There has to be no other clock in the world as singularly unique as the Atmos from Jaeger-LeCoultre. Most of the time when we encounter one, it sits there, giving us the time; betraying no clue as to the groundbreaking idea that it holds — so that when we examine the clock more closely and are told the concept behind how it works, we consider what we have just heard scarcely believable. Indeed, it is an idea that is both simple and profound at the same time, and we are compelled to believe that it is true, for the object exists, and works quietly, in front of you.

It is the intersection of invisible elements in the Atmos that so beguiles us; that easily understood concepts like temperature and pressure could be linked together in such a startling way to produce a machine that runs forever.

How does the clock work? Simple.

The key is a capsule filled with ethyl chloride gas, notable for its property of responding to changes in temperature with relatively large changes in volume. This is what enables the expansion and contraction of the capsule, a motion whose energy is transferred to a chain that moves back and forth, winding the mainspring in the process.

From here on, the power gathered by the mainspring is used to run the clock movement — one made as finely and as precisely as humanly possible to minimize friction and loss of power. In fact, the clock is so efficient that only a one-degree change of temperature is enough to run it for two whole days.

The Atmos clock is a beautiful manifestation of that eternal dream of a perpetual motion machine, and within the parameters of our environment, is as close as one can get. Indeed, as long as the sun rises and sets every day, the temperature variations will (barring servicing of the components) run the clock forever.

If you like intricately made watches, then you’ll like the Atmos, a mechanical beauty made with the same level of care and craftsmanship.

Yet for all the wonders that this clock is capable of, it is sometimes easy to forget what it represents as a technical achievement. Part of this is in the way it works — quietly, efficiently and without fuss. And while it is nice to house this mechanism in a cabinet that is more classically designed, in the vein of normal clocks of old, it is when all of its insides are revealed that the Atmos truly comes into its own, as an object that symbolizes the incredible fusion of art and science.

This year, Jaeger-LeCoultre again leads us to revisit this remarkable creation. The latest version of the Atmos has been christened, simply, the 568 — and it is designed by, arguably, Australia’s most prolific designer, Marc Newson. In fact, this is the third collaboration between Newson and Jaeger Le-Coultre — their earlier partnership had resulted in two highly successful limited-edition Atmos clocks — the Atmos 561 in 2008 and the Atmos 566 in 2010. In both the earlier versions, Newson’s signature style of smooth geometric lines, strength, translucency and transparency, and an absence of sharp edges imbue the clocks with not only a distinctively contemporary vibe, but also an almost magical purity of spirit.

The simplest way to describe the shape of the Baccarat crystals housing the movements of the two clocks would be to imagine them as clear square crystal bubbles that offer a stupendous view of the sophisticated movement within. The Atmos 561, the first collaboration with Newson, was designed to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s first Atmos clock. The Atmos 566 that came five years later was Newson’s reinterpretation of the Atmos Astronomique, with a movement that included a sky chart depicting the Northern hemisphere, along with the cardinal points and zodiac signs, but this time housed in a blue Baccarat crystal.

The Atmos 568 that has just been announced may look familiar at first glance, because it takes some of the design elements that we’ve come to love from the previous two versions. But examine the clock a little more closely, and you will see some distinct differences.

The main idea with the Atmos 568 is that it has an even greater feeling of transparency and lightness, with many elements refined to achieve this effect. Gone are the visible boarders of the transparent disc holding the hour markers, and from the front, the counterweight that forms the winding mechanism is even more integrated into the visible elements such that it seems to disappear into thin air. As with the previous two clocks, the four-point bridge that Newson introduced for symmetry is retained, but the flourish of the attachment points, made obvious when mirrored by the curvature of the crystal case, has been removed, making the bridge appear more elegant, and more purposeful.

More obviously as well, when the new Atmos 568 is placed side by side with the previous creations, one sees that the shape of the housing is different, less of a square bubble now, but taller and with a pronounced base, much like the look of a vintage television or even a classic iMac.

The Atmos 568 is an impressive continuation of the grand maison’s remarkable collaboration with one of the world’s most acclaimed designers, and one sees in this an evolution towards a purer rendition of form for the Atmos. For a clock that works via invisible forces in the air, the Atmos 568 comes the closest to exemplifying the ethereal and delicate qualities of its power source.

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