in rockford illinois

William J. H. Andrews gave the first of the many lectures of the weekend in Pasadena; the time of our lives symposium opening lecture, gave insight to William Andrew’s life in the horological community. I was able to talk with him afterwards about some of the sundials he had been making as they base their method of time telling in a similar way to my project by using the suns light. We also talked about how the sun can be used to display several other measurements, in which he had incorporated into his dials some of which had multiple complications. He was also a great person to talk with because of his incredible knowledge of antique watches and clocks. Will Andrews also worked as a clock maker and restorer under Charles Daniels, the master watchmaker and inventor who created the double wheel escapement which today many brands use including F.P Journe, a watch company which produces some of the most exceptional modern watches in the world.

both images above


dr. john c. taylor

a collector of tompion clocks and an inventor

As John Taylor described to me, “ I hate modern art, most sculpture, and I find clocks terribly boring, so I wanted to make a clock that made time interesting to me.” This was funny of course, the comment of clocks boring him, considering he has the worlds most impressive and valuable collection of Thomas Tompion clocks and watches. Next he described to me his corpus clock. “then on the fifty-ninth second he opens his mouth and eats up the time! and you can’t get it back!” Taylor then hit me on the shoulder as he prononced this. I next told him about my capstone and my concepts and about my ideas of ambient timing and saved and spent time as well as personal and private time. He was intrigued but as he was busy with many people coming up and talking to him at the time for everyone symposium, left me with one final comment, “there are many ways we see our time, find what is personal and what personal means to people.”

image above


user profiles and stakeholders

greg thumm

Greg Thumm is the current president of Bulova, one of the older and largest watch companies; they are based both in New York and Switzerland. Bulova was founded in 1875 in New York and is the company that created the Accutron, the first electric watch and the predecessor to the modern quartz watch. Greg is also the former senior vice president of Product Development at Geneva Watch Company and a former senior vice president at Fossil. current president at bulova, master watchmaker and long time industry executive

image above


From Greg I am learning about traditional watch making methods, materials and how different materials are used in the watch industry for more than just aesthetic and also about movements. I am working with Greg because he is someone who has had thirty plus years experience in the industry and I know he will be of major assistance in helping me learn this field.

dr. david eagleman

neuroscientist and writer at the baylor college of medicine

image above


I was able to talk with Dr. Eagleman briefly but learned quite a lot during his lecture at the Time For everyone symposium at Caltech. “Time and The Brain,” focused on the brain’s perception of time in certain events. His opening question was, “how far in the past do we live?” As he explains, the way we perceive an event is what happens next in what is called subjective time. Eagleman then demonstrated how this works. He had an animation of a ring going clockwise around the projector screen and at a single point a flash would appear in the center of the ring. As the flash occurs, we say it as being half in and half out of the ring. Though when he does a similar animation where the ring goes half way around a circle and then the flash appears inside as it is stopped, we see it as inside the ring entirely.

user profiles and stakeholders

dr. eagleman’s presentation at the time for everyone symposium

This he then explained is because it takes the brain 1/10th of a second to process what the eye sees, or to perceive the present. Anything less than 100 milliseconds apart (non synchronized audio and visual) the brain will synchronize on its own. This is also shown how we perceive the present as we blink, which causes the brain to lose 80 milliseconds of visual time but not audio. Though the brain makes up for this by remembering what we saw before our eyes closed and what we saw after our eyes opened correcting it for the loss of those 80 milliseconds. This is a clear example to show how time and memory are so intertwined. Dr. Eagleman’s also covered his research to find if subjective time can run in slow motion, in reference to the phenomena of “seeing your life flash before your eyes” in a near death experience, also more than this but why the brain perceives so many details and slow motion in these events.

time for everyone symposium

The Time For Everyone symposium at The California Institute of Technology in November featured lectures and exhibits by designers, watchmakers and clockmakers, historians of horology, astronomers, physicists and many other people of different backgrounds, with a common interest in time.

time for everyone symposium

At the symposium there where twenty-one lecturers; All of the speakers were leading figures of their field within the many facets of horology and science including William Phillips, the 1997 Nobel prize winner “for development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light,” Lynn Rothschild, an astrobiologist/ evolutionary biologist at NASA Ames, and John C. Taylor, a world renowned collector of Tompion clocks and an inventor and designer who holds a patent for kettle controls that has over one billion sales to date. I was also able to talk and discuss ideas with watch designers and retailers of unusual and exceptional watches. The weekend overall was extremely insightful and really opened my mind up to how many ways time is used and relevant to absolutely everything in our lives and how to think about time in ways other than being “on time.”

panel discussion with dr. eagleman,

one of the watches being passed

e.c. krupp the director of griffith

gala, a rgm automatic watch

dr. rothschild, sean carroll and observatory

around the table at the ending from a manufacturer in pennsylvania


time for everyone symposium

an early thomas tompion clock mechanism

an early thomas tompion watch, dated


with an houring striking bell

and a very early spiral balance spring


literature review

moon phase illustration




live in a universe full of clocks”



From J.T. Fraser’s book, time, the familiar stranger, which is a thirty year long compilation of work, I have learned of the dawn of the calendar and the importance of time for the survival of civilizations with the use of cycles in farming and also in religion and belief for making sense of the celestial sky, which gave way to knowing when to come to prier. Later in the book the chronology of the pendulum clock and mechanical clock and watch is laid out. With part of the end discussion of modern clocks, including the cesium atom clock is this passage; “a clock ticks more uniformly than does another if the way is works can convince us it ought to...the most convincing clock, therefore, remains the most accurate one until such time that someone can think of a reason acceptable to others, why the clock ought not be accurate.” Further on away from time telling comes the psychological aspect of time. at one point a child makes the discovery of birth, death and sexuality. “the knowledge of inevitable passing was then added to the other elements of the developmental feedback circuit.” pg 9 ‘The Discovery of Time’

literature review


knowledge of inevitable

passing was then added to the other elements of the

developmental feedback circuit.�



The New Everyday, is a very insightful book, though a decade old now, it brings us to the core of what ambient technology meant to the creators of how we view it today and how they perceived it to play out even fifty years ahead of where we are now. There is, in the opening chapter, a table categorizing the key elements of ambient intelligence; Embedded, context-aware, personalized, adaptive and lastly, anticipatory which would entail a technology that can “anticipate your desires without conscious meditation.” The opening remarks on ambient technology is that the electronics and other forms of the ambient “technology would become part of the background moving the user to the forefront.” There is so much on, then conceptual and some real, projects that employ new ways of thinking of ambient tech and what it really is. The one project that intrigued me was one called ‘Garden’. It is a digital garden that grows as people pass by it, logging in as they pass through a busy area. The concept is so inspiring and I see so much potential for the idea. If in an airport or busy train station it could be used to help show the flow of time in a more relaxed way than stressed travelers, with layovers and late trains, constantly looking at the clocks to see what little time has passed as they wait a four hour layover for their plane to leave.

literature review

“Ambient intelligent environments will exhibit their ‘intelligence’ in two important ways: through the social nature of the user interface used, and by the extent to which the system can adapt itself to its users and environment.”



chief design officer and ceo of philips design


our biological clocks have predictable moments

measurement of predictable moments

The evolution of accuracy

knowing how you use your time for example: you know your most productive at 11 is predicatble that tomorrow you will also be most productive at that time

does entropy make this idea not true?

Public Time

hour/minute jumping movement cyclic

Christian Huygens’s invention of the pendulum clock with a fixed rate of 3,600 seconds per hour keeps time accurate to an error of only one minute per day

Clockwork Man The Story of Time Lawerence Wright, 1968

John Harrison’s creation of the H4 in 1761 (a marine clock) that solves the longitude problem for the British Navy allowing them to travel more accurately and with almost no loss of ships



day/night religion

mechanical visual of the flow of time the idea that time only needs to be displayed to the accuracy needed... workers needing to show up at 8...race car driver needing to keep minute accuracy with no need for larger or smaller measurment and so on with the examples

Clock Time World Time

Spent Time

literature review

Personal Time body rhythms

Private Time

the sensoral garden for travelers using public transit (airports, rail, etc.) public art that travelers contribute to just by being there, the garden grows over time (digital displays) section 8.2 The New Everyday Emile Aarts & Stefano Marzano, 2003

Circadian clock pulse breath

Memory Experience

Saved Time


arrow of time

Past present future religion

the visual (or other sense) of the flow of time


Dr. David Eagleman it takes the brain 1/10th of a second to process what the eye sees, or to perceive the present. Anything less than 100 milliseconds apart (non synchronized audio and visual) the brain will synchronize on its own. This is also shown how we perceive the present as we blink, which causes the brain to lose 80 milliseconds of visual time but not audio.

natural visual of the flow of time

ambient timing

ambient timing can reduce the stress of fast paced environments where travelers/ inhabitants are constantly concerned with every second ticking away

events over time shown in various ways to give what is needed to the user to understand: sensoral/multi sensoral experience

color changes of visual light as the sun passes across the sky during the day Rayleigh scattering/ diffuse sky radiation - scattered solar radiation (visable light in this case) through our atmosphere giving the sky its blue hue and why the sun appears yellow...color changes as the kelvin temp. of visable light changes over the course of the day plants show a flow of time as they open and close ( plants have clocks of their own as well) through Photosynthesis, they know when the correct amount of solar light is available during the day.

the natural visual of the flow of time changes at different times of the year with the changing of the seasons and the amount of daily sunlight


precedent and market research


clock, not the steam

engine, is the key machine of the modern industrial age�



precedent and market research

Public time is a term that first came about in the 1840s during the great expansion of the railway systems across the world. Before this idea of public time, also referred to as standard time and standard rail time, there was local time. One city could have multiple times, not to be confused with time zones, but many different clocks with different times and not until the railroad became so widely used, did the synchronization of clocks become important. This idea of public time is the world time for our global society and economies but what about our time?

the old orsay station rail station and clock in paris

precedent and market research

Christiaan Huygen’s invention of the pendulum clock, in 1656, created a 3600 second hour, pushing the accuracy of time keeping and leading the world towards an obsession with precision. On the left are three different clock towers from very different periods in time, showing that the modern world has continued to increase its value of public time to keep it’s cities, religions, and markets moving. As the English poet Stephen Duck writes, “time is now currency: it is not passed but spent.”

image above left

- and image above right


precedent and market research

On the left is the Breguet half hunter case wristwatch. It has a concealed tourbillon and an opening to display the twelve-hour dial. This is a very inspiring design because it allows the user to see what is most important and then once open it reveals the mechanism or the other complications that are secondary or supportive of the visible display.

On the right is the HD3 Slyde watch, a luxury digital watch that stores several “machines,� as HD3 calls them. The watch allows the user to switch between several displays of time and movements, including a tourbillion, a chain driven movement and a classic skeletonized automatic. This is a very inspiring piece for it allows the user to change the way they visualize the physical measurement of time.

image above


the new everyday, views on ambient intelligence

precedent and market research

This concept is extremly interesting. It starts with what the Philips design team called smart “pebbles,� which you are to place on the bedside to create an experience and set an alarm for when to wake up. Two dots are to be projected on either side of the cieling and if you wake in the night the dots get closer together so you can gauge how long you have left before your alarm will go off.

image above


the new everyday, views on ambient intelligence

precedent and market research

This concept is a digital garden, an ambient form of seeing time and people passing through a space. It grows as people, busy travelers in an airport or train station setting, pass by and add to the garden.

image above


precedent and market research

The Corpus Clock, also named the chronophage, a Greek term meaning ‘time eater,’ is a 4 ½ foot diameter gold plated sculpture with a creature, this one is a grasshopper in reference to John Harrison’s 18th century grasshopper escapement mechanism, that jumps forward to “eat up the time.” It is the first clock, also patented, to show relative time.


project statement


a map of the suns path across the sky

image above


visualizing the flow of time

Why count small amounts, why be obsessed with it, why not just let it count up? From the understanding of time we can give things ages; all of us, reigns of power, past species, man made creations even the earth and nearly everything else, or in theory nearly everything else. From this we know time is, if it makes sense to say so, was always passing, is always passing and will always pass. So why measure a life in numbers from start to finish, why be so obsessed with counting small sections of our lives? What if it was accepted that time will just pass, as it has been and always will? With all this said and still looking back at time, as we can’t escape it, what are our methods and perceptions of saving time and spending time and most importantly visualizing time? How do we all have a different perception of this and how is it that we change this perception? How does the complexity of our culture, our religion, our environment, our age, our gender and our economic position affect this perception? Lastly, how can I alter or focus in on these perceptions?

image to the left


an eighteenth century headstone in charleston south carolina


project strategy


clock ticks more uniformly

than does another if the way is works can convince us it ought to...the most

convincing clock, therefore, remains the most accurate one until such time that someone can think of a

reason acceptable to others, why the clock ought not be accurate.�



project strategy

The story of Galileo and the swinging of the chandelier in the cathedral of Pizza is what I thought of, thinking about private and personal time. In Galileo’s findings with the swinging chandelier, he found that the earth’s rotations could be timed making the earth itself a clock. He did this by using his heartbeat, his personal clock, as the comparable beat to measure the movement. The earth’s rotations just as our pulse is predictable much as clock time is, it is a measurement of predictable moments. That is what this concept here is. By using the predictable moments of your pulse you can use that as a placeholder for seconds to create a time measurment to “the beat of your life.”

project strategy

My first thoughts about public time verses our time or private time were to exaggerate the visual of standard time in an attempt that it would have an affect on the viewer that would make them more conscious of their use of time, for example of the three sketches on the left a dial, either on public display or on a wristwatch, the unit of measure would change depending on traffic patters, both road and foot traffic to elevator congestion, to amount of time spent in one place, from simply a smooth sweeping second to a jumping minute or a jumping hour or even in a case where it made sense to show the flow of time to seemingly feel that long, a jumping date only.

Ambient timing

Watching the seconds tick away is stressful. This is an ambient way of keeping time throughout the day from dawn till dusk and a digital moonphase or an analog or digital display at night. The watch dial displays colors that crossfade and change every hour as the kelvin temperature of the suns light changes as it moves across the sky.

Alec Seelig Fall 2013

project strategy

Watching the seconds tick away is stressful. This is an ambient way of keeping time throughout the day from dawn till dusk and a digital moon phase or an analog or digital display at night. The watch dial displays colors that crossfade and change every hour as the kelvin temperature of the suns light changes as it moves across the sky.

project strategy

These are iterations of the visible light display watch. The watch has a domed face and the color of the visible light passes across it representing the suns path across the sky

visualizing the flow of time

The goal of the project is to make a watch that displays an ambient visual of the flow of time in place of hands and numbers. This will be achieved by employing visuals that indicate the time for us in the natural world.

rayleigh scattering across the horizon seen while in flight above colorado


project analysis

There are many facets to my project; I am developing an understanding and skill of the craft and technology that are crucial to producing my concept. However there is more that I still need to learn and I am reaching out to the people in the various industries that can help make this a reality.

To complete my project I need to learn more about programing, which I still need to find someone to help me with, for the watch display. I am learning about GPS and how it can be used to guide the way the display will work. I also am skillful in 3D modeling in Rhino which is what I am using and will be using to model the case of the watch, as well as all of the prototypes. As for understanding material and further traditional watch making and case making, I am working with two watch designers, one of whom, Greg Thumm of Bulova, is an extremely well known and respected individual in the industry. I am also looking for manufacturers of tft and lcd displays capable of the sizing I need for my concept. Currently Andersdx electronics, based in England, seems to be the right company to contact.

project analysis




schulde make and use clockis for

to knowe the houris of the dai and nyt�

- the bishop of chichester, 1449

time is inescapable as well as

scheduling. this is a timeline to schedule myself to complete my watch to reduce the stresses of yours.

Mar. 24th-Apr.11th: have fully working watch with finalized case/cases Mar. 17th-21st: have fully working display and accurate measurement Mar. 17th: spring semester resumes Mar. 10th-16th: spring break Feb. 17th-28th: more case prototypes printed or cast Feb. 10th-14th: begin working on gps (suns path/weather/standard time update) Feb. 3rd-7th: have fully working prototype of screen display Jan. 27th-31st: have round tft screen to scale (andersdx electronics?) Jan. 21st: by this date have small scale digital display prototypes Jan. 21st: spring semseter starts Jan. 13th-17th: meet with David Smordoni to further discuss concepts Jan. 13th-17th: meet with Greg Thumm to further discuss build methods Dec. 17th: final critique Dec. 9th-16th: finish 1st half of book and continue modeling and prototyping




proper function of

man is to live, not to exist. i shall not waste my days

in trying to prolong them. i shall use my time.�


jack london


Aarts, Emile, and Stefano Marzano. The New Everyday Views On Ambient Intelligence. Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2003. Print.


Wright, Lawrence. Clockwork Man The Story of Time Its Origins, Its Uses, Its Tyranny. London: Leek Books ltd, 1968. Print.


Fraser, j.t. Time the familiar stranger. Redmond: tempos books of Microsoft press, 1988. Print.


Gleick, James. Faster the acceleration of just about everything. New York: Pantheon Books, 1999. Print.


Thompson, E.P. “Time, Work-Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism.” Past & Present. no. 38 (1967): 57-97. Print. < 307/649749?uid=17694560&uid=3739256&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&ui d=3&uid=67&uid=62&uid=36854&sid=21103107543611>.

6. Hensley, Paul B. “Time, Work, and Social Context in New England.” New England Quarterly. Vol. 4 (1992): 531-559. Print. <http://0-www. 7.


Christies, . “Important Watches Geneva .” Important Watches Auction Catalog. (Monday 11 November 2013): n. page 270, 350. Print.



Greg Thumm: President of Bulova, 2.

David Smordoni: Design director at Geneva

Watch Group,,



Andersdx electronics: London,

+44 (0)203-468-2286

Alec capstone book ©alec seelig 2014