Time in Six Parts - Che-Wei Wang's 3.16 Billion Cycles, In a Lifetime, Cinematic Timepiece, One Hour Sprocket, Thermal Clock and Counting to a Billion

Time in Six Parts

Time in Six Parts is a series of attempts to unravel and re-present time through alternative perspectives. The hope is to demystify scales of time that are out of our immediate reach and explore new approaches to marking time.

Six timekeeping devices were built as part of Che-Wei Wang's thesis project at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at TISCH, NYU.

3.16 Billion Cycles video

3.16 Billion Cycles is a clock that unravels a century through a series of pulleys.


Can we watch decay? Can we see glass as a fluid slowly slumping and deforming over time?

Everything is in constant flux, yet we consider many things around us static and fixed. 3.16 Billion Cycles is an attempt to unravel a seemingly unchanging 100 years into a set of relationships in digestible increments.

A 60 rpm (revolutions per minute) motor drives the entire mechanism. It rotates once every second. The following pulley rotates once every 5 seconds (1:5 ratio). The next rotates once every 60 seconds or 1 minute. Then 5 minutes, 1 hour, 1 day, 1 month, 1 year, and 1 decade. The decade wheel carries the load of the large arc. The large arc rotates once every century. The final ratio between the 60 rpm motor and the large arc is approximately 1:31.6 billion.

Each wheel is marked with a black nut to highlight a position that could be tracked over time. Along the arc, 100 lines mark the divisions of each passing year. When the clock finally reaches the end of a 100 year cycle, the arc falls off its track onto the floor.


How accurate does a clock need to be? Most household clocks display time with 3 mechanical movements; the hour, on a 12 hour cycle; minutes past the hour; and seconds past the minute. How crucial is it for us to know how many seconds are past the minute? Do we need to know the exact number of minutes past the hour?

One Hour Sprocket is a wall-mounted 12 hour clock with a 60 tooth sprocket attached to a motor, completing one revolution every hour. From the sprocket hangs a chain that consists of 720 links. Each link accounts for every minute of a 12 hour cycle. Among the black chain links is one polished stainless steel link to identify the position of the hour past 12 o’clock. To tell time one can estimate the position of the “hour hand” or count the number of links from the polished link to the top of the clock for a more accurate reading.

Between two 1/4” steel plates, sits a stepper motor, which ticks every 18 seconds. The hanging chain juggles with each tick reassuring the clock’s functionality.

Sprocket Clock

Thermal Clock video


We rely heavily on our vision to identify change. We see sand accumulating at the bottom of the hourglass. We see the minute hand rotate clockwise. How would our sense of time change if we cast time to another sense?

Thermal Clock is a timepiece that positions heat along a bar over a 24 hour cycle to tell time.

Using an array of peltier junctions, heat is emitted from a focused area moving from left to right along the bar over the course of a day.

Thermal Clock

Counting to a Billion video


As a child, I remember challenging myself to count to 1000, 1 million, or 1 billion. I don’t think I ever made it.
Why do we aimlessly count? How long would it take to count to a billion?

Counting to a Billion is a device created to fulfill the desire to count. The electronics consists of a microcontroller, a speech module, and a speaker powered by a rechargeable battery. There is no/off switch. The voice begins counting at one, two, three and continues counting up until it reaches one billion at which point in time it will stop.

Counting to a Billion Clock

If it took a second to utter each string of numbers, it would take 1 billion seconds or 31.7 years for the device to reach its end. But since it takes more than a second to vocalize many of the numbers in the sequence, it may take upwards of 60 years to complete.

The unit is housed in a solid block of aluminum, cnc milled into a vessel that was designed to withstand substantial abuse over many years.

Cinematic Timepiece video


Time is our measure of a constant beat. We use seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries, etc. But what if we measured time against rituals, chores, tasks, stories, and narratives? How can we use our memory, prediction, familiar and unfamiliar narratives to tell time?

As a child, I remember using the length of songs as a way to measure how much time was left during a trip. A song was an appropriate period to easily multiply to get a grasp of any larger measure like the time left until we arrived to our grandmother’s place. The length of a song was also a measure I could digest and understand in an instant.

The first iteration of Cinematic Timepiece consists of 5 video loops playing at 5 different speeds on a single screen. The video is of a person coloring in a large circle on a wall.

The frame furthest to the right is a video loop that completes a cycle in one minute. The video to the left of the minute loop completes its cycle in one hour. The next completes in a day, then a month, then a year.

Through various iterations, we intend to experiment with various narratives and rituals captured in a video loop to be read as measures of time.

The software was written in OpenFrameworks for a single screen to be expanded in the future for multiple screens as a piece of hardware.


click image to view "In A Lifetime"

We often compare ourselves to friends, colleagues, relatives, idols, etc. on a scale of time that’s beyond our comprehension. Full of hope and objectives that are far into the future, we strive to achieve as much as our parents, friends, and heroes.
What do you plan to achieve in the next 5 years? 10 years? 20? How long will you live?

Though there are many unknowns, we share one lifetime as a common measure.

In a Lifetime is a website that visualizes individual achievements and milestones along the scale of one lifetime. Each point along the arc represents a milestone where the top (12th hour) is their moment of birth, the right quadrant (3rd hour) is a quarter through their life, the bottom (6th hour) is half way through their life, and so on. The mapping strips age as a parameter from individuals and scales lifespans to compare achievements of one life with another.

The website collects information about each individual through a publicly accessible interface. Input parameters are, author, date of birth, lifespan, milestone or note, and significance (0-100). Anyone who visits the site can enter information about an individual to be mapped. If one so desires, you can enter your predicted lifespan to compare personal milestones to others.

Some patterns emerge. Significant achievements are made between the half way point and the 3/4 point of their lives. Beyond the 3/4 point, nearly all individuals stop accruing achievements .
Around the half way point in their individual lives, Albert Einstein wrote the General Theory of Relativity, Constantin Brancusi completed the Kiss, Le Corbusier completed Villa Savoye, Leonardo Da Vinci drew the proportions of human figure after Vitruvious.

Visit Che-Wei Wang's website

Related Posts on The Watchismo Times;
All Alternative Display Features

| Watchismo Blog | Watchismo Shop | Contact Us | Subscribe |


| More

Watchismo's Fan Box

Watchismo on Facebook