When were Antique Barometers invented and how do they work?

A barometer is a weather instrument that give you insights in atmospheric pressure. Scientists use water, air, or mercury to determine air pressure in a specific environment.  Meteorologists mainly use the mercury and aneroid barometers, but we start off with the water barometer.

The water barometer

Why start with the water barometer when mercury and aneroid barometers are mainly used? Because the water barometer is the first of its kind. There are conflicting reports on who invented the first barometer. Either Torricelli or Berti, There are indications that the Italian born Gasparo Berti, accidentally created a water barometer between 1640 and 1643. And although it didn’t work as expected, it was still a barometer..

Giovanni Battista Baliani sought out Galileo Galilei seeking his opinion for the failure. Galileo felt that the water was being held up by the vacuum. Since the siphon was at the top of the hill, the height of the water became unmanageable, and so it was impossible to determine the pressure of water.

Galileo suggested the use of something else, other than the siphon, to create a vacuum. In 1638, Gasparo Berti and Raffaele Magiotti tried to find alternative ways to create the required vacuum. Berti chose to use a long tube that was plugged on both ends. He then placed the tube in a basin of water. He then opened the bottom end. Some of the water in the tube flowed out, while some was left behind. The space left at the upper part of the tube was free of air and illustrated the possibility of a vacuum existing above water.

Torricelli disagreed with the argument that the air above the water had no weight. He believed the weight of the vacuum was pressing on the water that remained in the tube. Instead of water, he felt a denser liquid, mercury, would work better than water. This made it possible for him to use a shorter tube (80cm).

Some of the scientists that built on Torricelli’s theory and the mercury barometer include Blaise Pascal and Pierre Pettit. After carrying out several experiments, the duo discovered that Torricelli was right, the air had weight. He used the mercury barometer in places with various heights. In 1648, it was confirmed that the mercury level in the barometer was lower when used on higher ground.

We have a wide variety of antique barometers for sale in our shop, such as stick barometers, banjo barometers, pocket barometers, aneroid barometers and barograph barometers.

The mercury barometer

The traditional mercury barometer was invented by Evangelista Torricelli, an Italian physicist and mathematician, in 1643. It was referred to as the Torricellian barometer. Torricelli was a student of Galileo’s. His barometer was a simple one. He used a tall tube that was closed on one side. He filled it mercury, inverted it, and then placed it in a bowl.

When the air pressure was high, the mercury rose higher in the tube. Before turning over the tube, Torricelli put his finger on the tube to prevent air from entering the tube. This was the first time a vacuum was created in the laboratory.

Aneroid barometer

Although the mercury barometer was found to be reliable and accurate, some scientists were worried about the use of mercury since it is poisonous. The aneroid barometer was invented by Lucien Vidi, a French scientist in 1844. This barometer does not use a liquid as the earlier barometers. Instead, a small metal box made from an alloy of copper and beryllium is used. This barometer has a glass face. A needle inside the barometer keeps changing based on air pressure at the time of the reading.

We have various antique aneroid barometer for sale. Check our shop in Perth or visit our online store. We ship globally.

To find out the air pressure, all that was required was for one to tap on the glass face. When the needle moves clockwise, the pressure is high. If, on the other hand, the needle moves anti-clockwise, the pressure is falling. The next time the pressure is checked, the needle will be in the same position it was during the last reading. For a new reading, all one needs to do is tap the glass face.

English Long case clock

Around 170 W.Barlow Ashton designed a beautiful English long case clock. Besides presenting you with the time and date, this clock also shows you the moon phase. Beside various engravings there is also an image of four people standing in a landscape. It’s for sale and you can find it here:

From small to large antique clocks

The smallest and largest clocks are indeed antique. It is fascinating to know how the craftsmanship of timepieces has been amazing for so long a time and how their stories still intrigue us.

The smallest mechanical clock/watch, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 101, a technical marvel, was built in 1929 and is still being made today! It set the record for the smallest movement in the world, and it still holds that honour. The original manually-wound movement had 78 parts while today’s model contains 98 parts that were shrunken down to fit in the same space. The Calibre is only 14mm long, 4.8mm wide, and 3.4mm thick and weighs just a gram even with its movement in grey gold, which is not light. The entire mechanism is smaller than the tip of a sharpened pencil!

Being all handcrafted and decorative with unique detailed engraving, it is frustrating even for the most experienced and talented of watchmakers. Very few movements are made; and, since 1929, only an approximate 2,000 Calibre 101 movements were created by Jaeger-LeCoultre. That is only around 25 a year, which is a very limited production. 

One of the largest clocks is the Duquesne Brewery Clock, which was designed by John L. Franklin, the Audichron founder. It was built in 1933 in Georgia for $12,500 as the world’s largest single-face clock, and then shipped to Pittsburgh and placed on top of Duquesne’s current location in the South Side. 

The 60-by-60-foot clock face, with its 25-foot hour hand and 35-foot minute hand, is almost twice the size of London’s Big Ben and has a 1.25-horsepower Janett motor. That face was originally on Mount Washington and was used for advertising numerous brands in addition to the Pittsburgh Brewing Company, which paid $44,000 for repairs and $5,000 a month to have its logo on the face. Other brands over the years were the original Coca-Cola and then Equitable Gas, AT&T, WTAE-TV Channel 4, as well as Carling, Ballantine, Stroh’s, and Schlitz beers. However, as of 2017, the clock has been running without advertising.

In June of 2010, Pittsburgh attorney Mark J. Dudash and Maria, his wife, announced the resurrection of the Duquesne Beer brand. In 2008, they had incorporated Duquesne Bottling Company as a formal start and re-registered the expired trademark. The first batch of the new Duquesne Pilsener Beer began arriving in early August 2010.

The smallest clocks that we have available in our assortment are antique carriage clocks and the smallest scientific instrument antique pocket compasses. The grandfather clocks, also called longcase or tall clocks, are as the name suggests the longest clocks in our assortment. The room that displays a grandfather clock flourishes with the presence of this imposing antique item.

Special of the month – April

This month we have a rare special. This beautiful Gustav Becker 400 day skeleton clock was produced around the 1920’s. What makes this clock so special is that it is a rare skeletonised design, whereas they are usually designed with normal disc pendulums.

Gustav Becker 400 day skeleton clock

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our customers.

The shop will be closed from Sunday the 23rd of December 2018
until Tuesday the 8th of January 2019.