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Every citizen of Russia, the countries of the former Soviet Union and not only knows the Spasskaya clock tower, which we regularly see on New Year's Eve on TV. There is nothing strange or surprising on the dial. But this was not always the case. In ancient times, there were no arrows on them at all. In addition, instead of the traditional twelve numbers, there were as many as seventeen. Naturally, a logical question arises, where does such a strange look come from and how it was possible to determine the time from them in general.
1. The appearance of an antique watch
In Russia, before Peter I came to the throne, a completely different system of calculation was used - the Cyrillic one. In it, all the numbers were written not in the way we are used to, but in letters. You could also see the verb, but the principle is the same. As for our clock from the tower, here the numbers were written in two rows: one row - Cyrillic symbols, the second - Arabic.
Their creator in 1624 was Christopher Galovey, an engineer from England. Already in 1628, after a fire, they had to be reconstructed. The clock was restored later, and the reason was the same as in the case of the first reconstruction.
Like all such mechanisms in Russia, residents of other countries called Kremlin watches “Russian”. The appearance they had, and at that time caused surprise and bewilderment among many. As for Galovey, he explained this decision with humor.
He said that Russians are in general special, acting unconventionally, as is customary throughout the world, therefore, everything they produce must be done in a completely different way. The dial in the movement was painted with azure paint. This was a symbol of the sky. Above there was a painting in gold and silver in the form of the sun, stars, and the moon.
The arrows familiar to us were not observed. They were replaced by a stationary one hand at the top of the dial. She imitated a sunbeam. The most interesting thing is that in this case it was the dial that was moving. He rotated around this lonely hour hand.
The first version of the watch was distinguished by an unusual division into two segments of different sizes, and 17 instead of 12, as we are used to, sectors. Each of the sectors had its own letter and number that corresponded to it. Between these numbers there were "half an hour" - points.
The Frolovskaya clock (once the tower was called not Spasskaya, but Frolovskaya) of that time can be seen now in a sketch by the Austrian Ambassador Meyerberg, made in 1661. Forty years later, after another fire, the clock was destroyed and not restored.
2. Why exactly seventeen numbers
It's time to talk about the "zest" of these ancient watches, which was responsible for their uniqueness, made the mechanism exactly "Russian". Why not 12, but 17 sectors. In fact, the choice of just such a number of them was not accidental.
In Russia then the time was counted by night and daytime. At Moscow latitude, the shortest night lasted 7 hours, and the longest day - 17. This is what the founder displayed on the product.
The operating principle was simple. After sunrise, the watchmakers put the dial in such a position so that the arrow was directed to 17. An hour later, the hand was at “1”, which means it was “the first hour of the day”. The action was accompanied by the sound of a bell.
On June 22 (the longest day), the dial independently moved to sector 17, after which night came. The end of it fell on the sector with the number 7.The watchmakers manually set the watch to 17 again as soon as the first rays of the sun appeared.
To take into account all changes in the length of night and day throughout the year, every two weeks, the hour readings were adjusted by one hour. There is an opinion that a special bell ringing sounded once every fourteen days for the purpose of a reminder.
The clock, which disappeared without a trace in the fire, was replaced in 1704 by a classic device with a standard appearance and twelve sectors. Peter I ordered this watch in Amsterdam. Thus, the “Russian” division of time counting, night and day, was abolished. And this is the merit of the first Russian emperor.