Talking Watches of 1895

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This story about talking watches appeared in an 1895 issue of the Dutch journal De Natuur and was found in the book Victorian Inventions.


In the first reports on the phonograph invented by Edison in 1877, it was remarked that it would now be possible to produce timepieces capable of calling out the hours instead of indicating them by chimes. Instead of giving twelve successive peals or even saying 'cuckoo' twelve times in succession, the clock would call 'twelve o'clock,' 'quarter past twelve' and 'half past twelve,' etc. at the appropriate moments of the day.

Mr Sivan, a watchmaker of Geneva, appears to have succeeded in giving this temporary power of speech to an ordinary pocket-watch. It contains a phonograph disc made of vulcanised rubber having forty-eight grooves which correspond to the twelve hours and thirty-six quarters. If the button — which is similar to that of a repeating-watch — is pressed, the rubber disc starts rotating and a stylus, following the mounds and dales of the grooves, starts vibrating. It then transfers these vibrations to a membrane which converts them into sounds: 'twelve o'clock,' 'quarter past twelve,' and 'half past twelve' and so on, says the watch, reproducing the human voice.

A device such as this can be fitted to any clock. Indeed, Sivan has already manufactured alarm-clocks containing a talking disc which, at a specific time, calls out: 'Wake up!,' 'Get up!,' or, 'It is now time to get up!'

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