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A highly unusual and world famous clock ...

Source: Otago Daily Times (published 9 June 2007)


A HIGHLY unusual and world famous clock which stands quietly in one corner of the University of Otago physics common room is working again, thanks to Outram watchmaker James Hay.


The self-winding clock, built in Dunedin in 1864 by watchmaker, amateur physicist and astronomer Arthur Beverly, has attracted international media publicity over the years.


The atmospheric clock, driven by ambient temperature fluctuations which expand and contract the air in an air-tight box, was cited by English newspaper The Guardian as one of the three slowest-moving experiments of all time.


Mechancial problems have stopped the clock on occasion but The Guardian noted that, in principle, the clock has not needed winding since it was built by Mr Beverly 143 years ago.


In servicing and getting the historic clock going again, Mr Hay (44) has revelled in the most unusual challenge of his 28-year watchmaking career.


"It's a fantastic feeling. How often do you get the chance to handle history? This is unique history. This is world history."


"The guy [Beverly] was mindnumbingly brilliant."


The clock revival project has also required considerable historical detective work, with Mr Hay poring through Mr Beverly's journals, stored at the Hocken Library.

A little more work is still needed, but Mr Hay is 'really rapt' about getting the clock running again.


Physics department head Prof Gerry Carrington said the clock was built 'with great style and effectiveness' and also embodied modern principles of sustainable energy use.


The clock featured in an article in the European Journal of Physics in 1984.

Mr Beverly arrived in Dunedin from Scotland in 1858, as the settlement's watch and clockmaker. When he died in 1907, he bequeathed the clock and other property to the University of Otago.


He also built a sizeable telescope which, decades after his death, was still used at the Beverly Begg Observatory named partly in his honour.


The Beverly clock long stood in the university registry. A mechanical failure was repaired in the physics department in the 1950s and it remained there.


It had not run between 1999 and 2006, when it was revived by Mr Hay.  "If you get ticked off with your timepiece, come and see me," he quipped.

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