by Konstantin Chaykin
The unique “Computus Easter Clock” is designed to look like the St. Isaac Cathedral, one of the most beautiful symbols of St. Petersburg, Konstantin Chaykin’s home town.
This clock identifies the moving date of Eastern Orthodox Easter, a date that is calculated based on numerous rules and limitations. To fully appreciate the complexity of this movement, one needs to try and calculate the date of Easter oneself: with all the will in the world, it is hard to succeed the first time.
The factors include: lunar cycles, solar cycles, the indict, the epact, the solar correction and more. Konstantin Chaykin learned how to use all of these factors created his own method for doing the computations and ‘taught’ his clock how to compute the dates for Eastern Orthodox Easter.
“The mechanism, calculating the moving date of Eastern Orthodox Easter, is enclosed in the case in the form of an Orthodox church. The details are borrowed from the architecture of St. Isaac’s Cathedral: the overall shape, the dome, the colonnade, the lantern, the gables, the bell towers and the colors. The colors of the marble on the Computus Clock case match the colors used inside the Cathedral. The choice of stones for the case is made taking into account their features, and has a similarity to the interior of the cathedral.”
“The dome of St. Isaac’s is a landmark in St. Petersburg: among the largest in the world, it’s gilded shape is visible from land and sea. The Computus clock is surmounted by a dome gilded in the guilloche technique and covered with gold enamel. Konstantin visualized the case as a symbol of Easter, thus the dome melds into an egg shape. The egg is an important symbol of the Resurrection for all Christians, who have been giving each other eggs on Easter since ancient times.”
The lantern on the Computus Clock, just like the lantern on St. Isaac’s is the crowning element in the design. The lantern creates a feeling of airiness and unearthliness. The elegant contrast between the size of the dome and the size of the bell towers emphasizes the monumental shape of the dome. The four miniature bell towers on the Computus Clock gracefully frame the central dome. The colonnade of St. Isaac’s is a massive structure, which is a unique landmark in and of itself. The Computus Clock is also surrounded by 24 columns, which act as hour indicators for the function ‘Times of Russia’ – a system for identifying the time in all of Russia’s time zones.
The facades of St. Isaac’s are decorated with gables upheld by monumental granite columns embodying eternity. Once again, the Computus Clock includes these themes: eternity in the eternal calendar with the eternal cycle of Easter and visually in columns which frame the movement. There are less columns on the clock than on the Cathedral for the columns on the clock reveal glimpses of the secrets of time. The gables of the Cathedral resemble eagles with outspread wings. Four of the gables are decorated with energetic, yet massive bas-reliefs. The Computus Clock includes details from the north gable – ‘The Resurrection’ and from the south gable ‘The Visit of the Magi’. Expert stoneworkers lovingly reproduced these details in mosaics. The case also includes some imagery and themes from the Cathedral’s interior: the designs on the roof mimic the floor of the Cathedral and the mosaics on the sides of the case are based on the stained glass window ‘The Risen Christ’ and the mosaic of Archangel Michael.
The indicator of Eastern Easter is located on the face of the Computus Clock. This indicator includes the date according to both the Julian and the Gregorian calendars. There is a separate row of dates for each calendar. The lower row is for the Gregorian calendar and includes dates from April 4 to May 8, while the top row is for the Julian calendar and ranges from March 22 through April 25. To make it easier to read the dates, they are color-coded by month. Instead of a hand, there is a square frame which contains the dates for the given year from both calendars. The dates change every year on New Year.
On the back of the movement there is a mechanism to balance the discrepancies between ‘real’ time and the 24 hour day; a discrepancy created by the imperfect shape of Earth’s orbit and the 23° angle of the Earth’s axis.
“The mechanical heart of The Computus Clock, the proprietary movement which manages 16 time-telling functions, is the result of over 10,000 hours of hand labor. This heart beats at 18,000 vibrations per 30 minutes. The master clockmakers perfected each of the 1,275 miniscule parts of the clock. In addition to indicating Eastern Orthodox Easter, the Computus Clock has the following functions: phases of the Moon, the winding power left, the time equalizer, a star map, indication of the days of the week, the date, month and year by the Gregorian calendar, including leap years.”
Today, The Computus Easter Clock is the most complicated clock ever created in Russia. Developing the plans alone took over 3, 000 hours. Creating and assembling the parts, regulating and adjusting the clock called for all of the skill, artistry and experience of Konstantin and his team at the Konstantin Chaykin Manufacture. And the result is awe-inspiring. The Computus Easter Clock is the pride of the Russian watchmaker and a wonder for the rest of the world.
brass, steel, bronze, anodized aluminum, gold, lapis lazuli and sapphires
18 000 vibrations per hour
up to 10 days
± 20 seconds per day