the dragon chronophage


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The Dragon Chronophage, designed and created by Dr John C Taylor, is one of the world's most iconic clocks.


Page 1: The Dragon Chronophage
Page 2: The Dragon Chronophage [email protected]: +44 1624 828 880

Discover how to

commission your own

Chronophage clock at:

Dr John C Taylor

“People say the most important

invention for mankind was the wheel.

“I think that’s untrue - I think the

invention which changed mankind

most of all is the clock.

“The wheel is the servant of mankind,

but clocks control us.”

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Time Flies

The importance of the invention of the clock to recent human history cannot be understated. Without the ability to measure time, we would not have been able to organise ourselves sufficiently to undergo industrial and technological revolution.

Dr John C Taylor OBE FREng is one of the world’s foremost experts in early English clocks and John Harrison, the inventor of the marine chronometer, in particular. The chronometer, made in 1761, allowed sailors to calculate their position at sea for the first time.

The year 2014 saw the 300th anniversary of the Longitude Act, which, in its day, offered a £20,000 prize to the horologist who built a clock from which longitude could be determined.

Dr Taylor is more aware than most of the importance of accurate timekeeping to modern society. However, with the Dragon Chronophage he aims to remind us that time, as a constant, is merely a convenient man-made construct.

Since the first primitive clocks were built thousands of years ago, the sole objective of timekeeping has been to make more accurate devices.

The Dragon Chronophage breaks that mould by following Einstein, showing that time is relative.

We would not have been able to navigate effectively so would have been constrained to our respective corners of the globe. Most modern technologies would not work without accurate timekeeping.

Although it is an extremely accurate timepiece, the Chronophage is designed to demonstrate the relativity of time.

When Albert Einstein tired of explaining his theory of relativity, he would tell people, ‘When you sit on a park bench with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute; but if you sit on a hot stove for a minute it seems like an hour: that’s relativity’.

As a lifelong inventor and innovator, Dr Taylor was compelled to create a timepiece that does something that has never been done before.

“Clocks are boring – I want to entertain the observer as well as allow them to tell the time.

“My Chronophage slows down, speeds up and sometimes even stops, but is completely correct every fifth minute.”

The Dragon’s winks and movements captivate its


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Dr John C Taylor OBE FREng

Dr John C Taylor is a true renaissance man with a remarkable range of talents. He is, amongst other things, an inventor, designer, entrepreneur, philanthropist and pilot.

He was born in 1936 in Buxton, Derbyshire, and attended school on the Isle of Man before studying Natural Sciences at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

Following his graduation, Dr Taylor began working for his father’s company, Otter Controls, before founding his own business, Strix, in 1981.

In 1999, following a hugely successful career in which he invented the cordless kettle and amassed over 400 patents, Dr Taylor retired and left Strix.

However, an inventive mind is impossible to switch off and Dr Taylor soon designed his own elliptical country house on the Isle of Man.

He then turned his attentions to the design of unique clocks - the Chronophage series, whose mechanism and handless face, showing time racing away, took seven years to perfect.

Dr Taylor, one of Britain’s greatest living inventors

The Tour de France races past the Corpus Chronophage

China has always been special to Dr Taylor, who first visited Hong Kong on business in the 1960s and set up a factory in Guangzhou in Guangdong Province in the 1980s. As one of the world’s leading inventors, he appreciated the enthusiasm for design that it seems is part of the Chinese DNA.


Cogitate Incognita (Think the Unthinkable) is the motto on Dr Taylor’s coat of arms.

When the library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, was being redeveloped in the early 2000s, Dr Taylor donated significant funds to enable the formation of a new Undergraduate Library for his alma mater and also donated his newly invented Chronophage to be exhibited.

He contributed significant funds to the redevelopment of his former university college, but wanted to give something more personal. In 2003 he began work on the Corpus Chronophage, which was completed in 2008 and features a fearsome grasshopper. He donated it to Corpus Christi College and it was unveiled by Professor Stephen Hawking.

It quickly became one of Cambridge’s most visited attractions and its phenomenal popularity inspired Dr Taylor to design another - the Midsummer Chronophage.

This iconic clock was launched at Masterpiece London before being exhibited at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh and the Saatchi Gallery, London.

The production process is so involved and meticulous that, so far, only four have been produced.

The third clock in the series is the Dragon Chronophage, and the fourth spectacular Chronophage is a private commission.

Just like the clocks of John Harrison that inspired Dr Taylor, each Chronophage is at the leading edge of horological and mechanical innovation.

Typically of Dr Taylor, he has found himself unable to stop improving what is an already brilliant design.

It is a mark of his astonishing character that, even in ‘retirement’, his passion for design motivates him to push boundaries and continue to create extraordinary timepieces.

The Corpus Chronophage, Dr Taylor and Professor Stephen Hawking, one of the world’s most admired physicists, who performed the Inaugauration on 19 September 2008

The Chronophage Story

“What inspired me to produce the Chronophage? Modern art. The majority of modern art is superficial, there’s nothing to it.

“I tasked myself with creating modern art that actually does something – in this case, a clock that entertains and interacts with the viewer.

“I don’t like to do anything that’s been done before, so it was necessary to find a new way of telling the time.”

Dr John C Taylor

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The Dragon Chronophage

The Dragon Chronophage is the third that Dr Taylor has produced. From the shimmering scales of the Dragon to the polished gold of the clock face, it is a striking object, and, at three metres tall, it dominates any room in which it is displayed.

Hand-crafted scales cover the length of the Dragon’s body

What better collaboration than between Dr Taylor and Professor Long of the China Academy of Art.

Due to Professor Long’s expertise, the Dragon showcases the very highest levels of craftsmanship and artistry.

“I’ve been visiting China on business since the 1960s and have always admired their art, design and architecture.

“As soon as I decided that there would be more than one Chronophage, I knew I wanted to create something inspired by Chinese style.”

“The Dragon Chronophage is to be enjoyed by many because it interacts with its audience.

“I’m not aware of any other clock that performs in this way.”

Iconic and functional

Not only is the Dragon Chronophage a piece of art and a design icon, it is also a pioneering piece of technology.

Protected by six patents and using a completely unique mechanism, it is a fully functioning mechanical clock that shows the time without using hands.

It is rare to find something so highly advanced yet so exceedingly eccentric. Dr John C Taylor

How can something accessiblebe challenging?

Technical Specification

How long will theChronophage last?

One feature that is central to all great art is that it captivates all echelons of its audience.

Children are enchanted by the movements of the dragon and the shock of the huge pendulum’s sudden pauses. The Corpus Chronophage in Cambridge is usually surrounded by a crowd of admirers – several million people a year come to see it.

Adults appreciate the level of artistry, workmanship and humour that have gone into the clock’s creation. The ripples on the clock face, which depict time expanding from the centre of the universe after the Big Bang, urge them to contextualise their own existence.

‘Chronophage’ is derived from the Ancient Greek words ‘chronos’ and ‘phage’, meaning ‘time-eater’. The creatures that stalk the top of the clocks will continue to eat time for hundreds of years to come, so the majority of the construction is in stainless steel, chosen for its longevity.

Looking for finishes that are proven to last millennia, Dr Taylor and his team researched the technologies of ancient civilisations. Because gold and enamel artefacts have survived since Ancient Egyptian times, the team use them in the construction of the clocks.

Each Chronophage will become a myth of the future, as mysterious to our descendants as the hieroglyphs of the Ancient Egyptians are to us today.


Height 2.8 metresWidth 1.5 metresDepth 0.6 metresWeight 450 kilogramsOptimal Mounting Height 3.5 metresVoltage 220 voltsPower 400 watts


Dr Taylor has already produced a Chronophage masterpiece as a private commission and his team are open-minded to new commissions.

Contact Details

•• [email protected].• Telephone:+441624828880

Control Cabinet

Height 1.3 metresWidth 0.6 metresDepth 0.4 metresWeight 120 kilogramsVoltage 220 voltsPower 600 watts


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