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Impossible Watch?
November 14, 2006 9:00 PM   Subscribe

"The watch shown could not exist." Would Neiman Marcus spend $200,000 to advertise an expensive watch that doesn't, and couldnt, exist? Magician James Randi thinks so. I am skeptical.
posted by The Deej (132 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
The date display at the very top of the face seems a little bit tricky to pull off.
posted by smackfu at 9:07 PM on November 14, 2006


I think it's something trivial like the second hand being perfectly vertical while the minute hand is partway between two minute ticks. Or something.
posted by mistermoore at 9:11 PM on November 14, 2006


The position of the hands: on the main face, it's apparentlty 10 past 10 (either AM or PM), but the "big hand" points directly to hour ten, not 1/6th of an hour clockwise of hour ten, as it would if it were a actually 10 minutes past.

And on the lower dial it's about 2am, nowhere near 10:10. The day-of-month dial may work, but it would be damned difficult to distinguish the 31st from the 1st.

Basically, the ad's graphic designer wanted all the hands to be rotated to the same angle, even though it makes the display nonsensically pretty. While minor, that lack of respect for accuracy would suggest to be that the watchmaker also isn't concerned with accuracy, and would make me disinclined to buy this watch.
posted by orthogonality at 9:16 PM on November 14, 2006


So it's a bad photoshop, doesn't mean the watch couldn't exist...
posted by yeoz at 9:19 PM on November 14, 2006


The watch doesn't actually have a running second hand - none of the subdials goes to 60, and that vertical hand is the chronograph second hand. My guess would be that the "impossibility" is indeed misalignment of the hands, though - or perceived misalignment. The chrono minutes sub (3 o'clock) appears to be showing about 5 minutes, which would mean the hour minutes sub (9 o'clock) is showing approximately an hour and 35 minutes - but it looks closer to an hour thirty. Also, assuming that the subdial at 6 o'clock is a 24 hour second-time-zone, you might make the case that the hand looks like it's dead on the hour instead of ten minutes past it. (The fact that it's not set to 10:10 is not a concern, since it's almost certainly a GMT complication)

Also the chrono second hand is at zero, but the minute hand isn't lined up exactly with a tick.

So basically, they (meaning some JLC watchmaker) moved the hands to take the shot. The ad sucks, but the watch exists. And the blogger who pointed it out has no understanding of how watches work.

On preview, orthgonality, I have no doubt that JLC lines the hands up right on the production models.
posted by pinespree at 9:21 PM on November 14, 2006


The display shown is supposed to be the most aesthetically pleasing array of hands, correct?

Well, if I'm spending $7200 on a watch, I want it to look its best all the damn time -- who cares if the hands move?

If I want to know what bloody time it is, I'll look at my cell phone.
posted by Clave at 9:22 PM on November 14, 2006 [4 favorites]


The fact that the various hands are not pointed at equivalent time readings isn't enough to say the watch "couldn't exist" -- anybody can bring a broken watch into existence.
posted by aaronetc at 9:22 PM on November 14, 2006


btw, wanna see the back? (different color scheme, same caliber)
posted by pinespree at 9:23 PM on November 14, 2006


Here is the JREF thread:
http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=68292

It's long and inconclusive and not too interesting. I'm not sure we're going to do any better here.
posted by chipr at 9:23 PM on November 14, 2006


Well, the 10-20-30 dial should be day of the month, right? It's pointing most of the way through 3, so it should be late on the 3rd of the month.
The 12-24 dial should be hour of the day, it's pointing at 3ish, so it should be 3 o'clock.
The 3-6-9-12 should be month? It's pointing a little of the way through January.

The main face: The hour hand is pointing most of the way through 9 -- it should be almost ten o'clock. The minute hand is at about 12 or so.

Oh no, Randi found out that the artist didn't make all the numbers consistent! That clever bastard. He's ruined Neiman-Marcus's evil plan to take over the world.

Maybe he should get a hobby.
posted by blacklite at 9:25 PM on November 14, 2006


er, "hour minutes sub" should have been "chrono minutes sub", sorry. and the chrono minute hand would probably never be between ticks - most chrono minute hands "snap" from one number to the next.
posted by pinespree at 9:25 PM on November 14, 2006


one last stupid correction..."hour minutes sub" should actually have been chrono hours sub...i'm done. also, see antiquehunter's post on the randi.org forum post. it sums it up well.
posted by pinespree at 9:27 PM on November 14, 2006


Those hands are artificially lined up in the photo because this mechanical marvel is a nightmarish mishmash of squares and angles that are bad on the eyes.
posted by peeedro at 9:29 PM on November 14, 2006


Oh, I guess I chimed in too late. I'm watching House at the same time. Anyway. Yeah. Randi sucks, even if I got the little mini-faces wrong.
posted by blacklite at 9:29 PM on November 14, 2006


Even Clave is right twice a day.
posted by undecided at 9:29 PM on November 14, 2006 [3 favorites]


The large center square appears to be either raised or recessed... if it is, then there would be some kind of noticable beveled edge running through the three smaller squares and their dials. They appear to be floating.
posted by scose at 9:34 PM on November 14, 2006


smackfu may be on to something. The date display would be hard to pull off, but not impossible. Hmm.
posted by zsazsa at 9:37 PM on November 14, 2006


I don't see anything wrong with the hands, myself--they just cracked the thing open and pointed all the hands in the same direction (or Photoshopped it). Y'know, left to right, same way we read?

I vote for the date thingy at the top. Both numbers have to independently scroll...vertically?
posted by zardoz at 9:38 PM on November 14, 2006


Even Clave is right twice a day.

Well-played.
posted by Clave at 9:38 PM on November 14, 2006


The watch certainly isn't impossible. The maker is one of the most respected watch makers in the world. The watch is available for sale ranging in price from 7.5k to about 15k, depending on finish and band.

The same picture of the watch can be seen here. (scroll down). I'm betting that the illusionist just doesn't understand what the watch *does*, and thus his problem with the "times" on the watch.
posted by dejah420 at 9:40 PM on November 14, 2006


zardoz, each digit could be on a separate wheel, with the wheel above having a window in between each numeral to allow the number on the wheel beneath to be seen.
posted by zsazsa at 9:42 PM on November 14, 2006


Randi seems to like saying that things are impossible when he himself cannot figure out how they might work.
posted by nightchrome at 9:43 PM on November 14, 2006


zsazsa, exactly right. "Big date" is a pretty common complication lately. There's probably a watch or two in my local mall with a big date.
posted by pinespree at 9:46 PM on November 14, 2006


There was a similar error in an ad in the traditional doctor's waiting room magazines (New Yorker etc.) some months ago. It was for an expensive multi-function watch (Time, Day, Month and probably Phases of the Moon).
One has to be in Quality Control (or anal) to notice such things - and off in La La Land if one actually gives a hoot...

(Full disclosure: QC in my case.)
posted by speug at 9:48 PM on November 14, 2006


Huh? He's not saying the time is impossible. He's saying the watch is. It looks physically impossible to exist outside of an illustration. That is, if you assume the surface is not flat and the "depth lines" are not on a 2d surface, the levels can't exist like that.

scose is thinking along similar lines, I believe.
posted by dobbs at 9:50 PM on November 14, 2006


It's much clearer dejah420's link that it's 2D and just an optical illusion. Ugly watch, imo, though it looks much better in black.
posted by dobbs at 9:56 PM on November 14, 2006


D'OH!

The second hand has no shadow.
posted by Clave at 9:57 PM on November 14, 2006


That is, all else aside, one Ugly Ass Watch.
posted by you just lost the game at 9:58 PM on November 14, 2006


It's a lot nicer with the black face with the red cutouts. And the world time back is gorgeous.
posted by smackfu at 10:01 PM on November 14, 2006


So Randi is exempt from providing extraordinary evidence for extraordinary (bizarre) claims?
posted by Matt Oneiros at 10:04 PM on November 14, 2006


I've spotted it in the last link:
In this anniversary year, at a mature age more often propitious to assessing past achievements than to making plans for the future, the Reverso is more youthful than ever. Ready to prove once again that it is able to adapt to the most innovative variations (such as bending spoons with brainwaves), that it can broaden its audience and that it can attract a crowd of new admirers, the Reverso is looking resolutely towards the future.
posted by ernie at 10:20 PM on November 14, 2006


I wonder if Randi is willing to give me a million dollars if I can prove the existance of said watch.
posted by Citizen Premier at 10:21 PM on November 14, 2006


This watch just needs a little telekinetic tuneup: Uri Geller's Mystic MasterClass — Mending Watches.

If it works, the bench fee is $1 million.
posted by cenoxo at 10:21 PM on November 14, 2006


Glad I'm not the only one who thinks that is one butt-ugly watch.
posted by squidfartz at 10:35 PM on November 14, 2006


Honestly, this Randi character has too much time on his hands
posted by Holy foxy moxie batman! at 10:42 PM on November 14, 2006


I think old Randi's off his medication again.
posted by JWright at 10:44 PM on November 14, 2006


Some serious Randi hatred going on here, huh? Any of you guys running psychic phone lines in your spare time or something? I know I'd despise the old bastard if he was trying to keep the sheep away from my shears.

Matt Oneiros: "So Randi is exempt from providing extraordinary evidence for extraordinary (bizarre) claims?"

Um, no. He is - presumably - waiting a week to make his point, so as to leave this as a puzzle for his readers. If, like the perpetual motion machine scamsters, he continues to refuse at any point to actually back up his claim while still insisting that he is right about this, then perhaps this would be a valid criticism.

I have a deep and burning hatred of con artists, so Randi is sort of a hero to me. There are a lot of greedy sick fucks out there who prey on the gullibility and emotional need of Joe and Jane Average, and I thoroughly enjoy when they are exposed for what they are.
posted by John Smallberries at 10:56 PM on November 14, 2006 [1 favorite]


Well, the watch has to at least cheat, given its appearance. There's no analog method to smoothly transition between months because there are a different number of days to tick off depending on the month and the year. Same thing with the number of days/date.

The month and date could jump to the right value at a particular time of day, but that rather conflicts with the implication that the watch uses an gear-driven display. The watch couldn't move the dials to the proper month and date without variable gears which change the (very slow) speed of those two dial hands each month. Think what a mess that would be.

If that's the problem, it covers two "impossibilities". Dunno about the third.
posted by mdevore at 10:58 PM on November 14, 2006


Actually, thinking more about it, changing the speed of the gearing each month wouldn't work either. The unit distance doesn't change on the dial, just the units counted up to. If you slow down the geared speed, it gets to the right end date, but it goofs up the display along the way (e.g. 14 is halfway on one month, 15 on another).

So, you must have a jump-display on month and date and can't mess with the speed of a dial for the desired effect. Still "impossible" as a smoothly geared display.

My bad. I'm sure I have a good excuse for thinking variable speed might do the trick, even if the watch maker couldn't realistically put the necessary geared complexity in there. Late night, old age, dementia, something.
posted by mdevore at 11:16 PM on November 14, 2006 [1 favorite]


Well, just looking at it from a simplistic viewpoint, if the dial on the right is day-of-month, there's no distinguishing between 31 and 1. I'm sure it would be mechanically possible to back that hand up a day after a 31-day month (or keep it in place), but there's still a fundamental confusion between 31 and 1.

That's not IMPOSSIBLE, though, it's just bad design.

That dial might not be the day of month, either; that could be the 18 where the 12 is. If so, I have no idea what the dial with the 30 range is for. Moon phases are 28 days, so I don't think that's right either.
posted by Malor at 11:18 PM on November 14, 2006


My take on it is that the image has an Escher-thing going on.

The furthest element out of the page is the second hand, right? Then the minute hand. Then the hour hand. Then the striped platform in the middle. Go to 7:30. Here you have a striped platform at the same level. Keep going and you slide down the bevel to the 'face' level.

So you're hanging out at the face level on the 8 and you look due north and say, "hey, I want to check out that little 9 down there in the hour pit." And your buddy, who followed you toward 7:30 but didn't slide down to the face level yet (so he's still up on the striped platform), says, "hey cool! I want to check it out too!" So you both head north.

As shown, it looks like you will both slide down the same bevel. But that's impossible, because the two of you are starting on different levels.


Do I win a million dollars?
posted by nonmyopicdave at 11:54 PM on November 14, 2006


Hmmm. My initial guess was that the face was flat with printed-on 'depressions', but the shadows of th main hands in both randi's and dejah420's links appear to be offset where they pass across the subdials, which suggests that the subdials are slightly recessed. (Actually, I suspect all these images are photoshopped, so paying attention to details like shadows may be counterproductive.)

The most obvious ways of implementing the digits at the top of the watch wouldn't fit in the watch, but there are almost-as-obvious ways that I (as a non-watchmaker) can think of.
posted by hattifattener at 11:58 PM on November 14, 2006


All the problems with the date, are exactly that, problems. They may make the resultant engineering within the size constraints exceedingly difficult, but without actually trying every possible way of doing it, you're just guessing if you say it can't be done.
posted by juv3nal at 12:33 AM on November 15, 2006


Randi James as pictured could not exist.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:44 AM on November 15, 2006


Perhaps, for the date, one could make use of a cog with a missing tooth?
posted by alexei at 12:50 AM on November 15, 2006


The image itself cannot possibly exist, and therefore none of us are real.
posted by whir at 12:59 AM on November 15, 2006


This page explains the functions of the watch

To paraphrase:

On the watch’s dial, hours and minutes and a large high-contrast date. Three square apertures punctuate its face at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock. The first, at 3 o’clock, displays the chronograph’s minutes, while the hours appear in the facing window at 9 o’clock. At 6 o’clock, the second, 24-hour timezone is displayed: this can be adjusted with the help of the crown. On either side of the latter are positioned the chronograph’s push-button controls.
posted by maxwelton at 1:17 AM on November 15, 2006


the watch is obviously fake because it measures this mythical thing called "time" that no one can see, hear, touch or otherwise detect directly without the help of one of these "watch" or "clock" thingies made by charlatans

james randi should give a million dollars to anyone who proves that wrong
posted by pyramid termite at 4:58 AM on November 15, 2006 [1 favorite]


That is the ugliest fucking watch I've ever seen.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:03 AM on November 15, 2006


I don't think the "puzzle" is all that interesting either, but what's with all the fierce comments on poor old Randi? Is there something you want to talk about, Metafilter?
posted by inoculatedcities at 5:15 AM on November 15, 2006


I don't think it has anything to do with the locations of the various hands. I think it's more about the shadows. On the outer edges, there's a shadow on the left bevel, a shadow inside the bevel on the top, no shadow on the bottom, and no bevel at all on the right. I'm having trouble making sense of that, so I'm ready to declare it impossible.

And calculus is impossible too.
posted by scottreynen at 5:49 AM on November 15, 2006


I think that the watch is very possible, based on the functions listed.

On the other hand, this is the ugliest fucking watch I've seen.
posted by SteveInMaine at 5:55 AM on November 15, 2006


Incidentally, this ad in TIME – which cost in the neighborhood of $200,000 or so – was run by Neiman Marcus. When I referred to their Internet site for information, I found that for “men’s watches” they had no listing for Jaeger-LeCoultre under “designers,” and when I contacted the local store by phone to ask about the watch, they’d never heard of it! Maybe this is a very expensive gag being played on Neiman Marcus…?

I think the fact that he's apparently never heard of Jaeger-LeCoultre probably disqualifies him as a watch expert.
posted by EarBucket at 6:01 AM on November 15, 2006


the photo in deja420's link makes it clear (well, to me) that only the 3 little faces are recessed -- the area with horizontal stripes has a bezel-looking edge around it, but it's actually on the same plane as the rest of the face. there are other watches on that same page with similar designs that seem to support this.

same link also shows a side-view: that (possibly hypothetical) watch is a beast. i don't see why you couldn't have small, odometer-style bands in there with the date.

how do other $7k watches deal with the days of the month? i was always under the impression that you just changed it manually at the end of months with fewer than 31 days.

the editors at gizmodo have a watch fetish, someone should kick this over there.
posted by sonofslim at 6:16 AM on November 15, 2006


H2O!
posted by furtive at 6:29 AM on November 15, 2006


Speaking as a professional skeptic, I will pay the sum of $1,000,000 to anyone who can prove to my satisfaction the existence of James Randi.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:30 AM on November 15, 2006


The watch shown could not exist due to the inaccurate depiction of the bevels on the sides of the sub-dials.

Assuming the bevels are actually physically inset and are not simply a simulated shading effect, they cannot appear the way they do in the image. In reality, the bevels on the edges of the sub-dials would not be uniform thickness as shown.

In a 3-level watch face such as this, the bevel on the outer area of the 3 sub-dials would have to descend 2 levels, resulting in a thicker bevel there. This does not appear in the image.

I believe that the "three major reasons" he mentions refers to these three sub-dials.
posted by drew3d at 6:31 AM on November 15, 2006


I think the supposed "impossibility" is the date display, in the cropped image, the date window is so close to the top of the display that it would be impossible without the wheels underneath popping out of the top. But, as you can see on the other pictures, the watch actually has a few millimeters of 'margin', where the wheels could hide, and not be under the actual face.

As far as counting up 31 days, well who says they have too? The most obvious solution is to have the owner reset the counter once a month. Or they could have all twelve months programmed in. It would take a lot of gears, but it wouldn't be impossible.

But probably they just expect you to reset by hand.
posted by Paris Hilton at 6:38 AM on November 15, 2006


Also, if you look at this picture here you can see that the supposed "bevels" are not rased at all, they just look kind of like bevels because of the way the hatchmarks are drawn.
posted by Paris Hilton at 6:40 AM on November 15, 2006


In a 3-level watch face such as this, the bevel on the outer area of the 3 sub-dials would have to descend 2 levels, resulting in a thicker bevel there. This does not appear in the image.

I don't see why this is necessary. To me the levels look like this, starting from the top:
1. main clock hands
2. sub-dial hands
3. top of bevels (all of 'em)
4. face
What's so impossible about that?

I hope the designers are having a good laugh about how "impossible" their watch is...
posted by equalpants at 6:51 AM on November 15, 2006


sonofslim: how do other $7k watches deal with the days of the month? i was always under the impression that you just changed it manually at the end of months with fewer than 31 days.

Mechanical watches have had what's known as a "perpetual calendar" that have have the correct number of days in each month, including February during a leap year, for more than 100 years. On Antiques Roadshow a week or two ago they had a pocketwatch from the 1800s with a perpetual calendar. It was valued at more than $100,000, I think.
posted by zsazsa at 7:00 AM on November 15, 2006


Bottomline - The watch does exist and you can buy one.

Randi is clearly suggesting that's impossible. He said he called around and found out the manufacturer didn't exist. Right there we have evidence he thinks the watch itself, rather than the photo, can't exist. If his challenge is really just to see if you can spot some minor Photoshop irregularities in a magazine ad........

Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't almost *all* magazine ads have Photoshoped elements. Surely someone whose entire career involves debunking hoaxes wouldn't setup a challenge to see if his fans can prove people doing print ads use Photoshop.

Randi is wrong. When he reveals his solution he'll admit it.
posted by WoWgmr72 at 7:07 AM on November 15, 2006


It sounds like Randi just worded his post poorly. I seriously doubt that Randi believes that Neiman Marcus is advertising a watch that doesn't exist. His comment at the end is at least half in jest.
His complaint is with the image in the ad itself, and it seems clear from his phrasing that he's referring to the position of the hands.
whoever designed this ad, might be more accustomed to using an hour-glass or a sun-dial rather than a mechanical watch. This is the result of an artist choosing the most pleasing placement of the variables, regardless of whether or not he’s representing a realistic view.
Perhaps instead of saying "the watch shown could not exist," he should have said, "the watch could not exist as shown."
posted by designbot at 7:17 AM on November 15, 2006


I have a deep and burning hatred of con artists, so Randi is sort of a hero to me. There are a lot of greedy sick fucks out there who prey on the gullibility and emotional need of Joe and Jane Average, and I thoroughly enjoy when they are exposed for what they are.

So some of them are watchmakers?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:28 AM on November 15, 2006


With tight production schedules in product development, there may not be time to photograph the actual product for an ad or catalog. Models, prototypes and renderings are used instead. The image that's Randi's griping about looks to me like a quick photoshop mockup that wasn't meant for a print ad, but somehow got used. The artist may have been confused about how the bevels might work, or it didn't matter at the time because it was done quickly to illustrate a design idea. ("What if we used recessed sub-faces? It'd look something like this.") Or maybe it's not meant to show bevels, but the artist messed up by adding white highlights around the sub-faces, which makes them look recessed.

So someone made a poor choice for an ad, and Randi was partially fooled by a photoshop job.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:07 AM on November 15, 2006


"and it seems clear from his phrasing that he's referring to the position of the hands."

Same thing. He's wrong. You can get the hands paced in that manner through normal use of the watch.
posted by WoWgmr72 at 8:23 AM on November 15, 2006


I just called the Jewelry department at the Neiman's Downtown Dallas. (The original store.) I told them that I was interested in the Jaeger-LeCoultre watch from the Time ad. She said that there had been a lot of calls about the watch, because people didn't believe it existed. I gave her Randi's url and this url to check out.

The watch exists. They are special order items for anything other than the vanilla 7k variety. They have the vanilla version in stock, and anyone who wants to traipse over to either big Neiman's in the Dallas area can see one for themselves. They don't sell it online, just like they don't sell the submarine or the giant martini glass that holds a stripper and 3 magnums of champagne. Items like these are items that you have to know to ask about.

I dunno what the hell Randi is on (or off), or why he's so hopped up about a designer rotating an image and causing slight shadow artifacts...but he's wrong about the watch not existing.
posted by dejah420 at 8:27 AM on November 15, 2006


Interesting enough, nobody has noticed that the time on the watch face is actually 10:09, not 10:10 as someone incorrectly pointed out earlier. The minute hand is directly over the 9 minute point. The tick mark for the "2" is the little black triangle right at the end of that section, and there are three ticks before the minute hand. That means there's a fourth right under the pointer.

The Hour hand is a little bit past the 10, but I agree it should be closer to 1/6 the way to the 11. But it's within the tolerance of most mechanical watches i've seen, my Rolex included.
posted by Snowflake at 8:31 AM on November 15, 2006


there's something that everyone missed ... ads for clocks and watches are often set to 10:10 ... (8:20 is often used, too) ... not always, but enough that an ad agency might do it without thinking twice about it
posted by pyramid termite at 8:34 AM on November 15, 2006


I'm with John Smallberries - what's with the Randi-hating? I think what Randi is saying is the watch, as shown, is an impossible object. Not that it "doesn't exist". He does this now and then in his column - throw out a "puzzler". Take it in that spirit.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 8:44 AM on November 15, 2006


People!!!!! The watch is real and (possible ridiculously minor PS edits notwithstanding) looks exactly like the image Randi says is impossible.

The watch is real. Randi is wrong.

Photos of the watch - one, two, three, four.

The placement of the hands is normal for this watch. The shadows are normal for this watch given studio lighting. The watch is 100%, irrefutably, beyond a shadow of a doubt, possible as shown.
posted by WoWgmr72 at 8:52 AM on November 15, 2006


More breaking news: Sometimes models are posed in ways that would look silly in real life. PT is right; the agency is probably just following established convention.
posted by Mister_A at 8:55 AM on November 15, 2006


I like Randi. He's a personal hero of Penn Gillette, who is a personal hero of mine, so that's good enough for me.

However, Randi is not only wrong, but badly wrong, about this. He will undoubtedly turn it into a semantic discussion of what he meant by "impossible".

He quite clearly INTENDS that the hand placement is something that could not occur naturally.

But, he doesn't say this, and in my opinion, he should donate $1 million to a charity of the watchmaker's choosing.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:59 AM on November 15, 2006


Photoshopper fails to account for parallax in watch ad. News at 10:10.
posted by horsewithnoname at 9:09 AM on November 15, 2006


And that 'sunrise' thing? Total B.S. The Earth revolves.
It only LOOKS like the sun rises and sets. Suckers.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:14 AM on November 15, 2006


Well, here's something about hand placement, even if it doesn't prove impossibility...

The watch reads two different times. The main dial shows 10:10 while the military time shows 3:00am.
posted by whoshotwho at 9:15 AM on November 15, 2006


As far as counting up 31 days...probably they just expect you to reset by hand.

If I pay 8k for a watch, I ain't doin' SHIT by hand.

I think that the existence of the pictures and ads, coupled with Randi's apparent oblivious dismissal of Jaeger-LeCoultre clinches it. The ad might be photoshopped, but that's hardly a reason to claim the watch can't exist.

From Randi's site:
"I have radio-corrected clocks in my office and my home"

Really? I got nucular, punk.
posted by dozo at 9:17 AM on November 15, 2006


Paris Hilton and WoWgmr72 have it. In those images, it appears to me that the face simply has a graphic design that suggests an impossible geometry.

Sorry Randi. Next!
posted by nonmyopicdave at 9:18 AM on November 15, 2006


"The watch reads two different times. The main dial shows 10:10 while the military time shows 3:00am."

The watch allows the user to set the dials to seperate timezones.
posted by WoWgmr72 at 9:25 AM on November 15, 2006


I feel like I'm trapped inside of one of them newfangled advertisements.
posted by Occams Hammer at 9:29 AM on November 15, 2006


Unclench, people. Randi is awesome. This is a puzzle about that ad image. He knows it is a photoshop, and he is saying there is something wrong with it. In the last paragraph, which starts with the word "incidentally," he gets into some silly speculation that the whole thing is a hoax, but that's not really the crux.
posted by mzurer at 10:10 AM on November 15, 2006


"and he is saying there is something wrong with it"

We know that. And he's wrong.
posted by WoWgmr72 at 10:13 AM on November 15, 2006


How do you know he's wrong? He hasn't said what he believes is wrong with it yet. There is speculation about what is wrong with it, but nowhere has Randi said what he identifies as the problem.

Do you think that image is an unretouched photo of the actual watch? The four images you linked above aren't even identical to each other in the details on the watch.
posted by mzurer at 10:18 AM on November 15, 2006


All the differences are well within what is normal and expected for advertising photos.

The only way he couldn't be wrong is if by "impossible" he's referring to very minor advertising retouches. Right?

And even if that's what he's referring to, the edits don't misrepresent the watch in any way. Right? And even then we have only one thing - perspective correction - that's been found.

Let me get this straight - You think it's possible he created this challenge to see if people could spot a Photoshop edit that doesn't misrepresent reality?

I'm listening. Do you think that's possible?

On top of that - The challenge isn't comparing the image with something else. The image as presented stands alone.

His wording makes it very clear he thinks the image misrepresents reality. He's wrong.
posted by WoWgmr72 at 10:37 AM on November 15, 2006


Unclench, people. Randi is awesome.

Personally, I think he's amazing.
posted by horsewithnoname at 10:55 AM on November 15, 2006


The challenge is 100% to spot the parts of the image that are inconsistent with it being a photo of an actual object.

For the record, here are the things I think he is referring to:

1. The second hand fails to cast a shadow consistent with the other shadows in the image.

2. The bezels are inconsistent.

3. The shadows at the top are inconsistent.
or possibly
3. What appear to be cutouts in the hour and minute hands don't allow a view of the underlying face.

Note that these are things that I think are problems with the image, not what James Randi has claimed are problems with the image.

I cannot assess Randi's specific claim, because he has not yet specified it. The only specific thing I take from his web site is that he doesn't believe that this is a photo of an actual watch. While you (WoWgmr72) say "Randi is wrong" you also seem to concede that point. You just can't believe that's the only claim he is making. I can.
posted by mzurer at 11:02 AM on November 15, 2006


Wow, Tempest in a Teapot season came early, huh?

my take:
* the face plane of the watch is flat, the impression of depth is an optical illusion created by the graphics on the face.
* the positions of the hands were "enhanced using Adobe® Photoshop® software" into a "pleasing" but illogical position.
* the watch isn't very attractive, but the designer's name will sell it to the people with 7.5-15k to burn on a timepiece. and ugly never stopped anyone from spending too much money on something...
* the amazing randi has The Deej to thank for what will likely be the single biggest day of traffic his site will ever receive.

lather, rinse, repeat...
posted by I, Credulous at 11:03 AM on November 15, 2006


Maybe James Randi's watch is stuck at 4:20.

But maybe not. I think what is tricky here is interpreting the depth of the "bezels" along the outside. It may be that it is a vanishing pt. take on a marked wall. The hands sit inside a slight recess and each wall has marking for minutes. If walls are marked and reach the base, then the top wall should not both cast a shadow and be in light.

He might also have an issue with the hour and minute hand, where the minute hand (above the hour hand) has a concave fold, going lower to the face, and the hour hand is convex. The clearance might work depending on the distance between the two, but it would be wiser the do it the other differently. In fact the other photo shows both hands with a concave crimp.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 12:05 PM on November 15, 2006


Gota give the amazing Randi props for his newsletter archives - now there is a fun way to waste a rainy afternoon or two on the tubes. Some of the scams and shysters he reports on are unbelievable in their audacity.

Personally, I'll wait to see what he actually believes is the problem before claiming he's wrong - though I suspect the analog date is a major factor.
posted by Sparx at 12:42 PM on November 15, 2006


Rany was wrong about this watch! Zoinks, Scoob!

Rany was wrong! That must mean ESP, Chi, Bigfoot, Alien Abductions... ALL exist!
posted by tkchrist at 12:50 PM on November 15, 2006


tkchrist, that's why you don't SEE bigfoot anymore ... aliens hunted them down with their ESP powers, immobilized them with chi and then abducted them ... after going through their silverware drawers and bending all the spoons just to be mean ...

randi just doesn't get it ...
posted by pyramid termite at 1:00 PM on November 15, 2006


Randi has always been a hero of mine. I had the honor of meeting him when he gave a lecture for our local Society of American Magicians group ::cough::cough:: years ago.

It seemed to me that he was saying the watch does not exist at all. Why else would he call to confirm its existence? I thought it was funny that the Great Investigator wouldn't just Google it.

I noted that the the hands were probably placed for visual effect, but I know so little about watches with more than 3 hands that I have no clue whether the hands could actually exist that way.

Well, we will find out next week. I guess we will have to post the answer in this thread. Matt gets testy about follow-up threads sometimes.

Thanks for all your thoughts in this thread. The knowledge base of Meta always amazes me.
posted by The Deej at 1:03 PM on November 15, 2006


If I shrink myself and walk around on the face of the watch, as if it were a courtyard square or something, I find the following:

If I'm standing on the big 5, facing north, and walk north, I take a step down into the depression created by the large inner square. If I move north again, I step down (again) into the depression created by the smaller square. If I then move east, I take one step up to the face of the watch, the same level at which I'd started. So, I've taken two steps down, yet only one up. The math doesn't work.

So, if you called the face of the watch Level 0, the big inner square Level -1, and the small innner squares Level -2... it's just one step up from the bottom of Level -2 to Level -1, and it's also just one step up from Level -2 to Level 0.

Of course, this assumes the inner squares both small and large are in fact depressions in the face of the watch, which I don't entirely think this picture shows -- though the shading does suggest it. (Other pictures of the watch are not relevant to this puzzle).
posted by notmydesk at 1:07 PM on November 15, 2006


My opinion is that the entire watch face is flat, and is drawn/etched to look like it has perspective. Not an issue.

My problems with this image are:

1. The hands don't match up. They have been artificially drawn/placed to look good. No working watch would ever show the hand positions that are depicted here.

2. The date box at the top doesn't look like it would work. Where are the numbers coming from? What would the 1st of the month look like? Would the single digit be on the left, the right or in the center?

3. No difference between 1 and 31 on the date thing, so it would have to "stop" for one entire day on the 31st. Also, what about leap years, February, 30-day months? The date hand would have to "jump" incrementally.
posted by drinkcoffee at 1:53 PM on November 15, 2006


The last analog watch I saw that I really liked the looks of turned out to be $28,000. I stick with digital.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:11 PM on November 15, 2006


I guess I'm just stupid, but after reading the description of the watch and its functions that maxwelton supplied from one of the links, I don't see how the hands couldn't be in the positions they are in. The top two smaller dials are the chronograph (i.e stopwatch), so those hands could be anywhere at all really, at any time of the day, if you are using that function. The bottom smaller dial in military time is adjustable to different time zones. The second hand bothered me a bit, because it isn't quite 10:10 yet, but seeing as the chronograph dials are showing it has been used, I'm just guessing the second hand sweeps when the chronograph is used, and they stopped it at the top of the dial. So, I don't think the positions of the hands is all that impossible.

On the shadows ... global lighting (lighting from all directions) is used to create softer shadows or eliminate them altogether. It can produce some funky shadow effects at the same time, especially on any sort of textured or multilevel surface or if one or two of the lights is slightly less or more bright than the others.

The date dial doesn't seem impossible to me. I once had a great analog watch (that didn't cost nearly as much as this one) that kept the date perfectly for years and only had to be adjusted on leap years. So, that also isn't impossible.

But like I said, I might be stupid, and we may not have landed on the moon because the shadows in the photos don't look right.
posted by Orb at 2:24 PM on November 15, 2006


The last analog watch I saw that I really liked the looks of turned out to be $28,000. I stick with digital.

Sure, it's more expensive, but analogue just sounds better.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 2:58 PM on November 15, 2006


Perhaps the watch SHOULDN’T exist? F’tagn.
In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming because his watch lay in non-Euclidean madness.
The Reverso Squadra Chronograph - interstitial spectral intercourse for strange aeons.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:06 PM on November 15, 2006


That's not a watch Which tells impossible time
Yet with enough comments Even jokes may die
posted by mistermoore at 3:20 PM on November 15, 2006


I think it's really a cop out for him not to say it's wrong, but make us guess why.

Something is wrong with James Randi's brain. I'm not going to tell you why, you'll have to figure that out.
posted by nyxxxx at 4:08 PM on November 15, 2006


"The watch shown could not exist."

The girl from the escort service looked nothing like the ad.

Randi discovers advertising. Amazing!
posted by damn dirty ape at 4:43 PM on November 15, 2006


Smedleyman cost me 1d6 san points...
posted by Artw at 5:13 PM on November 15, 2006


nyxxxx: "I think it's really a cop out for him not to say it's wrong, but make us guess why.

Something is wrong with James Randi's brain. I'm not going to tell you why, you'll have to figure that out.
"

Not to beat a dead horse here, but...

Do you want to know why he is making his readers guess?




Wait for it...




Because it is a puzzle, for crying out loud. He is going to reveal the answer - his reasoning, anyway - in this Friday's column. If that answer turns out to be a load of horseplop, then by all means it will be fair to call him out on it. But until then? Not so much.

Why do people seem to have a problem with this concept?
posted by John Smallberries at 6:12 PM on November 15, 2006


SteveInMaine: "
On the other hand, this is the ugliest fucking watch I've seen.
"

Have none of you people ever seen the watches made by that purveyor of hip-hop bling, Jacob the Jeweller?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:46 PM on November 15, 2006


Oh wow, I highly recommend the Jacob link above. Those goofy watches on those women is hilarious. Ah, hip-hop you never disappoint in the laughs department.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:06 PM on November 15, 2006


Ah, hip-hop you never disappoint in the laughs department.

And you'll laugh twice as loud when you find out how much they cost.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:17 PM on November 15, 2006


My problems with this image are:

1. The hands don't match up. They have been artificially drawn/placed to look good.


Probably. It's an ad.

No working watch would ever show the hand positions that are depicted here.

From the leftmost sub dial, going clockwise, the hands (probably, if it's anything like my chrono) signify chrono hours, chrono minutes and 2nd time zone (and not necessarily synched to the main dial's minute reading, either.) The sweep second hand shows chrono seconds. There is no seconds complication on this watch. So far, all plausible unless you want to argue the hour/minute hands couldn't possibly be in that position (they look good to me, but I don't have an analog watch in front of me to check.)

2. The date box at the top doesn't look like it would work. Where are the numbers coming from? What would the 1st of the month look like? Would the single digit be on the left, the right or in the center?

It works. Trust me, it's a fairly common complication. The movement may use two dials, each centered outboard of the numbers (there appears to be just enough room in the case to squeeze that in.) Or maybe they're on top of each other and the 10s digit is windowed (I think this is less likely.) Or it's something completely off-the-wall the wizards at JLC thought up for the amusement of watch idiot-savants everywhere -- achieving the seeminglyy impossible is the watchmaking equivalent of a dick-measuring contest.

3. No difference between 1 and 31 on the date thing, so it would have to "stop" for one entire day on the 31st. Also, what about leap years, February, 30-day months? The date hand would have to "jump" incrementally.

The date readout is in the boxes at the top, not on a dial. The dial reading up to 30 shows chrono minutes measured. The watch probably jumps back after the 31st and most likely both digits jump forward around midnight each day. Yeah, the jumping is counterintuitive but there are plenty of watches that do that. You probably do have to reset it yourself on short months -- even with a watch this expensive a perpetual calendar complication is not a given.
posted by Opposite George at 8:34 PM on November 15, 2006


This is how JLC does the big date on a different Reverso model, so it's probably a variation on that.
posted by Opposite George at 9:06 PM on November 15, 2006


And looking at the above, it's likely JLC has 31 places on the units ring and a detent after position 31 so the watch rolls right into "01" after "31."
posted by Opposite George at 9:25 PM on November 15, 2006


This is how JLC does the big date on a different Reverso model, so it's probably a variation on that.

That is damn-slick and plain hilarious at the same time, and I'm speaking as someone who has made gearworks a lot more complicated.

I love that because it's so simple.
posted by j-dub at 11:36 PM on November 15, 2006


I love that because it's so simple.

Yeah, it's a pretty sweet hack. In this interview JLC's Directeur General points out that this system eliminates the "program wheel" they had to use on their original big date system, which only had ten digits on the units disc.
posted by Opposite George at 1:19 AM on November 16, 2006


Have none of you people ever seen the watches made by that purveyor of hip-hop bling, Jacob the Jeweller?

Wow, some of thoses are, shall we say, a might excessive? I love the diamond-encrusted 5 time zone watch. 5 freakin' movements in one watch. Damn thing'll give you carpel tunnel just wearing it. That said, there are a few cool watches there, bit IMO not worth the price of admission (though I'll take the models any day, thank you).
posted by SteveInMaine at 8:38 AM on November 16, 2006


I agree with mzurer -- it's easy to see some differences between the image Randi shows and another (undoctored? less doctored?) photo, such as this one. Look at them side by side and you see that some of the minutes markings have been moved, possibly to enhance the look of the small inset dials. It's a stretch, but maybe Rani is saying you can't have a watch that looks like the enhanced one, because markings for minutes 10, 20, 26, 34, 40, and 50 aren't in their proper positions.
posted by wryly at 1:35 PM on November 16, 2006


It's a stretch, but maybe Rani is saying you can't have a watch that looks like the enhanced one, because markings for minutes 10, 20, 26, 34, 40, and 50 aren't in their proper positions.

But that doesn't make it something that could not exist. It just makes it a shitty watch if the marks are in the wrong place. Someone with enough money could have a watch with such markings made for them if they wanted to.
posted by juv3nal at 2:05 PM on November 16, 2006


I suspect Randi's talking about the Photoshopped shading on the sub dial surrounds (which leads to the apparent contradictions others have discussed above.) The thing is, somebody skilled with paint could make a real-life watch that, from the right angle, resembles the picture. Objects creating optical illusions are deceptive but not impossible -- heck, it's the basis of most stage magic so that can't possibly be what he's talking about, can it?

I guess we'll know the answer tomorrow. Hopefully it's something good and not just an overenthusiastic use of the word "impossible."
posted by Opposite George at 4:45 PM on November 16, 2006


And... HERE is Randi's answer.
posted by The Deej at 7:14 PM on November 16, 2006


the amazing randi exposes advertising as a photoshop and model manipulation ridden profession ... and discovers that clear, off-the-cuff english isn't one of his talents ...

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ....
posted by pyramid termite at 7:23 PM on November 16, 2006


From Randi's answer:
-------
Finally, I must address myself to the statement I made last week about this instrument: “The watch shown could not exist.” I should have explained more fully. I meant to say, that the watch as shown in this illustration would be incorrect in several aspects, and would not be a properly-functioning timepiece – especially in view of the very high price. Mea culpa.
-------
Poor back-pedaling, especially after saying last week that he called and could not verify that such a watch was for sale. Oh well, he just recovered from heart surgery. I'll give him a break I guess.
posted by The Deej at 7:23 PM on November 16, 2006


Ho hum.

Obviously, most readers only guessed at the function of the three auxiliary dials, though some of you actually looked up the timepiece on the Internet and ascertained those functions.

Or, we just know how to read a chronograph. Oh yeah, I forgot, Mr. Zwinge -- if you haven't seen it before nobody else understands it. I guess it's part of being Amazing!

Christ, what a prick.
posted by Opposite George at 8:25 PM on November 16, 2006


Okay, I'm better now. So, if I'm reading this right, to Randi "impossible" is a synonym for "the watch looks like it was put together by a slob." Kind of a dissapointment; I was expecting more from him.
posted by Opposite George at 8:47 PM on November 16, 2006


Yeah, I am disappointed as well. As I said above, Randi has been a hero to me. I thought for sure he would have something more than that. And I am more disappointed in his original wording about the impossibility of the watch. Sigh..... but it was great to glean all the Meta-knowledge from this thread.
posted by The Deej at 8:55 PM on November 16, 2006


BTW, this post in the JREF forum wins.
posted by Opposite George at 9:06 PM on November 16, 2006


I like this part of the followup:

"Since the three auxiliary dials of the watch cannot be guessed at without having the actual designations before you, I’ve shown them in this second illustration."

A bunch of people in this thread and a lot more on the thread on his site someone managed to "guess" that it was a Chronograph with a GMT subdial (well, maybe some of us read the word Chronographe on the dial).

This sentence is also a gem: "Not acceptable, unless the second-hand only moves in the stopwatch mode." (btw, if you're not familiar with watches, the full length second hand does only move in stopwatch mode, and that's true of every analog chronograph I've ever seen. Most have a subdial for seconds, but this one has the second time zone instead)

This post was the first I had ever heard of this guy, and I have to say he has not made a good first impression on me. He may be great at whatever it is he does, but being an arrogrant prick (even in the followup post) about things you know nothing about isn't very endearing.
posted by pinespree at 9:11 PM on November 16, 2006


I take that back, I have seen analog chronos where the second hand moves for timekeeping, but they were quartz.
posted by pinespree at 9:12 PM on November 16, 2006


Exactly as expected. Which turns out to be quite disappointing.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:57 PM on November 16, 2006


See? Wrong. I told you people.

His three reasons -

"First, the actual time is shown in the big display as exactly 10:09:00, but the “Alternate time zone” dial shows it to be exactly 3 a.m. somewhere else."

Nice try, but we all saw that and agreed it was wasn't off enough to be "wrong". That dial is tiny, the hand is large, and marking are in a square. You can't legitimately differentiate between 3:00 and 3:09 there because 3:00 isn't even represented.

"Another defect of this illustration is that though the two main hands show distinct shadows, there is no shadow of the second-hand"

Wrong again. Studio lighting (something Randi knows quite a bit about) could easily produce the shadows as seen. Seriously - He knows these photos are taken with multiple light sources. He knows this. But he pretends there's only one.

"The hour hand, judging from the 10:09:00 time, should be three-quarters into the first minute past the 10 – it’s only a third of the way into it."

Ummmmm...... You must be freakin kidding me. Seriously. This is a joke right? Randi is having some fun with us?

Bottomline - He made up at least a couple of these after his original "3 things" were debunked. Why not just admit he was wrong? When someone needs to go to this depth of ridiculousness to avoid admitting they were wrong, it sort of calls their future assertions into question.
posted by WoWgmr72 at 6:52 AM on November 17, 2006


I'll go so far as to say he's a liar. These were not the "3 things" he was originally thinking of.

Look, if we didn't actually have the watch's documentation, or have experts on watches telling how high-end watch typically work, it would be easy to think we had some "impossible" things in the photo -

1) The dials don't match up and show conflicting time.

2) The date display looks like it would be impossible.

3) The raised bevels appear to cause some Escher-like impossibilities.

But the real-world watch proves those aren't really irregularities.

Now, since we know for a fact Randi didn't have the documentation for the watch, and didn't know much about high-end watches, it's safe to assume he'd have no way of *not* assuming 1, 2 and 3. In fact it would be pretty suspicious if he *didn't* assume 1, 2 and 3. The data he'd need to *not* make those assumptions just wasn't there.

And yet he says those played no part in his "3 things". Straight up - He's lying to avoid admitting he was wrong.
posted by WoWgmr72 at 7:19 AM on November 17, 2006


The operative portion of Randi's "answer" is the last two words.
posted by anser at 8:53 AM on November 17, 2006


I shrunk myself down and walked around on the face of the watch for this? LAME.
posted by notmydesk at 8:56 AM on November 17, 2006 [1 favorite]


"The operative portion of Randi's "answer" is the last two words."

Really?

His mea culpa is for this -

When he said "the watch shown could not exist", what he really meant was, "the watch as shown in this illustration [...] would not be a properly-functioning timepiece".

But of course those two mean the same thing. And the watch as shown *is* a properly functioning timepiece. So his "my bad" is just more dancing around and not admitting he's wrong.

I'm starting to feel bad for making such a big deal about this. Not because he might deserve a bit more respect (which is true), but rather that it appears he may be going fully senile. Picking on old folks who are going senile is just not right. I'm gonna shut now and you should all feel free to slag me without mercy.
posted by WoWgmr72 at 9:08 AM on November 17, 2006


notmydesk LOL!
posted by The Deej at 9:18 AM on November 17, 2006


Straight up - He's lying to avoid admitting he was wrong.

*blink*
posted by mzurer at 9:21 AM on November 17, 2006


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