Bremont has just announced a new limited edition collection to commemorate the late Stephen Hawking ?best known to most of the world as the physicist who, despite the obstacle of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease), became not only one of the world's leading astrophysicists, but also one of the most famous scientists in the world ?and the author of that unlikely best-seller, A Brief History Of Time.
This slim volume was Hawking's attempt to give an account of the origin and fate of the universe, and to shed light on something that consumes light for a living: black holes. The replica watches have a number of shout-outs to Hawking, including disks of wood from his desk and an inscription on the caseback of the equation which describes the famous Hawking radiation ?the formula is inscribed on his grave as well, and it relates the temperature of a black hole to its mass.
The fake watch is being offered in a series of limited editions, in 41mm rose-gold, white-gold, and red-gold cases, and there is a ladies' model as well, in a smaller, 34mm diamond-set steel case with a meteorite dial. These replica watches have been produced in collaboration with the Hawking family, and a portion of the proceeds from sales will go to benefit the Stephen Hawking Foundation ?the Foundation was established by Hawking, before his death, to support those living with ALS, and also to support research in cosmology and related physics problems. The larger replica watches have a big date display, with a retrograde seconds sector at 6:00.
You can clearly see the equation through the caseback: T=ℏc³/8πGMk. T is temperature, ?is the reduced Planck constant, c is the speed of light in a vacuum, G is Newton's constant for gravity, M is the mass of the black hole, and k is Boltzmann's constant. Without explaining the formula in detail (which is way above my pay grade, anyway), the gist of it is that the more massive a black hole is, the lower its temperature. There's a piece of meteorite inserted in the caseback as well, and the circular fragments of wood are from a desk at which Hawking worked most of his life, which his son, Tim Hawking, describes:
"The wood sample in the timepiece originates from an oak, William & Mary slope-front bureau desk drawer thought to date back to the early 18th century. My father's paternal grandmother received it as a gift upon her retirement as Headmistress from a school she had founded for girls in Boroughbridge, Yorkshire. It was given to my father in 1975 upon his return to the U.K. after his year's visiting fellowship to Caltech, Pasadena, and would remain with him until his death in 2018."
The pattern of constellations on the caseback depicts the night sky above Oxford on January 8, 1942 ?Hawking's birthday.
All this is to say that the subject of the fake watch was one of the great scientists of our age (to say nothing of a pop culture icon; he played himself both on The Simpsons and Star Trek: The Next Generation) and that the commercial effort goes hand in hand with support of very worthwhile causes both medical and cosmological.
Over the years, Bremont has done quite a few replica watches which incorporate material from various iconic objects, and often with an aviation angle. They've done the Wright Flyer, the Supermarine Spitfire, and the Howard Hughes Spruce Goose, among other things, and at this point, a person could be forgiven for wondering if a piece of the True Cross is next.
The Bremont "Quantum" ladies' model with meteorite dial.
If you're interested in the subject of the watches, however, there is a non-zero chance of finding these limited editions more interesting than the average fake watch enthusiast, and despite my general disinterest in this sort of thing, I found the Stephen Hawking replica watches oddly moving.ADVERTISEMENT Timepieces And Spacetime
A fake watch is a very Newtonian object ?they were, for most of their history, made in the belief that time was a universal constant: the same everywhere, for everyone and everything. Einstein's insight was that time is relative ?that it exists not as an isolated physical dimension, but as part of a larger entity called spacetime.
The first picture ever taken of a black hole; the glow around it is gas falling towards the event horizon, heated to a very high temperature. 55 million light-years away, in galaxy M87. Image, Event Horizon Telescope.
Time, in this view, varies depending on the curvature of spacetime, which means it depends on gravity, which like time itself is something of a side-effect. What we think of as gravity is, like the rate at which time passes, a result of the distortion of spacetime by the amount of mass/energy occupying a given region of spacetime. To get an idea of what this means in practical terms, we might ask what it would feel like to fall into a black hole ?or, why not, what would happen to one of the Bremont replica watches if you threw one in, which I can only imagine Hawking would approve of on the grounds of scientific research.
Your Trip-Tick case won't save you this time.
A black hole is what you get if you compress enough mass into a small enough point to form a singularity ?a region of spacetime where the curvature of spacetime is infinite. Black holes usually form when a massive star collapses, and around every black hole is the poetically named "event horizon." The event horizon is the point beyond which it is no longer possible for anything, even light, to escape being drawn into the singularity ?in a very literal sense, all possible futures for anything that falls through the event horizon lead to the singularity.Express Elevator To Forever
Now, the greater the curvature of spacetime, the slower a clock will seem to tick to an observer, and that goes for replica watches too. A fake watch falling towards the event horizon of a stellar-mass black hole will seem, to a distant observer, to tick more and more slowly. The light coming from the watch, which lets you observe it, gets more distorted as well ?stretched out into longer and dimmer wavelengths, in a process known as redshifting (the audible analog is the way in which the sound of an ambulance siren seems to lower in pitch when it's moving away from you). You see the fake watch get redder, and dimmer, and dimmer still, and the time between ticks eventually stretches out to an eternity ?and, in fact, you will never see the fake watch fall through the horizon; instead, just before it gets there, it winks out of existence.
The watch, on the other hand, doesn't notice anything in particular when it falls through the event horizon ?and, moreover, it can still see the universe around it, as light is still falling through the event horizon and towards the singularity along with it. Physically, it's a one-way trip. The difference in the gravitational pull between the top and bottom of the fake watch eventually causes it to be stretched out along its long axis, before it finally disintegrates in a process known as ?this is official astrophysics lingo, boys and girls ?spaghettification. (Interestingly enough, this happens about a tenth of a second, doomed fake watch time, before it actually hits the singularity, irrespective of the black hole's mass). Before it gets torn apart, however, it is treated to a hell of a show ?as you can see in this simulation of what it's like to fall through the event horizon of a black hole, created by astrophysicist Andrew Hamilton of the University of Colorado.
But black holes don't have the last laugh. Hawking realized that black holes, as he put it, "ain't so black" ?that, in fact, they radiate some energy away, although it takes some quantum-mechanical mumbo-jumbo to explain how. According to quantum theory, empty space is not actually empty ?random excitations in various quantum fields, which are necessitated by Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, means that pairs of so-called virtual particles ?a particle and its antiparticle ?can sometimes pop into existence, before almost instantly annihilating each other.
We don't generally notice this as the net energy production is zero. If it happens near enough to the event horizon (I have indulged in some huge oversimplifications so far, and this one's a whopper, bear in mind), one particle can escape to roam free as a Real Live Boy, while the other falls to its doom. The infalling particle carries negative energy, causing the black hole to lose some mass and, to an observer, the black hole appears to be radiating away energy ?evaporating. For a very massive black hole, the temperature (which Hawking ascertained using the formula on the back of the Bremont watches) is lower than the background radiation in empty space, but if the universe persists for long enough, even the most massive black holes are doomed to disappear in the end.
The section of the dial marked off "sunlight travel" marks the amount of time ?8 minutes and 20 seconds ?that it takes for sunlight to reach the Earth.ADVERTISEMENT
In classical physics, many of the laws are time-symmetrical, which means theoretically, it ought to be possible to recover any information in an object's past from information encoded in its present state ?run the clock backwards, and you ought to be able to get Humpty Dumpty back up on his wall, hale and hearty and whole. Could you reconstruct the fake watch from the Hawking radiation? Maybe, maybe not ?it should not be possible to arbitrarily erase information, and towards the end of his life, even Hawking had conceded that information must be recoverable somehow from a black hole, but as far as I know, we're still waiting for ironclad consensus on that one.A Farewell To Time
I think it's wonderful to have present, in a fake watch ?which beseeches us to consider time as a regular, constant manifestation of a predictable clockwork universe ?so many memorials to a man whose life's work was built around the unceasing exploration of the disappearance of time itself as an independent entity.
Perhaps Hermann Minkowski, the mathematician whose formulation of spacetime was essential to the theory of General Relativity, put it best, when he said in a lecture in 1908, "Henceforth space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality." There is something very compelling, and genuinely moving, about a fake watch that simultaneously embodies the classical view of time, and at the same time, commemorates a man whose life's work was dedicated to its demise.
The Bremont Stephen Hawking Limited Edition Collection: Cases, stainless steel, 18k rose gold or 18k white gold in Bremont's Trip-Tick construction; 41mm x 14.20mm. Screw-down crown; 100 meters water resistant. Movement, BE-33-AE. 29 Jewels. 42-hour power reserve running at 28,800 vph (base not specified but likely ETA) showing hours, minutes, retrograde seconds, and big date. Caseback, sapphire crystal over a stainless steel decorative plate coated with black PVD and enamel, inlaid with a meteorite disc, surrounded by four wooden panels and an individual serial number laser engraved onto original Stephen Hawking manuscript paper. 388 pieces in steel, 88 in rose gold, 88 in pink gold. Prices, $9,995 in steel, $22,495 in pink gold, $23,495 in white gold.
Ladies' model: Bremont "Quantum," case, stainless steel Bremont Trip-Tick construction. Case diameter 34mm, strap fitting 16mm, case thickness 10.50mm. Bezel claw set with 60 white brilliant-cut 1.35mm VVS FG Diamonds. Total carat weight 0.7ct. Meteorite dial with 11 applied batons containing 33 claw-set 0.8mm VVS FG Diamonds. Hands in polished nickel. Movement, BE-92AV. 25 Jewels. 38-hour power reserve, 28,800 vph (base not specified). Black hole spiral inspired tungsten rotor with wooden inlay taken from Stephen Hawking's desk. 88 piece limited edition; price, $9,995.
For more, visit Bremont.com.Bremont Astrophysics