Derren Brown, Britain’s mentalist, magician and sceptic, is a bit of an expert on mysterious and impossible things.
He’s even baffled Stephen Fry. After watching Brown perform an unusual card trick, Fry mused “I’d like to burn him at the stake and watch his witch’s heart bubble.”
Given his unusual tastes, it’s probably not a big surprise to learn that Brown’s a fan of mysterious collectibles…
Stephen Fry on Derren Brown’s Trick of the Mind in 2004
This week, we learned that Derren’s most extravagant buy was a ‘mystery clock’ as created by the 19th century French conjurer and clockmaker, Jean Robert-Houdin.
Robert-Houdin virtually invented conjuring as we know it. Harry Houdini even named himself after the great man as a tribute. But Robert-Houdin’s first love was clock-making…
In fact, he only got into conjuring when he returned home from a bookshop and found he’d been sold two books on magic, rather than the two-volume tome Treatise on Clockmaking he really wanted.
Houdin combined his skills to create mystery clocks. They apparently work by magic, as the hands sweep round the face but there is no room anywhere for the mechanism – or if there is, it seems disconnected from the hands.
The Frenchman wasn’t quite the first to create these unusual clocks, but his were some of the most elegant and baffling around.
Robert-Houdin’s designs show just how different timepiece styles can be. Mystery clocks are the exact opposite of skeletonised watches (in which you can’t help seeing the cogs whirring).
Check out this one which sold at Christie’s in 2004. Derren Brown didn’t mention how much his cost, but the one here sold for £50,190 (nearly $90,000) .