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Published on Aug 24, 2010
Produced in the 1970s and 80s, first by Rathcon as the "Spectrum" in the early 70s, then by Kirsch-Hamilton as the "Aurora". Case design by Corchia-de Harak. One of these is part of the MOMA collection, and I can see why. The Aurora is the coolest clock I've got, just barely beating a Gordon Bradt "Six Man Clock" and beating my Jefferson Golden Hour and Suspense mystery clocks by miles. It uses a single white incandescent bulb inside the back, with a domed reflector and a plastic diffuser. None of the parts inside are colored at all.
Despite no colored filters or bulbs, as the second hand (disc) rotates the entire face smoothly shifts through a spectrum of colors, showing golden orange with a hint of pink and sea-green-blue twice a minute with transitions between. As can be seen, the seconds disc changes, too, as do the two hands, and further colors appear when any two (or three) hands overlap. More interesting effects happen when you change viewing angle vertically, horizontally or diagonally, and interesting rainbow effects appear on the inner surface of the case. The colors are created with an effect called birefringence, coupled with polarizing filters. The face, hands and the seconds disc and its larger support disc are made of polarizing material. I don't recommend taking one of these apart to see how they make colors, as the filters have to be carefully aligned to get the colors right. If anyone wants to read up on the technical side of how these work, look up patent no. 3694054 and be ready for lots of heavy reading.
Since my hands are REALLY unsteady, I tilted the clock up on its back end on a ledge and steadied my hand on the wall above it to get fairly steady footage.
If your Aurora is "cooked" from overheating and only shows browns and sepia tones, or the motor has conked out, there is hope! Barry Gamble at ChronoArt fixes these, and also manufactures some other very unique clocks including a different polarized light clock, the Prisma II. He updates Auroras with some interesting new tech that varies the displayed colors using LEDs instead of an incandescent bulb as the light source behind the filters. This one needs some minor repair, and will soon be off to Mr. Gamble.
Music is from www.soundofmagic.com Track is area music from Innoventions Plaza at EPCOT by David Arkenstone